Democracy NC Blog

Welcome to Democracy North Carolina’s main newsfeed. You can review all of our latest blog posts below, starting with the newest post on top, or you can visit our individual sections for more in-depth coverage:

  • Link-of-the-Day offers commentary on our core issues each day, courtesy of our Executive Director Bob Hall.
  • Tales From the Frontline is our official staff blog and it includes a special section just for Democracy Summer.
  • Our Media Feed provides press releases and other information of interest to members of the media.
  • Take Action Now is designed for volunteers with a little or a lot of time to give. It tells you how you can help us with our current advocacy efforts.

You are welcome to submit comments to this moderated blog. Please treat others with respect, avoid partisan rhetoric, and help us provide a fact-based discussion of issues related to North Carolina’s political landscape. Thank you.

You can also subscribe to our main RSS feed or individual category feeds here, and be alerted whenever a new blog post is created.

LOD: Fractured Ethics

August 17th, 2012

The NC General Assembly created a new commission to develop the rules for how hydraulic drilling of natural gas (fracking) can proceed in North Carolina and it gave most the seats to the mining and energy industry. That’s bad enough, but it turns out Speaker Thom Tillis filled a seat reserved for an environmentalist with a Lee County man whose company is buying up mineral rights for exploration. A revealing video investigation by WRAL-TV captures just how sneaky the whole affair is – the investigative report begins less than a minute into a half-hour show on ethical conflicts at the new NC Mining and Energy Commission. The fracking industry has a disturbing record of being ethically challenged.

LOD: 250 Years of Scandal

August 14th, 2012

Mother Jones magazine has boiled the history of political money deals in the United States into a clever annotated timeline and a highly readable article, starring a host of shady characters in “a dramatic battle between the forces of reform and influence that goes back more than 250 years before the birth of the super-PAC.”

LOD: Super PACs & Über-Fat Cats

August 2nd, 2012

Here’s another report about the tiny number of über-fat cats bankrolling the Super PACs. The Washington Post reports: “Just 47 people account for more than half (57.1 percent) of the $230 million raised by super PACs from individual donors, according to the study by U.S. Public Interest Research Group (U.S. PIRG) and Demos, two liberal research and advocacy organizations. Just over 1,000 donors giving $10,000 or more were responsible for 94 percent of the money raised.” The libertarian Cato Institute would be happy – let people do what they want with their money, no regulation needed. That may be a fine theory for an ivory tower elitist, but it doesn’t work too well in real life, for hamburgers or elections. Fueled by the greedy few, we’re now on our way to experience a record-shattering $5.8 billion federal election cycle, says the Center for Responsive Politics. You can hear the Cato Institute closer to home, at Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh. John Samples from Cato will join Press Millen, a more level-header soul and local attorney, in a discussion of the meaning and impact of the Citizens United decision as part of the bookstore’s town meeting series. The free event, no reservation needed, is August 13 at 7:30 PM.

LOD: Inside View of Outside Money

July 27th, 2012

Because the State Board of Elections is starved for funds, the public gets a poor view of how money flows into our elections: Who is giving and spending what for whose benefit? While other states have searchable databases of donors, the backlog for processing campaign disclosure reports in NC is measured in years. (See, for example, this Democracy NC report on the backlog.) The problem is even worse when it comes to tracking the millions spent on elections by outside groups that are supposedly not coordinated with a candidate. Thankfully, here comes the Institute for Southern Studies with what it calls “North Carolina’s first searchable database of election-year spending by independent groups in state races. . . . gathers all reports on TV ads, mailers and other independent expenditures by outside groups in North Carolina, and places them in an easy-to-use searchable and sortable database. Users can sort the information by the name of the group spending the money, the date of the expenditure, the political race where it appears and the affected candidate.” ISS emphasizes that the site is “a beta release,” undergoing revisions and updates “largely because of gaps and inconsistencies in government reports.” Check it out, play around with the data, turn in your feedback! Thanks ISS/Facing South!

The Work of Democracy Triad

July 27th, 2012

It is now the last week of our internship and we are looking at all we have accomplished in the past two months. From voter registration drives and tabling at various events, to speaking engagements and meeting with our elected officials, it has all been such a learning experience. I have definitely learned a lot about state and local politics through my engagement. I’ve also learned how to better network and articulate my views on issues in a comprehensible way. Mostly, I’ve seen how difficult our field of work is, and how rewarding it can be.

