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: Citizens United’s Origins

Saturday, May 19th, 2012

The New Yorker this week has an in-depth account of the manipulations and blunders that inflated a narrow issue before the US Supreme Court into the now infamous Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision. The majority opinion didn’t need to make sense – it had 5 of the 9 votes, enough to win; the dissenting views were easily more compelling. “At bottom, the Court’s opinion is thus a rejection of the common sense of the American people, who have recognized a need to prevent corporations from undermining self-government since the founding,” wrote Justice John Paul Stevens in dissent. “It is a strange time to repudiate that common sense. While American democracy is imperfect, few outside the majority of this Court would have thought its flaws included a dearth of corporate money in politics.” Read the article to understand the context of the opinions and significance of one or two appointments to the Supreme Court.


LOD: Lies and Damnable Lies

Saturday, May 12th, 2012

Two national stories with NC connections: One, from the Los Angeles Times, dissects the damnable lies spewed forth in political advertisements sponsored by Americans for Prosperity. It’s not an accident that the deceitful ads attack alternative energy production as well as President Obama; the biggest backers of AFP are oil and gas mega-billionaires David and Charles Koch who don’t like competition from “green” alternatives or the implications of global warming for their industry. One of AFP’s four directors (and a major AFP donor) is Raleigh’s Art Pope, head of the Roses and Maxway chain of department stores. The tax-exempt, “social welfare” organization plans to spend $151 million during the 2012 election on this kind of “educational” ad, but the real source of that money is unknown. The article points out that Obama aims to ramp up his attack ads, too, but in that case you at least know who to hold accountable when you vote. The second story, from National Public Radio, profiles a series of meetings that ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council) is holding in Charlotte, bringing together top corporate lobbyists with state legislators across the nation to craft model legislation aimed at maximizing private profits and weakening government’s role in protecting the public’s health and welfare. The example NPR uses in its story is a bill to undercut a state attorney general’s ability to sue a utility company (a regulated monopoly) for gouging its customers. The Koch brothers and their corporations are heavy backers of ALEC as well.


LOD: Wal-Mart Way of Business

Thursday, May 3rd, 2012

Wal-Mart is in the middle of a scandal involving allegations of massive bribery in Mexico – and the company is depending on the goodwill built through its generous donations to Congressional leaders of both parties to weather the storm; in other words, it’s using another form of bribery that has become standard practice for major businesses, especially as they undergo more scrutiny for abusing their power. Wal-Mart has been the target of numerous complaints over the years as it has enriched the heirs of founder Sam Walton – several are now among the 10 richest individuals in the United States. Earlier this week, the company agreed to pay nearly $5 million in back pay and damages to thousands of workers it had cheated out of overtime pay. That amount pales next to the more than $600 million Wal-Mart agreed to pay to settle dozens of labor-related cases in 2008. Apparently it learned the wrong lesson from that experience, i.e., cheating is cheaper than doing the right thing. Would its owners be so recalcitrant if they couldn’t use protection money to bribe the system in their favor? They are already spending big-time in the 2012 election so they never have to find out.


LOD: Sick for Justice

Wednesday, April 25th, 2012

The multi-part series in the News & Observer about NC hospitals will make you sick. Today’s part adds the money-in-politics dimension to the profile of heartless institutions with unbelievable profit margins, hiding behind the respectable shield of non-profit charitable service. Rep. Dale Folwell, the Republican House Speaker Pro-Tem, says his effort to cap a sales tax windfall for hospitals went nowhere fast last year. “The reason this bill never got a hearing is because big money bottled it up,” he said. Today’s paper also includes an op-ed on the dangers of turning the health-care management of prison inmates over to for-profit corporations that use political corruption wherever they go to turn state resources into enormous private gain. Not that North Carolina’s non-profit hospitals do much better with prison care; the N&O shows they routinely charge the state three times their actual costs to treat sick inmates. Sure seems like a crime, but who will threaten these smiling hospital managers with a prison term?


LOD: Tax Dodgers

Tuesday, April 17th, 2012

Robert Reich, economist and chairman of Common Cause, has a two-minute video that shows how top corporations use their profits to manipulate the political system to reap more tax breaks and the lion’s share of productivity gains over the past several decades; Reich connects a lot of dots in 135 seconds. His themes are fleshed out in a succinct essay by Paul Buchheit on “five reasons why the very rich have not earned their money.”  With Tax Day here, it’s worth recognizing that the maze of tax laws lets corporations like Duke Energy and Wells Fargo pay Zero federal taxes. US PIRG analyzes one giant tax distortion that costs the rest of us $100 billion a year: the offshore tax havens enjoyed by eBay, Wells Fargo and others.


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