Archive for February, 2011

Monday, February 28, 2011

Monday, February 28th, 2011

The pushback continues against the Republican plan to purge unwanted voters from North Carolina and other states. The Texas Observer features our day of action at the NC General Assembly in its short report about the GOP’s 20-state crusade; it also includes quotes from election administrators in Iowa and Wisconsin who explain the multiple safeguards that have effectively repelled voter fraud. The Winston-Salem Journal chimes in with a report about an SBI investigation that turned up no evidence of votes being successfully cast by impersonators. NC Policy Watch interviewed a Democracy NC staffer for a photo ID segment on its weekly radio show, and we’ve updated a special page on our website that features the voices of voters who would be disenfranchised by a photo ID requirement. The expected bill has not yet been filed in the NC General Assembly, but rumors continue that it’s coming soon. Finally, just in case you think there’s a correlation between strict standards for “stopping voter fraud” and good government, here’s a sobering report from Georgia, home of the super harsh photo ID law, where lobbyists enjoy calling the shots.


Friday, February 25, 2011

Friday, February 25th, 2011

How much did Art Pope and his co-conspirators spend to flip the General Assembly? The pro-business NC FreeEnterprise Foundation has crunched more numbers and concludes, “The total amount spent by 11 outside groups vying to influence the outcome of elections for the State Legislature was $2,635,297.86, with nearly 92 percent of those funds being used to support Republican candidates.” The 10-to-1 ratio for Republicans is unprecedented in modern times. NCFEF provides several detailed charts with its updated release from a few weeks ago. Pundits across the political spectrum agree with NCFEF’s assessment: “Overall, it is safe to say that outside spending played a pivotal role in North Carolina’s 2010 legislative elections. Considering the impact, and the increasing competitive political nature of the state, it is also a safe bet that we will see continued growth in independent expenditure and electioneering communication activities in elections to come.”


Thursday, February 24, 2011

Thursday, February 24th, 2011

You can listen to two 10-minute segments of a secretly taped conversation in which Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker gushes about his bust-the-union strategies with a prankster playing the role of David Koch, the billionaire patron of Americans for Prosperity and numerous politicians. Walker describes various plans to trick and pressure Democrats; he encourages Koch to fund anti-union issue advertising and discusses the use of agent provocateurs to create havoc among the peaceful pro-union protesters; and he welcomes Koch’s offer of a free trip to California after his victory. The depth of right-wing financial support for Walker goes beyond the Koch brothers to a wider network carrying the torch of the rapid John Birch Society. But the Koch brothers have a special relationship with Walker, and now it turns out Walker’s state budget includes a provision that could help Koch industries take over various state heating and energy operations through a no-bid deal. Money doesn’t just get the ear of the governor you install in office, but profits from the public resources of his state.


Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Tuesday, February 22nd, 2011

A poll of North Carolina voters indicates a large majority believe campaign contributions influence how judges rule in cases. By a 2.5-to-1 ratio, voters would also look unfavorably on state legislators who voted to eliminate North Carolina’s innovative judicial public financing program. The press release highlights a number of other questions in the poll sponsored by the NC Center for Voter Education and Justice At Stake.


Monday, February 21, 2011

Monday, February 21st, 2011

A shocking investigative report in Rolling Stone answers the question, “Why aren’t the Wall Street swindlers who brought down the world’s economy in jail?” Answer: They’re protected by the completely corrupt relationship between the crooks and the cops. They’re getting away with the biggest theft in world history because of the political payoffs, revolving door and cultural chumminess that glues together the financial chieftains at Citicorp, JP Morgan, AIG, etc. and high-ranking officials in the federal government, from the Securities and Exchange Commission to the White House. Ignore Matt Taibbi’s vulgarity and sad effort at gonzo journalism and focus on his reporting. Tidbit: No company’s executives gave more money to President Obama’s 2008 campaign than Goldman Sachs; and for his new chief of staff, he chose a top dog from JP Morgan. No wonder Obama can’t understand the rage people feel about the bank bailouts. Meanwhile, Public Campaign has a new report on the financial industry donations received by another group that can’t see straight, the majority of members of the House Financial Services Committee.


