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.


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LOD: Secrecy & Pay-to-Play

Tuesday, February 28th, 2012

House Speaker Thom Tillis left out loads of information about his donors when he filed his campaign disclosure report for the last half of 2011. He got called out by Democracy NC and others; he said he’d fix the report and file an amendment. Well, the new report is in and there are still lots of holes – but what does get included is even more stunning. Tillis labels the CEO of a consumer loan company a “homemaker” – even though she helped organize a fundraising event for him in Greenville that brought in more than $30,000.  Turns out two thirds of that money came from other loan company execs from around the state, apparently bundled together for delivery at the fundraiser, along with fat checks from the industry’s two PACs. This feels like a replay of Jim Black’s style of pay-to-play: Tillis, you will remember, muscled a controversial bill through the House for the loan companies, despite vigorous opposition from military brass and consumer advocates. Democracy North Carolina put all this info together into a release today that stimulated some press coverage, including these video reports on WRAL-TV and Raleigh’s NBC-17.



LOD: Super Negative

Tuesday, February 21st, 2012

Here’s a sobering statistic from a Washington Post report: “Four years ago, just 6 percent of campaign advertising in the GOP primaries amounted to attacks on other Republicans; in this election, that figure has shot up to more than 50 percent, according to an analysis of advertising trends.” Most of the money for the negative ads has come from outside groups, not the candidates’ committees, and it is dominating the election cycle so far, thanks to the Supreme Court’s various rulings that equate buying political influence with free speech. Outside groups feel less accountable for what they say, and media outlets let them get away with over-the-top trash talk. The New York Times has a donor-by-donor chart and USA Today adds analysis of the latest financial reports for Super PACs. The puny showing of the operation supporting Barack Obama’s re-election has led the President and his campaign to shift course and join in the hoax of helping “independent” groups raise mega-dollars to run “uncoordinated” advertising campaigns. The election system is being sucked into an Orwellian world ruled by Supreme Court justices who see corporations as people.





LOD: Leading Reform

Tuesday, February 14th, 2012

The New Mexico legislature just passed a resolution calling on Congress to initiate a constitutional amendment to overturn the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision. A blog entry from John Nichols of The Nation describes the significance of this action and how it fits into other efforts for an amendment and the larger outcry against corporate domination in politics. The question is what bipartisan group of state legislators in North Carolina will step up to shepherd a similar resolution through the General Assembly? Speaking of leadership, here’s one perspective on President Obama’s recent embrace of the arms race in Super PAC fundraising: We don’t expect him to tie a hand behind his back in the 2012 slugfest, but David Donnelly of the Public Campaign Action Fund asks if Obama or some other presidential candidate will at least make a public commitment to be a leader for major reform after the election. Of course, there are multiple ways to demonstrate leadership now, even as they hustle a gazillion dollars for themselves and their alter-ego Super PACs. Back to North Carolina: All the candidates should be asked what they’ll do to attack the cancer worsened by Citizens United, and General Assembly members should be pressed to beef up disclosure of CU-inspired money now.


LOD: McCrory’s Opening Miscue

Thursday, February 9th, 2012

Guess where Pat McCrory ended his swing across the state, announcing the official start of his campaign for governor as the candidate who will “turn North Carolina around” and end the “corruption” of the Democrats? The trip finished in Wilmington, with a large McCrory rally at a pool hall and grill – which is owned by Steven Hebert, a donor to former House Speaker and convicted felon Jim Black, and which is stocked even today with video sweepstakes games from Southland Amusements, a company run by Robert E. (Bobby) Huckabee III. Huckabee’s Southland Amusements & Vending Inc. was at the center of the corruption complaint filed by Democracy North Carolina in July 2004 against Jim Black’s network of video-poker donors. Back then, Hebert had Huckabee’s video poker machines in his bar; the two have been doing business together for years. Many of the individuals listed in the complaint funneled campaign money to Black through other donors, with or without their knowledge, including Huckabee’s sister and Hebert’s wife-to-be, Holly Abbuhl. In testimony at the State Board of Elections into the complaint, it came out that Hebert gave Abbuhl the money to make her $1,500 donation to Black. Huckabee avoided testifying at the hearing by conveniently being out the country, but the taint of his dealings continues, as does the controversial evolution of video poker in North Carolina. It’s a surprising blunder to see Pat McCrory pledging to “turn around” pay-to-play politics at a place like Wilmington’s Break Time Billiards & Grille.