Last week, Forsyth County’s turnout for the 2nd Primary runoff election was less than 2%, a discouraging number. After looking at the numbers, we realized that Granville County had a larger turnout than most. The 500 phone-calls that we made reminding people that there was a run-off election seemed to have made a difference. Those long hours of conversations with strangers on the phone seemed so much more worth the effort after seeing very clearly how our work impacted the turnout. Throughout my internship with Democracy NC, I have seen what our work can accomplish. Students often times feel as if they do not matter, but it is experiences like Democracy Summer that empower students to see their worth. The beginning of our last week with Linda Sutton began with this same conversation over a conference call with representatives from NC Campus Compact and NC PIRG. All of these organizations are working on increasing voter turnout amongst students, because it is clear that here is no limit to what students could accomplish for this democracy if engaged. Through my work with Democracy NC, I have seen my worth. I plan to continue to engage others students on my campus in our work—the work of democracy. This experience would have been nothing without the mentoring and love of Linda Sutton and the companionship of Tyshia Gray.

Keren Salim
Triad Team


July 26th, 2012

Students at the UNC School of Journalism and Mass Communication have created an interactive flow chart of the money in NC political campaigns with annotated descriptions of key terms. Visualize rivers of money. They’ve also just posted a series of articles about NC campaign finances on their WhichWayNC website and blog. Did you know that the two leading candidates for governor have already spent more than what an average North Carolinian would earn in 164 years? Another part of the website dissects and grades political advertisements: Good, bad and weird. Some parts of the website need updates, as well as fact-checking and corrections, but hey, nobody should think journalists are perfect. It’s a site that should become more useful as the fall semester and campaign season move into high gear.

Full Steam Ahead

July 25th, 2012

The end of Democracy Summer also marks the beginning of our work. We return to our lives and respective campuses equipped with tools for organizing. There is no slowing down here in the triad only the shifting of gears. As meetings, events, tabling, and one-on-one’s count down the end this phase, pre-filled calendars in months to come read full steam ahead. Armed with new skills, we go forth to continue advocating and protecting our democracy by organizing students, creating citywide campus alliances, conducting a women’s assembly, candidate forums, interfaith organizations, passing city resolutions, and continue to engage, empower and build leadership throughout our community. The Democracy Summer experience has been one that has created a familial bond centered in our shared conviction ‘of, for, and by the people’. Besides, a democracy cannot exist without its people. A luta continua!

Tyshia Gray
Triad Team

LOD: Too Much to Swallow

July 23rd, 2012

Remember the mega-millions poured into making the healthcare debate in Congress so sickening? Well, the lobbying surrounding the 2012 Farm Bill has even more big-money spending from outfits that will make you gag. According to Think Progress, the new Farm Bill “would, among other things, deprive millions of Americans of food stamps, gut food safety protections, and prematurely force genetically engineered crops onto the market.” The fight in Congress is not over and the money keeps flowing. To get a sense of scale, an analysis by Food & Water Watch says that agribusinesses, commodity groups, food manufacturers and other special interests spent $173.5 million on the 2008 Farm Bill — more than $500,000 a day during the 110th Congress. By comparison, the lobbyists’ price tag for the Obama’s healthcare legislation hit $120 million.

(Nearly) Closing Thoughts

July 19th, 2012

We’re closing out our last full week as Democracy Summer interns this week. On the road a lot, recently — Kinston twice (last Thursday and this Tuesday), Goldsboro once, Greenville once. In Goldsboro last Thursday, we met Mayor Alfonzo King and a got a brief overview of city politics. Though unfortunately we were never able to do our planned voter registration drive in Goldsboro, it was worthwhile to get a fuller appreciation of the region.

After that, we jumped in the car and headed to Kinston to do some voter registration at the community health clinic downtown. Kinston was quite a lot of fun to see — quaint, charming. The health clinic traffic was slow but we did get a few folks registered (and updated a few already registered voters on when and where to vote in the runoff election.)

Friday was a slow day but Monday was busy. We got to the office early so as to be on time for an event with a community group in New Bern. Unfortunately, this ended up falling through, though as Jake pointed out, that has happened fairly rarely this summer. We still ended up making it to the Pitt County Board of Elections in Greenville, which was entertaining as well as edifying. Some Pitt Co. residents showed up and everyone got a chance to stump for increased voting sites and hours. It’s unclear what the final voting setup will be, but we’ll head back out to Greenville next week in order to be at the decision meeting.

Tuesday we were back out to Kinston for voter reg. Again, a slow but productive day. We had some more bad luck with another meeting, this one with Eastern Carolina Equality, being cancelled just as we were about to leave to Greenville from Kinston for it. We also continued to make calls reminding people to vote in the special election, as that Tuesday was Election Day. According to the data, it looks like the calls we made (and we made a lot in the week leading up to the election) did some good, so that’s something to rally around.

The rest of the week we’re doing some administrative work around the office and working on our ‘media hits’. Check out The Greenville Guardian, a free, independent newspaper, for some of our writing!

It’s been a long, fun, productive summer, and I’m taking time to reflect on what I’ve learned, both about organizing and myself. We’re gearing up for a busy final week!

Griffin Bur
Greenville team

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