Archive for June, 2011

LOD: Big Tobacco’s Smoke Screen

Wednesday, June 8th, 2011

Big Tobacco has dropped from its ranking at the top of big contributors to federal candidates, but the industry is still spending millions to advance its political agenda in less visible ways. A new report from the Center for Responsive Politics tracks millions going into 527 committees and leadership PACs and notes that the Citizens United decision invites the industry to hide its money behind a haze of mystery groups. “One thing the tobacco industry has done is stay out of the public view and disguise its efforts in politics,” says Stanton Glantz, director of the Center for Tobacco Research and Control. “With the rise of this undisclosed money, it is hard to know what they’re doing.” Nevertheless, the CRP report identifies the top recipients of tobacco largess, led by Sen. Richard Burr in the 2010 election cycle, as well as hot issues the industry intends to influence.

An Impromptu with Governor Perdue

Wednesday, June 8th, 2011

Monday was not the typical boring first day of the work week that everyone expects. Around lunch time we received a phone call that Governor Beverly Perdue would be in Greenville meeting with a small number of members from the Eastern North Carolina Civic Group.  This was an opportunity that we could not give up. After meeting with a local community activist we rushed back to the office, grabbed some materials to distribute and set off to meet with the Governor.

When we finally got to the place that the meeting was being held, we entered a small conference room and realized that this meeting was truly up close and personal.  On the agenda that was set forth by the leaders of the Eastern North Carolina Civic group the budget was the first thing up for discussion. However without us even hinting or nudging the discussion Governor Perdue shifted the talk to House bill 351 and Senate bill 657. Smiles shined across all three of our faces. Soon later we heard “this is valuable, I love this sheet”, when we looked up we saw that in Governor Perdue’s hand was our “Respect Our Vote” flyer (kudos to Katy). Shaunee did her victorious fist pump as we saw that the Governor was on the same page as us.

Monday showed us where “flexibility” comes into play with this job.  It also really taught us that this job is unpredictable, and you must always be on your toes. We received one phone and 3 hours later we were looking at the Governor.  We look forward to another exciting week coming up in our area.

Until next time,

Jasmine and Shaniqua

Making a difference, one person at a time.

Tuesday, June 7th, 2011

Thursday, June 2nd, Khadijah and I got a chance to speak to some senior citizens at Independent Living Center off of Akron Drive in Winston. The citizens that attended expressed a lot of concern about the new legislation being introduced.  They also expressed other fears, such as community centers not getting the necessary funding, less and less people with health care, and the possibility of losing their Medicare.  Even with all of their concerns, the members of the Independent Living Center showed that they remain hopeful, trusting that their elected officials will stand up for their needs, and protect what they have fought so hard to achieve.  They even asked for our assistance in writing letters to the governor, which we provided.

On June 6th we traveled north to Dobson, and were invited to speak with the Senior Democrats of Surry County.  There were a few more people at this meeting, and to say they were a lively bunch would be an understatement.  We did get a chance to speak with them about the Photo ID bill and some other voting restrictions that are being proposed.  We were also able to touch base on our “Cut the Strings” initiative that is focused on our support for public campaign financing – and successfully got some signatures from our petition.  Just like the seniors at Independent Living Center, the Senior Democrats are worried about other issues being currently debated now as well.  They seemed to show the most interest in ensuring that the voter’s right to vote remains protected, and they seemed more than willing to support any type of “call to action” proposed to do just that.

These speaking engagements really showed that people are very concerned about this legislation being proposed, which are changing voting laws and only making it harder for many groups to get out and vote.  However, after both speaking engagements, Khadijah and I were invited back to speak or help with initiating voter registration.  We accepted an invite to come and speak to a local branch of the NAACP, at their next meeting, regarding the Photo ID bill.  So far the Winston-Salem team has experienced working with a range of people, youth to seniors, and we are truly realizing that the people WANT change.  It is our job to inform and educate the people of the issues and how they are/will be affected.  No matter their age, race or party, that is exactly what we intend to do!

Making a difference, one person at a time.

Kayla and Khadijah

The Winston-Salem Team

…This Week In Charlotte…

Friday, June 3rd, 2011

This week in Charlotte…

We’ve had quite a busy week, but a fairly exciting one as well. It seems as if this week has passed within a blink of an eye, yet we have already gained many valuable contacts and experiences. To begin with, our first day started with a speaking engagement at 8:30 AM. We arrived at a community center to a meeting called the Tuesday Morning Breakfast. This is a group of retired government officials who gather to learn about new issues they can use their experiences to leverage. We spoke to the members about the Respect Our Vote campaign and explained the implications if such bills were to be passed. We were received by an eager and friendly audience. They asked lots of detailed question and even came to congratulate us after the meeting had come to a close. We were both caught up with a bit of jitters, as this was our very first hour on the job and we were to present. Yet, when we took our place at the front of the room, a sense of comfort resided within us and we had a wonderful time speaking to the group. Check us out on tr website (!!The rest of our day consisted of visiting the office, figure out the details of our summer plans and listing supplies that were needed.