LOD: Predatory Super PACs

Friday, February 3rd, 2012

Dozens of news stories are telling the horrific impact of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision on 2012’s election, and we’ve barely begun. Super PACs, billionaires, and front groups for who-knows-what are the oxygen that candidates rely on for their lives. They’ll also have a chokehold on them if they are elected. Election attorney Rick Hasen has a helpful overview of where we are now after Citizens United, and the Campaign Finance Institute adds important background and valuable details. A more responsible Congress would tackle this mess not just through campaign finance regulation but through the tax code. Mega-wealthy “persons” are using tax-exempt vehicles to smash democracy, with no “social welfare” purpose as required by the tax code. It’s past time to tax these entities as predatory commercial enterprises.


LOD: Two Nasties, One Target

Tuesday, January 31st, 2012

Here’s a strategy to simultaneously fight nasty political money and the nasty political ads they buy: Go after the broadcasters and make them pull any ad not completely substantiated with hard evidence. As a media expert explains, independent ads don’t enjoy the same protection from a broadcaster’s good-taste test as ads produced by candidates during the election season. Independent groups escape many campaign finance regulations because they’re technically not connected to the candidate. So why not use this distinction to insist that their ads get treated like non-campaign ads and are pulled when they cross the line with exaggerated claims and accusations. Here’s another strategy being tried in the high octane Senate race in Massachusetts. Sen. Scott Brown (R) and challenger Elizabeth Warren (D) have signed an unusual agreement that they will give a charity half the cost of any third-party’s ad attacking his or her opponent – and they’re telling outside groups from Karl Rove’s American Crossroads to the League of Conservation Voters to back off and let the candidates handle their own messaging, with the piles of money their raising themselves. Definitely a model worth watching.


LOD: Pope’s Blessing

Thursday, January 26th, 2012

An editorial writer for the Raleigh News & Observer handed Art Pope a bevy of compliments for his “humanitarian” philanthropy, extolling the list of “charities and universities the Pope Foundation blessed with $1.2 million in grants last year.” Alliance Medical Ministries – $10,000; Barium Springs Home for Children – $10,000; Blessed Sacrament School – $10,000; etc. The writer, Burgetta Wheeler, managed this sweet story by cherry picking from the list of foundation recipients and committing the “one dimensional” journalism she ascribes to Pope’s detractors. Here’s a link to the complete list (pp. 20-23). A balanced story would have noted that the Pope Foundation gave a whopping $1.35 million to the strident rightwing group Americans for Prosperity in the same fiscal year, more than the combined total of Wheeler’s featured grantees. Or how does Pope’s giving to the goody-good list compare to one gift for college sports – $1,000,000 to UNC’s Rams Club, cleverly named The Educational Foundation Inc. Other unmentionables for the year: John Locke Foundation – $2.6 million; Civitas Institute – $1.2 million; NC Institute for Constitutional Law – $710,000; Pope Center for Higher Education – $542,800; NC Family Policy Council – $100,000; Job Creators Alliance – $100,000; NC Free Enterprise Foundation – $95,000; Heritage Foundation – $50,000. To shore up the foundation’s cash flow, Art and sister Amanda each donated $3.5 million, presumably from their share of earnings from Variety Wholesalers (Roses, Maxway, Super Dollar). An LOD account of previous foundation donations is here.


LOD: Mike Easley’s Money

Monday, January 23rd, 2012

For those of you fascinated by the strange behavior of former Gov. Mike Easley, Don Carrington of the Carolina Journal has a new piece that examines Easley’s finances after his felony conviction, with an appropriate question: How can he move hundreds of thousands of dollars around and still not pay a dime toward the $90,000-plus fine that the Mike Easley Committee owes the State Board of Elections – that’s the fine Easley says he accepts personal responsibility for, but why doesn’t he pay it? The fine was levied in the same case where Democracy North Carolina filed a complaint against the NC Democratic Party for acting as an illegal conduit of money meant for the Mike Easley Committee, with supplement documentation to highlight the abuse. The Party forked over thousands of dollars as a result, and the Mike Easley Committee was also found guilty of benefitting from undisclosed airplane flights. Even though Democracy North Carolina filed this complaint against the Democratic Party (and the earlier one that triggered the state and federal investigation into Jim Black), some Republicans still say we’re a front for the Democratic Party whenever we criticize their practices. Go figure.



LOD: Corporations Are Not People

Tuesday, January 17th, 2012

The landmark Citizens United v. FEC decision, which gave corporations the political speech rights of people, will celebrate its second anniversary on January 21; its impact only grows worse each day. Jeff Clements has written a great book titled Corporations Are Not People that traces the shocking history of how business interests gained the rights of “we the people.” (Hint: The tobacco industry and its attorneys were deeply involved.) Here’s a link to a lively hour-long video interview with Jeff at a Demos breakfast last week. The book has its own valuable website with a very short video of Jeff with Dylan Ratigan of MSNBC, plus good pieces about “What the corporate takeover of the Constitution means to you,” who’s fighting back, and more.


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