Archive for March, 2011


Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Wednesday, March 9th, 2011

The evidence of inappropriate behavior is mounting: Supreme Court Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas not only attended an expense-paid strategy retreat with the Koch brothers and their corporate friends before the Citizens United ruling; it turns out that back in 1991 Citizens United spent $100,000 to support Thomas’ nomination to the Supreme Court. As recently as December 2010, Scalia conferred in secret with Rep. Michele Bachmann’s Tea Party Caucus, a group formed largely to fight healthcare reform. Asks Robert Reich, “Can you imagine the firestorm if Justice Sonia Sotomayor met in secret with the House Progressive Caucus?” Reich points out that Thomas’ wife is earning large sums for working with rightwing organizations, including lobbying against healthcare reform. Thomas has failed to disclose her earnings for years, in violation of Supreme Court rules, and Reich wonders if he’ll recuse himself when the challenge to the healthcare law hits the Court, as he should have with the Citizen United case. Common Cause keeps pressing for better information, despite attempts to tarnish its motives.


Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Tuesday, March 8th, 2011

Who are the voters most likely to face possible disenfranchisement by a Republican proposal to require NC voters to show a government-issued photo ID each time they vote? In early February, the State Board of Elections matched its database of registered voters with records at the Division of Motor Vehicles and learned that 1 million voters did not have a NC driver’s license or identification card with a matching name and address. Now, additional research by the State Board of Elections shows that out of the 1 million voters, about 448,000 have some indication of an ID (although something doesn’t match, like a birth date or complete name, or the card had expired); another 95,000 have not voted for years and are classified as Inactive. That leaves 460,500 Active registered voters with no indication of a current NC photo ID. Democracy North Carolina compared the profile of these voters with the 5.6 million voters who are classified as Active. The results are startling. For example, African Americans make up 22% of all Active voters, but they are 32% of the Active voters without an ID. That means if you’re a Black Active voter, you’re 48% more likely to not have a current photo ID than other Active voters. Seniors over 65 are 20% of Active voters but 32% of those with no ID; they are 64% more likely to not have a current photo ID than younger voters. Women and Democrats are also significantly more likely to not have a current ID than men and Republicans.


Monday, March 7, 2011

Monday, March 7th, 2011

Which state legislative seats will change the most? Detailed numbers from the 2010 Census are now available down to the block level for North Carolina. They show big population gains in metropolitan areas, modest increases in most other areas, but declines in several northeastern counties. It’s not easy navigating the new system of queries on the Census site, unless you already know what you’re doing! Cities, counties and school boards that elect members by district will use the information to redraw their lines – and so will the General Assembly for the 170 state legislative and 13 Congressional seats. The redrawn districts need to have roughly the same number of people to abide by the principle of “one person, one vote.” That means a current legislative district with 20,000 more people than the new ideal size will have to shed some of its voters into another district; big counties like Wake and Mecklenburg will get two or three additional districts this way, and more representatives in Raleigh. The NC FreeEnterprise Foundation has arranged a list of the current state House and Senate districts in order of how much they are over or under the ideal population. The under-populated districts will have to get voters from somewhere else or merge into another district, which makes the current legislator vulnerable to a face-off with another incumbent.


Thursday, March 3, 2011

Thursday, March 3rd, 2011

Here’s a nifty video that makes sense of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision – and explains the need for a Constitutional amendment to clarify that corporations don’t have “free speech” rights as “people” to spend unlimited money buying elections. There are a number of other links from the site for Free Speech for People, including the wording of the proposed brief amendment. The Center for Responsive Politics has updated its study of the total funds that outside groups spent telling people how to vote in the 2010 election, with conservative-backed entities dwarfing the liberal spenders, thanks largely due to the Citizen United ruling. The consequences of the corporate takeover are found in the stream of legislation being debated in the US House, which follows this theme: if the bill helps business owners, pass it even if it puts a bigger hole in the budget, but if it’s a federal program or regulation that has helped ordinary people’s health and welfare, now’s the time to kill it. Closer to home, the takeover at the General Assembly is spawning a rash of greed-fueled measures, including the revival of the billboard industry’s effort to overrule local ordinances with a proposed state law granting the industry new powers to expand along highways and roadsides.