Day Two, started at the office. This day we created a Twitter account to make sure that we are able to keep in contact with the Winston-Salem and Greenville groups. (@dnCharlotteteam) We completed the first draft of our letters to the editor and organized how we were to conduct our first phone bank that night. Later that afternoon, we went downtown to attend a Press Conference for the County Commission Budget Hearing. The room was buzzing with people from several different advocacy groups that were there to observe how the new budget would affect them. We suddenly had to leave so that we could begin our 1st phone canvassing assignment scheduled for that night. We had the privilege of contacting 70 individuals to remind them about the Democracy Charlotte meeting taking place the following day, Thursday, June 2.

On day three, we arrived at the office and were greeted with an array of tasks that were to be completed. We began by arranging 1000 fliers for Organizing for America and another 500 for Advocate Patricia Burns. We then began to contact theaters to find the venue for the one-stop tour film showing in Charlotte. We contacted several theaters and were able to narrow down prospective places. We then had the task of finding organizations that would want us to host speaking engagements. We found a couple possibilities that included some local scout groups as well as some youth organizations. The time for our next event, the Democracy Charlotte meeting had arrived, thus we headed to Amalie’s to get prepared. We had a turnout of 21 people which is a little more than we were expecting. Among the topics covered were redistricting, bills currently in the electorate, and church bulletins. The meeting began at 6pm and lasted approximately two hours. The group showed a lot of enthusiasm towards the agenda and ideas. All-in-all, the meeting was a great success!!

Today is day four and we have finished our last draft of the letters to the editor, continued to work on finding one-on-ones and speaking engagements. We have also finished our weekly reports and are currently finalizing our one-stop-tour plans for Ashville. We are so excited about all that we have planned next week.

…Tune in next week for our visit to the department of Homeland Security for voter registration and a special television appearance from yours truly :)

Joyce Lutu and Maiysa Mesbah

You can GOOGLE us

Friday, June 3rd, 2011

This week one of our main goals was to get on the local radio station WOOW am 1340.  Broadcasting starts at 8 am and we of course had to be there early.  Initially we were supposed to go on the air on Thursday but, like we were warned of, we ran into some pot holes.  The head broadcaster wasn’t there and his replacement was his daughter who had no idea she was coming in to work, and no idea we were coming in to speak. To top it all off the studio mics were not working.  However, we remained optimistic and like always, things worked themselves out. We were able to go on the air Friday morning.

On the air we focused on the redistricting that is taking place in Greenville. The host was very interactive and asked us great questions including what we thought of the redistricting that was going on in Greenville.  We urged Greenville residents to go the upcoming city council meeting where a public hearing on the district maps to be presented to the council would take place. We also talked about the Voter ID bill and the effects that it would potentially have on voters and briefly on Voter Owned Elections.  We were asked to answer many questions on the spot that required us to think on our feet, kind of like the public speaking challenges that we did during our training sessions.  For example the radio host asked, “Tell us, where someone would go to contact you or to get involved?” and I (Jasmine) so gracefully answered “You can Google us” because I forgot the web address.  Luckily it came to mind before the end of broadcasting and I was able to make a smooth recovery and made the web address one of the last points that we gave the listeners.  After all, Adam did remind us to make sure the last thing we said made a lasting impression.

Earlier in the week we also wrote a letter to the editor, which also gave us some problems.  We submitted the letter using the office address and phone number.  We were questioned as to why Durham residents were concerned about redistricting in Greenville.  After explaining that we were both residents of Greenville, we were then notified that the paper did not typically publish co-written letters or letters “orchestrated” by organizations.  As put by the editor there were “a couple of problems” with our letter. Nevertheless, like our radio interview, things worked themselves out, and we ended up getting our letter published.

See our Letter to the Editor

We have had a very eventful first week to say the least and we are definitely looking forward to the upcoming weeks.

Jasmine and Shaniqua

It all starts with the youth

Friday, June 3rd, 2011

So far the internship has been a blur and pretty fast paced. Khadijah and I have been trying to find contacts, get organized, get numbers, set up events, all while preparing for speaking events and one-on-one meetings. Because our office is not equipped with internet service, making these conn

Around lunch time on Wednesday we met with James Burroughs in our first one-on-one meeting.  He is the president and executive director of Democracy at Home – an organization based in Greensboro. It was refreshing to see another young face being so politically and civically active. He was able to give us some helpful advice pertaining to event coordinating and public or community gatherings and forums. However, the more exciting and fulfilling event was with a local recreation center in Winston.

At the rec center we spoke to about 15 kids, all ranging from age six to sixteen. We spoke about the importance of voting and ways that they can become engaged, even at such a young age. All of the kids were well educated and versed on certain political aspects, as far as the presidency, and it was refreshing to see so many kids knowledgeable. It was interesting to hear, though, that the kids felt young people still would not get involved in  politics even if they were knowledgeable, and political information was given to them. Also, the kids felt that the current political arena really lacks role models that young people can look up to – inherently decreasing their likelihood to be interested.