Friday, February 18, 2011

Saturday, February 19th, 2011

With the blessing of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, the US Chamber of Commerce has become even more aggressive in spending corporate money on political ads to tilt elections in its favor. Now it turns out the Chamber hired a group of reconnaissance experts to develop a plan to spy on and disrupt its political enemies. This is a heavy allegation but the evidence of its truth is piling up. Meanwhile, three Republican members of the Federal Election Commission are pursuing their own aggressive plan: They claim the Citizens United decision means corporations should be allowed to sponsor fundraising activities for a candidate’s election committee. They recognize that the decision didn’t allow direct corporate contributions to a candidate, but, following the Alice in Wonderland thinking of the Supreme Court majority, they declare that raising money for a candidate is not a contribution; it’s the “free speech” right of corporations.


Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Wednesday, February 16th, 2011

Local TV stations featured reports about today’s “Stop Photo ID: Respect My Vote” Lobby Day in Raleigh and other developments in the debate over requiring North Carolina voters to show an ID each time they vote. WRAL-TV’s coverage included an interview with Rep. Tim Moore (R-Cleveland County) who said Republicans plan to introduce a strict photo ID bill next week. The TV station posted the entire press conference of lawmakers and students opposing the ID on its website. Channel 14 featured an interview with State Board of Elections indicating that hundreds of thousands of voters do not have a current NC driver’s license or state ID card.  ABC/WTVD’s coverage included interviews with the League of Women Voters and others opposed to the photo ID law. More stories from the people who would be disenfranchised by a photo ID law are posted on a special page of Democracy North Carolina’s website.


Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Tuesday, February 15th, 2011

The Census Bureau has begun delivering detailed population data to public officials involved in redrawing political district lines to meet the Supreme Court’s mandate of “one person, one vote.” About a dozen states have their numbers and North Carolina’s turn is not far off. Democracy North Carolina and others will be monitoring how political lines are redrawn to favor or disadvantage a racial group, language minority, political party, or community with a common interest. A long-winded but useful article notes that poorly justified differences in the population counts in the new districts drawn for a school board or a state legislature could be grounds for a successful legal challenge under the “one person, one vote” rule. Citizens have the ability to draw their own maps and challenge those of the powers-that-be. Here’s one link to useful resources and Redistricting 101.


Monday, February 14, 2011

Monday, February 14th, 2011

What can be done about the unhealthy role of large private contributions in judicial elections? North Carolina led the nation by modifying the “clean elections” model of public financing to apply to judicial campaigns. In contrast to providing a positive alternative, New York is about to impose a new restriction on judges: you must not hear cases involving attorneys or parties in the dispute who have given more than $2,500 in the previous two years to your campaign. The New York Times article gives a good overview of the recent history of big money’s damaging influence in judicial elections, with multiple links. New York’s Administrative Board of the Courts adopted the ban on judges hearing certain cases as a means to protect the integrity of the court system. “Nothing could be more important for the judiciary than to have the public see that we’re neutral arbiters of disputes,” said Jonathan Lippman, the state’s chief judge. “If we don’t have that, we don’t have anything.”


Thursday, February 10, 2011

Thursday, February 10th, 2011

A Wall Street insider newsletter provides this useful profile of the wave of stockholder resolutions demanding that companies disclose their political spending, including their donations to trade associations (e.g., the US Chamber of Commerce) that shield a corporation’s partisan activity from public scrutiny. Churches, pension fund managers, social investment funds and others are using their voting power to pressure corporations to tell stock owners and the public how they may be taking advantage of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision.


Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Wednesday, February 9th, 2011

The Public Campaign Action Fund has a new report out today that details the grip the energy industry has on members of the US House Committee on Energy & Commerce. The report arrives as the Energy & Power Subcommittee convenes to debate a Republican effort to weaken the Clean Air Act. It not only profiles the direct contributions to Subcommittee members but also the help they received from the election spending of the network of anti-regulation groups funded by the Koch brothers. “Energy interests spent big in 2010 to get their preferred candidates elected to office, and we are seeing an early return on that investment,” said David Donnelly, national campaigns director for Public Campaign Action Fund. “Decisions to protect public health should be made without regard to campaign cash from oil and coal interests. Sadly that’s apparently not the case.” Think Progress reveals just how warped the hearing today will be; the list of expert witnesses and the bill under debate are the result of close collaboration with lobbyists for major polluters.


Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Tuesday, February 8th, 2011

Robert Lee Caldwell of Morganton was indicted on Tuesday in connection with Bev Perdue’s 2008 gubernatorial campaign . The prosecutor, Colon Willoughby, said there’s no evidence suggesting that Perdue or her staff knew that Caldwell used an illegal contribution to pay for a campaign air flight. However, he also said, “I would not be surprised to see more charges” related to the on-going state investigation. The US Attorney’s office is also looking into contributions made to Perdue’s campaign. Meanwhile, Billy Williams, former head of New Hanover County ABC liquor stores, was indicted on charges he used ABC funds to pay for construction of a two-story garage at his home. The contractor has already pleaded guilty for his part in the scam. Williams is the local liquor chief whose enormous salary and other perks sparked an uproar that led to exposure of similar abuses in other parts of the state and reverberated into calls to privatize the ABC system.


Monday, February 7, 2011

Monday, February 7th, 2011

It’s amazing how easily lawmakers sent to the state capital this year to repair the economy get side-tracked with legislation designed to preserve their own power. New Hampshire legislators are taking the next step in the movement to weed out voters they consider unfriendly to their party. It’s an object lesson for where the North Carolina advocates for a photo ID requirement could be headed if they succeed. Republicans in the Granite State have a bill to ban college students from voting in their “temporary” community unless they declare they plan to live there “indefinitely.” Such a move appears to violate US Supreme Court decisions, but of course that was before the Roberts radicals took charge of the Court. Students and Democrats in New Hampshire are outraged, and so is the president of the Dartmouth College Republicans, Richard Sunderland. The measure should be defeated, he says, even if student voters currently favor Democrats. The answer is to broaden the GOP’s appeal to students. “Attacking the right to vote is attacking a symptom, not the problem itself,” Sunderland says.


Friday, February 4, 2011

Friday, February 4th, 2011

Three Democratic state Senate candidates (Don Davis, Margaret Dickson and Joe Sam Queen) are suing the NC Republican Party and their opponents in the 2010 election because allegedly (1) the party improperly used a media discount available to candidates to pay for multiple broadcast advertisements, and (2) the party violated the Stand By Your Ad law by not being identified in the ads. Blistering ads and mailers filled with inflammatory, false and grossly misleading statements made the past election one of the nastiest in recent years. Stand by for more in 2012 – unfortunately, a lot more! Speaking of misleading the public, Democracy North Carolina called out the Pope Civitas Institute for issuing polls it claims represent the views of “a fully representative sample of registered voters” but which are really its own views bouncing through an echo chamber of cherry-picked respondents. Amazingly, some mainstream media outlets repeat Pope Civitas “poll findings” as though they have credible news value.


Misleading Polls from the Pope Civitas Institute

Thursday, February 3rd, 2011


FOR MORE INFORMATION: Contact Bob Hall at (919) 489-1931

Data Highlight:
Misleading Polls from the Pope Civitas Institute

The John W. Pope Civitas Institute is publicizing a new opinion poll designed to bring attention to their perspective on key issues, in this case election-related policies [see notes 1 and 2 below]. It’s a formula that works well for them, with some media reporting the poll’s findings as an accurate reflection of what North Carolinians believe.

But surveys can be manipulated to get a desired outcome in a number of ways – for example, by cherry picking the respondents or by using loaded wording in a question. The recent Pope Civitas Institute poll appears to suffer from both problems.

The poll taken January 19-20 yielded two press releases, and in each release Pope Civitas claims that “All respondents were part of a fully representative sample of registered voters in North Carolina.” But the crosstabs [see note 3] reveal that some subgroups of registered voters are under-represented in the survey, while others are over-represented.

