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: Statement on VRA Districts

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2011

Following up the LOD posting for Monday, here’s a statement from Democracy North Carolina about the partial maps of new legislative districts proposed by NC Republicans leaders – and also an action alert about how you can weigh in with a written statement or personal appearance at the public hearing tomorrow. After further research, it’s even clearer that the GOP is misusing the Voting Right Act to pack their opponents into a limited number of General Assembly districts while increasing their partisan advantage in the rest.


LOD: Judicial Public Financing

Tuesday, June 21st, 2011

The same rightwing law firm that engineered the Citizens United decision also attacked North Carolina’s judicial public financing program a few years ago; they took their challenge all the way to the US Supreme Court and lost. Now they’re representing a “right to life” group in Wisconsin, claiming that state’s new judicial program (modeled on ours) is unconstitutional. Democracy North Carolina and others have signed onto an amicus brief supporting the public’s right to sponsor a viable public campaign financing option, especially for judicial elections. Because judges have a constitutional duty to be impartial, there is a “compelling government interest” in preventing even the appearance of bias or corruption. The brief says this interest even justifies some public financing provisions that might be struck down for programs covering other elective offices – particularly the “rescue” or matching funds provision that helps enrolled candidates keep up with their opponent’s spending against them. The Supreme Court recently heard a case challenging Arizona’s system of providing matching funds (the McComish v. Bennett case). Most observers expect a 5-to-4 decision very soon that will throw out the matching-funds provision as an unconstitutional burden on the “free speech” (i.e., fundraising) of privately financed candidates. But even with the expected hostile decision, North Carolina’s judicial public financing program can continue, maybe without its rescue funds provision or maybe we’ll provide another test case.


LOD: First Maps of NC Districts

Monday, June 20th, 2011

Republicans in the state legislature are beginning to roll out their maps for the new General Assembly districts using 2010 Census data. They’re following federal law by first drawing districts that comply with the Voting Rights Act, which is good. But it appears they are going well beyond that mandate to use the VRA to create several additional majority-minority districts with heavy concentrations of Democratic or non-Republican voters. You can view the proposed VRA districts for the state House and state Senate under the section titled “Plans and Information for 2011.” What’s the impact of this strategy? Minority and Democratic voters are apparently being packed into a smaller number of total districts statewide, rather than have their influence spread across more areas; conversely, the lines are drawn to keep Republicans at a minimum in the VRA districts and put them in other districts that will favor GOP candidates. It’s a cynical use of the VRA to help Republicans win more seats in Raleigh and Washington. Sen. Eric Mansfield (D-Cumberland) says the maps seem to endorse a return to segregation; they will promote racial tension and polarization rather than centrist politics. You can share your view of these maps at a public hearing on Thursday, June 23, at a variety of locations across the state.


LOD: Voter Suppression Update

Thursday, June 16th, 2011

North Carolina’s infamous photo ID bill (H-351 – we call it the “Voter Suppression Act of 2011”) passed as expected on party line votes and is on its way to Gov. Bev Perdue. You can encourage her to veto the bill with this handy action alert. The other major anti-voter bill, S-47, was pulled off the floor tonight and will be taken up in July when the General Assembly reconvenes to tackle redistricting and other topics. Before the sponsor pulled the bill, he gained support for an amendment to delete the provision that would have killed Sunday afternoon voting, so “Souls to the Polls” faces one less threat. The bill still has a bucket load of obnoxious provisions, from ending Same-Day Registration and Voter-Owned Elections for executive branch offices to permitting corporate donations to political parties. In other action at the General Assembly, the bill (H-710) to merge three government watchdog agencies into a new underfunded, overtasked agency was also pulled for further study and action in the July session. Looks like a long hot summer.


LOD: Pay-to-Play Harms Public Health

Wednesday, June 15th, 2011

Pay-to-play politics can be petty – or deadly serious. The Wilmington Star-News reports that state Sen. Thom Goolsby received a $4,000 donation from the head of the city’s home builders association and shortly thereafter introduced a bill in the General Assembly that the association’s lobbyist had prepared. The bill overrides a city policy about how the Wilmington convention center is rented to groups. That policy hardly deserves statewide attention, but the Goolsby/builder interaction does, because the two men risk being charged under the state’s anti-bribery law if “it could reasonably be inferred that the thing of value [the $4,000 donation] would influence the legislator in the discharge of the legislator’s duties” (NC General Statute 120-86). Meanwhile, one of the biggest campaign donor’s in the state, Duke Energy, joined several other businesses in pushing a surprise bill yesterday that will stop North Carolina from regulating toxic chemicals released into the air by power plants, paper factories, steel mills, etc. This example of arrogant special-interest legislation illustrates the grave consequence for people’s health of pay-to-play politics. On the national level, the Koch brothers are the poster boys of using their money to gain policies that help their businesses and personal fortune at the expense of others’ health and safety. A fascinating, horrible case in point: they’ve used their clout for years to prevent proper regulation of formaldehyde as a carcinogen, costing untold damage.


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.


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.


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.


LOD: New Loan Costs Reward Donors

Tuesday, May 31st, 2011

Consumers will likely see the cost of small loans go up in North Carolina, thanks to a bill in the NC General Assembly that will hike interest rates and add new fees. According to a detailed report by Democracy North Carolina, the bill is the reward for finance company owners suddenly shifting allegiance and pumping more than $100,000 into the 2010 campaigns of 15 Republican challengers and the top 3 Republican leaders in the General Assembly. Most of the industry donors have never given so generously to legislative candidates, but they responded to a call by their lobbyists to give to a list of Republicans in hot contests, beginning in August 2010. Military leaders in North Carolina, the state’s banking commissioner and consumer groups are all against the bill, but the House Banking Committee approved it last week. It fits into a series of legislation that helps advance narrow business interests over the public interest, an imbalance that is fast becoming a major achievement of the 2011 General Assembly.


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