Khadijah and I thoroughly enjoyed working with the kids and hearing what they had to say. The meeting with James Burroughs was also a great learning experience because we actually were able to learn and speak with someone who has experience with what we will be doing a lot this summer. Even if people don’t want to believe it, the youth and young citizens are our future and they must have a voice in every aspect of society. The sooner young people realize they are important the better citizens and the more involved they will be later in life. If these past few days are any implication of what the summer will be like, the Winston-Salem team is ready!

Kayla and Khadijah

Winson-Salem Team

LOD: Shotgun Merger, Ouch!

Thursday, June 2nd, 2011

Earlier this week, Democracy North Carolina released a report that sharply criticized a proposal jammed inside the state Senate budget to merge and shrink the three agencies that oversee elections, ethics, and lobbying. We’re pleased to report that the proposal, which many others also rebuked, is no longer a part of the Republican budget plan. The Senate passed the budget bill today (H-200) on a party-line vote and it goes to the House tomorrow for final agreement and then to Gov. Perdue for her possible veto. In our report, we pointed out that budget cuts from last year have already seriously impaired the ability of these watchdog agencies to do their jobs. For example, due to staff shortages, the State Board of Elections has not yet processed 42% of the campaign finance reports filed by the state legislators elected in 2010, much less audited them for mistakes and possible criminal violations, as required by law. Unfortunately, another proposal – this one in H-710 – is still alive; it calls for a shotgun merger of these agencies by January 1, 2012, which would create havoc throughout next year’s election, whether by design or accident.

Are You Here For Class?

Thursday, June 2nd, 2011

Our few days as Democracy NC interns have definitely been active, to say the least. Neither of us expected to be so busy within the first few days of the internship, but there has barely been a free moment since we walked into the office on Tuesday. Of course the first few moments involved logistics, and trying to figure out just how we would go about achieving the goals for the summer. Handling logistics seems like a pretty simple task, but that wasn’t the case.  The first thing we had to do was figure out how we were going to have Internet access for the next two months. As guests on ECU’s campus we didn’t have set access to their network, so we needed a guest pass for the summer. This did not turn out to be a simple process. We were sent from office to office looking for anyone that could help get this elusive guest pass, only to find out that the pass would only allow access for a week. Clearly our internship would last longer than a week. Then, once we found a way to get Internet access, we found out that the computer in our office didn’t have a CPU unit. So it wasn’t even really a computer, just two fancy computer moniters. Shaunee had to run down to the administrative assistant’s office just to ask for one, which took another thirty minutes. By the time we got all of the logistics for our office done it was time to our main event for the day.

The City of Greenville is currently going through their redistricting process and we had the opportunity to attend a redistricting workshop at City Hall on Tuesday. The city decided to hold two public workshops after concerns were raised that the redistricting process was being rushed, that there were few alternatives given, and that people didn’t have the chance to voice their opinions. These workshops were meant to give the public a chance to see the proposed districts and offer any alternatives or changes they would like to see made. We were both pleased to see that the city took the time to offer these public meetings and workshops. It is important to get as much of the community as possible involved in the redistricting process, because it affects all of us. However, we were disappointed to see that not many people attended the workshop. We thought that the idea of a public workshop would attract lots of people since it affects so many. Shaunee later told us that it is typically the same group of people that attend all of these public meetings and workshops; new faces are rare. I think the mayor was even surprised to see new faces at Tuesday’s workshop. She came over and asked if we came as a requirement for a political science class. It is odd to hear that people don’t take advantage of these public hearings and workshops, since they are rare as well. Hopefully more people will attend the next public hearing that the city council has on redistricting.

Jasmine Johnson and Shaniqua Singleton
Greenville Team

LOD: Investing in Bad Government

Wednesday, June 1st, 2011

Another report, this one by Citizens for Tax Justice, spotlights mega-corporations that rake in massive profits and pay nothing in federal income taxes – in fact, they get a credit, which means money from you. This is what happens when corporations rig the tax code to their advantage, a product of their investment in bad government via political donations and unconscionable lobbying. (One of the 12 corporations in the spotlight is Wells Fargo, the owner of Wachovia.) To compound the problem, you may have heard that a federal district judge in Virginia last week ruled that the Citizens United ruling means corporations can make direct donations to candidates, not just spend for uncoordinated promotion of the candidate. Oops, now it appears the judge thinks he may have gone too far and is reconsidering his decision. Either way, unlimited corporate spending in politics poses an enormous challenge for an honest democracy.

Follow us on twitter!

Wednesday, June 1st, 2011

Team Charlotte has officially created their twitter account @dnCharlotte. We are on Team follow back because we want to know what you think!!!

Page 3 of 3123