For example:

  • African Americans make up 21.6% of registered voters in North Carolina (as of January 1, 2011), but they are only 16.0% of the Pope Civitas survey respondents.
  • Republicans are 31.6% of registered voters but 34.0% of the respondents.
  • Seniors age 66 and up are 17.5% of registered voters, but 23.3% of those included in the poll’s findings.
  • In contrast, young people age 18 to 25 are 11.4% of registered voters, but only 7.3% of the respondents.

In other words, the survey substantially under-represents black voters and over-represents elderly voters. Republicans are also over-represented and the Democrats selected are much older and whiter (and likely more conservative) than the actual profile of registered Democrats in North Carolina.

It is simply misleading to present the poll as “fully representative sample of registered voters in North Carolina.” The press release also says the survey focused its interviews on an odd mixture of people who either voted in two of the past four general elections or who registered since 2008. But it still claims to be a representative sample of all registered voters.

The questions asked in the poll also seem calculated to distort an honest survey of public opinion.

>> A question about North Carolina’s new law that allows teenagers to pre-register to vote but not vote at an earlier age is stated as: “Would you support or oppose a proposal to allow 16 and 17 year olds to register to vote?” There’s nothing indicating that the teenager is not allowed to vote at an earlier age, or that the law was designed to help them pre-register when they visit the DMV at age 16 and take Civics in the 10th grade. The legislation had broad bipartisan support in the General Assembly and became effective January 1, 2010.

Perhaps the heavy opposition expressed by those surveyed would have changed if the question’s wording read: “Would you support or oppose a proposal to keep the voting age in North Carolina at 18 but allow 16 and 17 year olds to pre-register to vote when they sign up for a driver’s license?”

Ironically, the new law does not appear to particularly hurt Republicans. An analysis by Democracy North Carolina of the 38,500 teenagers who pre-registered during 2010 shows that 30.6% signed up as Republicans, 29.2% as Democrats, 0.9% as Libertarian and 39.3% as Unaffiliated.

>> A second Pope Civitas question, this one about the Same Day Registration law, is asked this way: “Would you support or oppose a proposal allowing unregistered people to register and vote on the same day?”

The results would likely be different if the wording said: “Would you support or oppose a proposal allowing citizens to register and vote on the same day, if they were required to present a North Carolina driver’s license or other ID that could be verified before their ballot counted?”

>> A third question asks: “Would you support or oppose a proposal using taxpayer dollars to fund politician’s campaigns?” The Pope Civitas Institute uses the 83% negative response to say the public financing program for appellate judicial candidates should be gutted, but taxpayers are not compelled to fund the politicians’ campaigns.

A little over half of the money for the NC Public Campaign Fund comes from a $3 check-off on the state income tax form that is completely voluntary for the taxpayer. The other half comes from an assessment on the dues paid by attorneys to the State Bar, and the attorney can designate that the money only go to support the judicial voter guide mailed to households, which represents about a third of the program’s total cost.

So contrary to the deceptive framing of the Pope Civitas so-called opinion poll, no one is compelled to support judicial candidates with a dime of tax money.

To illustrate how the wording in a question can influence the answer, contrast the Pope Civitas findings with the April 2009 poll by the NC Center for Voter Education [note 4]. The Center’s pollster asked the question this way: “North Carolina currently has a law that gives statewide judicial candidates the option of accepting public campaign funding if they agree to spending limits and refuse money from political action committees. It also makes judicial elections nonpartisan and provides voter guides to explain judicial candidates’ qualifications. What is your position on this program?”

In response, 60% of the voters surveyed said they favored the program, while 22% opposed it and 18% were undecided.

One wonders how much longer the Pope Civitas Institute can gain attention for a form of “push polling” that asks carefully selected audiences carefully crafted questions to produce a response it wants to publicize.

Bob Hall

Democracy North Carolina

February 3, 2011

Note 1: Press release –

Note 2: Press release –

Note 3: Crosstabs:

Note 4: NC Center poll:


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