Vacation Island Donors Give $2 Million, Push for Jetties

Thursday, March 3rd, 2011

For Release Wednesday, March 2, 2011
Contact: Bob Hall, 919-489-1931

Bill Sponsor Received $22,500 in 2010

As the legislature debates a controversial bill to allow construction of “terminal groins” along North Carolina’s beaches, a new study reveals that the bill’s chief sponsor and other state lawmakers have received $2 million in campaign donations from a group of groin advocates who own vacation homes on Figure 8 Island near Wilmington.
The group includes many of the richest, most powerful political donors in North Carolina. They have hired prominent Republican and Democratic lobbyists and created a political action committee (PAC) called the Island Preservation Society, which has donated more than $100,000 to lawmakers, according to the analysis by the nonpartisan group Democracy North Carolina.
Lobbyists for the Figure 8 Beach Homeowners Association include former Lt. Gov. Dennis Wicker and Joseph H. Lanier, former Sen. Jesse Helms’ legislative director. Donors to the Island Preservation Society PAC include restaurant owners Nick Boddie and Louis Sewell, investors William Armfield IV and Thomas Kenan III, publisher Frank Daniels Jr., developers Julian Rawl and Stephen Cornwell, contractors Earl Johnson Jr., John Bratton Jr. and Frank Dowd IV, auto dealers Fred Anderson and Linda Leith, beer wholesalers Lewis Nunnelee and Rodney Long, entrepreneurs Nat Harris and Charles Winston, and about 100 other civic and business leaders.
In addition to the PAC, the group of donors and their immediate families have given more than $1.8 million to state politicians since they began their pro-jetties campaign in late 2003 with a fundraising drive for then state Senate leader Marc Basnight. The Senate under Basnight repeatedly adopted bills to undo the state’s longstanding ban against groins, but the House and Speaker Joe Hackney blocked their passage. Basnight led all recipients with $14,000 from the Preservation Society PAC and $305,989 directly from its backers from Nov. 2003 to Dec. 2010. (See details on pages 2 and 3 of http://www.democracy-nc.org/PDFs/Fig8DnrsPR2011.pdf)
Not all the homeowners on Figure 8 Island support the groins, and nearly all coastal geologists say they will hasten erosion for down-beach property. Nevertheless, the island’s groin advocates have stepped up their donations in the past two years, especially to Republicans.
State Sen. Harry Brown (R-Jacksonville), the main sponsor of Senate Bill 110 to allow terminal groins near inlets, received $22,500 in the 2010 election cycle from donors related to Figure 8 Island and the Preservation Society PAC, according to Democracy North Carolina. He received only $2,000 in the previous five years combined.
Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger (R-Eden) received $10,450 in 2010 from the donors, including $1,000 from the PAC, his first donations from these donors since the PAC began.
“The large role of private money in public elections puts good lawmakers and donors under added scrutiny,” said Bob Hall of Democracy North Carolina. “The amount of money major donors can give and raise will make politicians pay attention, but legislation should stand on its merits, not depend on campaign donations. Republican leaders who said they opposed pay-to-play politics must now be careful not to practice what they preached against.”

For Release Wednesday, March 2, 2011
Contact: Bob Hall, 919-489-1931



Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Wednesday, March 2nd, 2011

Democracy North Carolina weighs in on the controversial proposal to build special jetties or “terminal groins” near coastal inlets: Our media release today documents the millions of campaign dollars given by vacation homeowners advocating for the groins, and we caution legislators, especially those who say they’re against pay-to-play politics, please evaluate this legislation based on its own merits, not the glitter of campaign money. A joint op-ed column by right-winger John Hood of the John Locke Foundation and environmentalist Todd Miller of the NC Coastal Federation raises real concerns that the legislation is a taxpayer bailout of private landowners and amounts to throwing piles money into the ocean.


Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Tuesday, March 1st, 2011

Want to read a case that’s being argued at the US Supreme Court? Here’s a link to an amicus brief (or ‘friend of court’ filing) by judges from 10 states who argue that the Court should not throw out the rescue funds provision in public financing programs for judicial elections. The provision provides for the release of additional public money to qualified candidates, triggered at the point when spending by their opposition exceeds the limit the candidate agreed to honor. The Court will hear arguments from the parties in the case, which arises from a dispute about whether Arizona’s program is unconstitutional. The amicus brief aims to give an outsider’s prospective, in this case from judicial authorities who understand the risks of weakening voter-owned elections options. A press release explains the brief and the core of the argument begins on page 19 of the PDF file (page number 3 of the brief).


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