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.
Saturday, January 14th, 2012
Art Pope is going on the radio this Sunday for a two-hour faceoff with Chris Kromm, director of the Institute for Southern Studies and creator of ArtPopeExposed.com. Pope wants to answer his critics and respond to questions from the listening audience. The call-in show is on Raleigh’s Rush Radio 106.1 FM from 3 to 5 PM, but the hosts (publishers of Spectacular Magazine) are civil-rights advocates who don’t fit the usual talk-radio profile. Tune in and ask a question or listen on the web by following the link at this site.
Thursday, January 12th, 2012
How did your state legislator perform in 2011? What effect did Art Pope’s money machine have on state policy? Here’s an answer to both questions: A scorecard of key votes to protect NC’s environmental resources reveals that the current crop of lawmakers in Raleigh achieved the worst grades in decades. The new majority killed bills they perceived as elevating any value above greed. Just say you’re doing it for Jobs or Private Property Rights and slash away. The legislators backed by Art Pope’s money showed even more hostility to environmental issues than their colleagues. As a group, they got less than half the score of the average legislator, pulling down the entire General Assembly (and the state) with their kneejerk hatred of business regulation and investment in public resources.
Wednesday, January 11th, 2012
A press release today from Democracy North Carolina begins: Statements from election officials across the state provide new reasons for concern about the controversial district lines that zigzag through and split up hundreds of precincts to create the new district boundaries for state legislators and North Carolina’s 13 members of Congress. The election professionals are not taking sides on whether or not the new district maps discriminate against African Americans or give one political party an unfair advantage over the other. However, in affidavits filed with the Wake County Superior Court, the officials say the maps will confuse voters and poll workers, make elections harder and more expensive to administer, and even jeopardize the secrecy of the ballot for thousands of voters. The press release has links to the affidavits.
Friday, January 6th, 2012
New York is stepping up to challenge corporate control of elections. New York City already has a pioneering public financing program for its municipal elections. On Wednesday, it joined a growing list of cities by adopting a resolution calling on Congress to start the process for amending the U.S. Constitution to say corporations don’t have the rights of natural persons. Meanwhile, in Albany, Gov. Andrew Cuomo included a robust call for public campaign financing in his State of the State speech. His backing, fulfilling a 2010 campaign pledge, and the pro-reform NY House make the Empire State the likely epicenter for expanding Voter-Owned Elections programs in 2012. A host of nonprofit groups have been working in the state for years; their efforts are paying off.
Thursday, January 5th, 2012
Gov. Perdue called the General Assembly back to town yesterday to give the legislature its constitutional opportunity to override her veto of the bill killing the Racial Justice Act. The state House couldn’t muster the votes to do that (at least 60% of those voting must approve), but rather than go home as promised in an agreement with Democrats, the Republican leadership then spent hours plotting a series of maneuvers to take up other bills vetoed by Perdue. At nearly 1 AM this morning, the House overrode her veto of a bill to strip the teachers’ association of its right to use the payroll check-off system to collect dues for the NCAE; state employees in SEANC were not targeted for similar action. Two Democrats joined the Republicans in the 69-45 vote, but one or both would not go along with override votes planned for the photo ID bill and a bill to authorize fracking in North Carolina – so the House finally adjourned until February 16. The surprises, broken promises, and outrage are captured in this reporting by Laura Leslie/WRAL and the video of a Democratic press conference around 1:30 AM.
Tuesday, January 3rd, 2012
As the second anniversary of Citizens United approaches (Jan. 21), the corruption flowing from that decision is becoming more apparent. The Supreme Court declared that independent groups can not corrupt the political process, but the dominant role of Super PACs in the Republican primary is just the latest evidence that their decision was based on bias, not fact. Now another court has stepped up to tell the Supremes exactly that. The Montana Supreme Court rejected the Citizens United ruling, saying the evidence shows that independent spenders can and do wield enough influence to corrupt politics. “Organizations like WTP [a corporate political group] that act as a conduit for anonymously spending by others represent a threat to the political marketplace,” wrote Mike McGrath, Chief Justice of the Montana Supreme Court, for the majority. “Clearly the impact of unlimited corporate donations creates a dominating impact on the political process and inevitably minimizes the impact of individual citizens.” Even the dissenting judges in the 5-2 decision upholding Montana law denounced the US Supreme Court. “While, as a member of this Court, I am bound to follow Citizens United, I do not have to agree with the [U.S.] Supreme Court’s decision,” wrote Justice James C. Nelson, in his dissent. “And, to be absolutely clear, I do not agree with it. For starters, the notion that corporations are disadvantaged in the political realm is unbelievable. Indeed, it has astounded most Americans. The truth is that corporations wield enormous power in Congress and in state legislatures. It is hard to tell where government ends and corporate America begins: the transition is seamless and overlapping.” If the Montana case gets a fair hearing on appeal at the Supreme Court, it will completely expose that majority’s hypocrisy and corruption of judicial duty.
Saturday, December 31st, 2011
Two commentaries close out the year, each describing a way big money shapes our lives. Robert Reich, former Secretary of Labor, reviews the year with a focus on why Congressional decisions are so out of touch with real needs. Jesse Jackson looks at what’s getting covered over by big money in the presidential campaign.
