Link-of-the-Day Category

Democracy North Carolina’s Executive Director Bob Hall periodically posts commentary and links of interest about one of our core issue areas. Review his posts below or click here to automatically subscribe to our Link-of-The-Day feed via email and other options.

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.

LOD: Being Double Bunked

Monday, August 22nd, 2011

The NC FreeEnterprise Foundation has two entries that provide a detailed look at the 12 NC Senate members and 28 NC House members who are “double bunked” by the proposed General Assembly district maps for the 2012-2020 elections. Given how the new lines are drawn, the homes of these 40 legislators are placed in districts with a second member. If the maps clear court scrutiny, the legislator will have to choose to run against another incumbent, run for another office, move to another district or not run at all. Some members have already made up their minds, according to the useful analysis.


LOD: Changing Names to Protect…

Thursday, August 18th, 2011

California Republican US Rep. Darrell Issa is a . . . , Issa is a, is a . . . what? At the moment, he’s the heavyweight chair of a key Congressional committee with a mission to gut regulations that big businesses don’t like, even though they may benefit consumers. News stories keep revealing Issa’s cozy relations with lobbyists and corporations, so he has a name to remember. Now comes a bizarre story of a top Issa staffer changing his own name; he was a vice president at Goldman Sachs and now, under a new name, he’s the top dog in Issa’s office pushing the SEC and others to lighten up on Wall Street, despite the horrendous consequences of that approach. Shameless.


LOD: Dissent from the Top

Wednesday, August 17th, 2011

The political system is so blatantly tilted to help the super-rich and powerful that even they are embarrassed. They know it’s wrong, and it’s great when they speak out and call for change. In a singularly important op-ed, Warren Buffett, the second richest man in the US, is lambasting Congressional leaders for not making the wealthy share in the pain of a bad economy and red-ink government. Republican leaders are vigorously trashing him for losing sight of the goal: Selfishness First! But the CEO of Starbucks, Howard Schultz, is so mad with the Washington establishment that he’s calling on his fellow zillionaires to withhold all campaign contributions to the President and Members of Congress until they consider “all options, from entitlement programs to taxes,” and reach a wide-ranging budget deal “long before the deadline arrives this fall.” Third example: The American Bar Association just adopted a resolution calling for a ban on lobbyists giving or soliciting political donations for Members of Congress they lobbied in the previous two years; in other words, you have to choose to be a donor or a lobbyist but you can’t be both to the same policymaker. This action by the nation’s premiere organization of attorneys gains added weight because it was recommended by a team of blue-chip legal counsel for Republican and Democratic politicians.


LOD: Strings Attached to Super 12

Friday, August 12th, 2011

The so-called Super Congress – the six Democrats and six Republicans charged with coming up with a plan to reduce the deficit by more than $1 trillion – all come “with a history of political patrons and connections with special interests,” according to their portraits painted by the Center for Public Integrity’s iWatch News. The Associated Press also found that the 12 lawmakers “represent a large swath of political ideology and geography, but they have some things in common: They received more than $1 million overall in contributions from the health care industry and at least $700,000 from defense companies. Those two industries, especially, are sensitive to the outcome of the committee’s negotiations because the automatic spending cuts could affect them most directly.” One of the Democratic members has a major Washington fundraising event set for later this month that will likely be very popular. Meanwhile, the largest donor to the Republican co-chair of the Super Congress is an accounting firm that specializes in tax loopholes; it recently paid $456 million in fines, restitution and penalties for providing shady advise that saved its wealthy clients billions in taxes but put the nation further in the hole.


LOD: Titan’s America: We Know Best

Tuesday, August 9th, 2011

Titan America is back in the news, winning a draft air pollution permit for its proposed cement factory near Wilmington. Citizens in southeastern NC have kept up a vigorous campaign to force the company to play fair, but Titan apparently believes the free market means its competitors should shut up and trust them to do the right thing. The Wilmington Star News says that government officials are largely going along, even though Titan has a record of making misleading statements, if not lying. The NC environmental agency says it “had to issue the draft permit, based on state law and scientific models of the potential impact,” because computer models “showed that plant emissions would not exceed health standards outside the plant’s property line.” But why trust Titan to supply correct information to go into those models? Says the newspaper: “Titan’s actions during this process speak for themselves. In an interview shortly after plans for the plant were announced, Titan officials told the Star-News Editorial Board that it would comply with the new federal standards, even though they had not yet been announced. After the stricter limits were finalized, the Portland Cement Association challenged the rules. Titan’s president is head of that association. More recently, the company filed a slander suit against two vocal critics of the proposed Castle Hayne plant in what has all the appearances of an attempt to bully opponents into silence.” [see video]


LOD: Mystery Donors At Work

Monday, August 8th, 2011

Almost out of nowhere, a Wilmington couple jumped to the top of the list – just below Art Pope and his family – as the largest campaign donors in North Carolina’s 2010 legislative elections. Democracy North Carolina compiled the list of their $242,500 in donations to state political parties and 17 Republican legislative candidates in districts from the coast to mountains. (Many donations are still not in the State Board of Elections’s database because of staff shortages there.) The Wilmington Star News profiled Neil Carmichael (Mike) Bender and his wife Bridgett, and their business partner Jeff Petro, who kicked in another $37,000. They run several businesses, own airplanes, enjoy political access, hate taxes, and they’re ready to contribute heavily in next year’s election. But Mike doesn’t want his picture taken by the Star News. Hmmm. Meanwhile, the secret donor behind a $1 million gift funneled through a shell corporation to a super PAC promoting Mitt Romney’s presidency has been exposed: he’s Edward A. Conard, a financial wheeler-dealer in the firm where Romney once worked. Conard? Bender? Maybe they’re clues to solve the canard of who’s bending our political culture to the breaking point.