Tuesday, December 27th, 2011
The US Justice Department refused to approve South Carolina’s strict photo ID requirement for voters, saying the evidence indicated that African Americans registered to vote in the state are 20% more likely not to have one of the required forms of ID than white voters. Federal approval or “pre-clearance” is required for election changes in South Carolina under the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which Congress and President Bush renewed in 2006. Forty counties in North Carolina with a history of racial discrimination in elections are also covered by VRA’s pre-clearance provision; that means the harsh photo ID bill passed by Republicans but vetoed by Gov. Perdue would also need federal approval if the GOP ever succeeds in overcoming Perdue’s veto. In response to a public records request from Democracy North Carolina, the State Board of Elections matched its records with DMV records and initially found that about 1 million voters do not have a current driver’s license or state photo ID. After culling out near-matches and people who likely have moved, the number drops to about 460,000 – and African Americans are almost twice as likely as whites not to have the photo ID (12% of black voters lack the ID compared to nearly 7% of white voters). That’s a much greater racial disparity than found in South Carolina, which suggests the NC legislation would also run into trouble on pre-clearance. South Carolina officials say they will challenge the Justice Department’s action, no doubt attacking the constitutionality of the Voting Rights Act itself and hoping the uber-biased majority on the current US Supreme Court will comply. The VRA has withstood repeated attack and gained bipartisan support over the years. Last week, a federal judge upheld the VRA’s pre-clearance provisions against a challenge from NC Rep. Stephen LaRoque and others in Kinston, North Carolina. That case could also be headed for the Supreme Court.
Wednesday, December 21st, 2011
Rep. Walter B. Jones Jr., Republican member of Congress from eastern North Carolina, is again stepping up to sponsor legislation to reign in the power of big money in politics. In 2010, he co-sponsored the Fair Elections Now Act, which would provide a much-needed alternative path for candidates to finance their campaigns. Yesterday, he’s joined Kentucky Democrat US Rep. John Yarmuth in introducing a Constitutional amendment to overcome the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision. The amendment would say that political spending is not protected by the First Amendment and may be regulated to protect the common good. “Corporate money equals influence, not free speech,” says Yarmuth. The amendment would also establish a system for public financing and make Election Day a federal holiday. If you’re having trouble keeping track of all the proposed amendments to elevate your voting rights over a corporation’s right to buy an election, here’s a handy guide from United Republic: “Idiot’s Guide to the Amendments.”
Monday, December 19th, 2011
Aren’t you glad you don’t live in Iowa? Get ready: attack ads and over-the-top hype will soon be coming into your home in unbelievable quantities. In the past week, new creatures known as Super PACs have spent nearly $2.7 million, mostly on TV ads for and against various Republican presidential candidates. Because Super PACs are supposedly independent of the candidates, they can accept unlimited donations – but who believes they are really independent? Fred Wertheimer, president of the watchdog group Democracy 21 and always good with a sound bite, says, “These are the most dangerous vehicles for corruption in American politics today.”
Friday, December 16th, 2011
If the men on the US Supreme Court say that corporations are people, are you surprised that the biggest corporations look just like them? The Citizens United ruling makes perfect sense from the perspective of the good ole boy club. A new study says women hold less than one sixth of the seats on the boards of directors of Fortune 500 corporations and they hold less than one in 12 of the firms’ top-paying jobs. Noting the Obama administration’s snub of women, most recently with the decision to limit access to the morning-after pill, the commentator says, “If the corporate campaign contributing person were at least half female, we surely would be able to expect better from the party that supposedly has women’s back.” Gender and racial privilege continues to distort the debate about voter ID as well. If you’re a white man who owns property, you think nothing about the burden of holding a photo ID. If you’re poor, female and black, it’s another story, as this new video from the NAACP highlights.
Thursday, December 15th, 2011
The “Art Pope Exposed” teach-in went off without a hitch on Tuesday, except for the traffic jams, video difficulties, and a few Popers in the audience (their camera seemed to work fine). More than 250 people (100 in person, the rest via web streaming) participated in the event that ended with a rump workshop about planning for actions in the Raleigh area, etc. We have the videos of each presentation here – beginning with a dissection of the Pope Empire by Chris Kromm of the Institute for Southern Studies (begins mid-stream), followed by in-depth descriptions by MaryBe McMillan of Pope’s hostility to basic economic fairness and Seth Keel on Pope’s attempt to gut public education in favor of a tiered system based on wealth and privilege. MaryBe ends with a call to action. You can find the petition she talks about here and the flyer here (for copies of the flyer to distribute send an email to email@example.com).
Tuesday, December 13th, 2011
Facing South has a splendid entry today about the continuing drama over imposing harsh photo ID laws on voters. It begins by noting that US Attorney General Eric Holder is expected to deliver a landmark speech today declaring that the federal government will become a more active player by fulfilling its responsibility to protect voting rights. It includes a link to a report from the Republican National Lawyers Association, which oddly enough documents the point it wants to refute: cases of voter fraud are very rare and the cases that a photo ID would prevent are even more rare. There are other valuable links in the Facing South blog. Here’s one more: The ACLU today filed a federal lawsuit against Wisconsin’s new voter ID law as an unconstitutional infringement of citizens’ voting rights. Read the brief profiles of the plaintiffs in the news release and you’ll understand why a strict photo ID law ruins, rather than protects, the integrity of free and fair elections.
Monday, December 12th, 2011
Have you heard about tomorrow’s teach-in about Art Pope – North Carolina’s 40 million dollar man? He told the newspaper he might show up himself and express himself, not just be the subject or object; Art Pope is a verb! There’s still time for you to say you’re coming to “Art Pope Exposed.” The teach-in happens at 7 PM at the NC Association for Educators building, 700 S. Salisbury Street, Raleigh. RSVP if you can – or just come. Can’t make it to Raleigh? Don’t fret: the Institute for Southern Studies will be webstreaming the event at http://www.ustream.tv/user/facingsouth.
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