LOD: Thumb’s Up, Down for Legs

Friday, August 5th, 2011

Rep. Steve LaRoque’s home newspaper in Kinston got him to talk about the Policy Watch investigation of his use of two government-funded nonprofits to benefit himself, his family, and his political associates. The paper is owned by the Libertarian-leaning Freedom Communications chain, so it is noteworthy that the story didn’t end when LaRoque dismissed everything as a liberal conspiracy full of lies; indeed, the paper presented a balanced account and let Kinston readers hear from independent experts who added credibility to Policy Watch’s analysis of LaRoque’s inappropriate dealings. Meanwhile, House Speaker Thom Tillis received an award from the secretive American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) as one the nation’s “best legislators of the year.” Tillis and 31 other NC state legislators are attending the ALEC meeting in New Orleans, no doubt picking up more “model legislation” from the group, per our earlier account. The Sunshine Award that Democracy North Carolina recently presented to 22 legislators is also gaining attention in their hometown media (e.g., in Burlington, Fayetteville and Jacksonville). The award honors legislators for ”demonstrating respect for the public’s right-to-know through the superior quality of your campaign disclosure reports in the 2010 election.” The money chase is well underway for the 2012 cycle, with both state parties pulling in nearly half a million dollars in the first six months of 2011, most of it raised by their respective legislative caucuses. Whether you give the General Assembly a thumb’s up or down, money will be gushing at records levels for the 2012 showdown.


LOD: Access to Budget Cutters

Thursday, August 4th, 2011

Practical lobbyists in Washington are telling their clients to open their checkbooks because their ox may be gored by the Super 12 – the yet-to-be-named bipartisan committee of US Senators and Representatives who will recommend where to make additional budget cuts of at least $1.2 trillion. One lobbyist said he’s writing 12 big checks to ensure an inside advantage for his clients. Other practical observers believe the committee will end in another super-charged partisan stalemate, which will trigger indiscriminate across-the-board spending cuts. But lobbyists profit when groups are fighting for favors or protection, and in this case the healthcare industry and defense contractors are especially vulnerable (because of bloated subsidies) so expect to see them making large investments in their lobbyists – and in contributions to the Super 12. As a pre-emptive strike, our friends at Public Campaign are demanding that the Super 12 agree not to accept any political donations and also disclose all meetings with lobbyists. They’re asking you to sign a petition to get that message across, and a cadre of good government groups are joining in their letter making the core demand. The Sunlight Foundation also wants all the meetings of the Super 12 open, with maximum transparency in everything, even if it promotes grandstanding as much as a grander deal for the public.


LOD: NC Legislator On Dole He Hates

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2011

A two-month investigation by NC Policy Watch reveals that a powerful state legislator has been raking in six-figure paychecks from two government-funded organizations at the same time he’s railing against government waste and spending! Payments to NC House Rules Chair Rep. Stephen LaRoque (R-Kinston) reached $195,000 a year as the head of two economic development nonprofits – the East Carolina Development Company and Piedmont Development Company. The two organizations have received $8 million in federal funds since 1997, and LaRoque has used them to loan government money to his close associates and political allies. Read all the parts of this fascinating series.


LOD: Break the Stranglehold

Monday, August 1st, 2011

Stan Greenberg, the veteran strategist for Democratic candidates, has an important op-ed in the New York Times that says people are disgusted with government because it “operates by the wrong values and rules, for the wrong people and purposes. . . . Wall Street lobbyists govern, not Main Street voters.” This is the prevailing view across the board, from Tea Party reactionaries to left-of-center progressives. Then Greenberg provides a recipe for better leadership that includes tackling the corrupting influence of money in politics, special-interest spending, deficit reduction, immigration reform and more. Break the stranglehold of the wealthy lobbies and focus on rewarding responsibility.


LOD: All of NC is Divided in 3 Parts

Friday, July 29th, 2011

For the redistricting junkie, FairVote has crafted a Congressional map for North Carolina that offers a completely different way to elect 13 members to Congress, using three multi-member super districts and proportional representation. It comes with an analysis of the Republican plan adopted by the NC General Assembly – “one of the nation’s most extreme partisan gerrymanders this year” – and a detailed explanation of FairVote’s alternative approach, with charts and maps. Don’t get hung up on only three districts (there could be five or more), nor the fact that the whole thing isn’t now legal for Congressional elections. Look for ideas that are useful down the line.


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