Our Issues Category
The posts in this category discuss our core issues.
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.
Monday, January 3rd, 2011
The News & Observer ran a short piece today about the fundraising advantage of Congressional incumbents from the Triangle in the 2010 election. You can see more details about the fundraising of Congressional candidates around the nation by using a handy map prepared by the Center for Responsive Politics. Just put your cursor over the district on the map, click and up pops campaign finance details and a narrative about the contest; click on the candidate’s name and more details appear about the sources of the money, in most cases through late November. Many members of Congress are stockpiling their money to intimidate future opponents or to dole out to colleagues for building allegiances that can help their political careers. Despite record spending in 2010, the Washington Post says almost $400 million is left over in Congressional campaign accounts. Find out who has the most squirreled away.
Thursday, December 30th, 2010
For better or worse, a gaggle of “firsts” this year will have a lasting impact on North Carolina politics. Here’s the Top 10 list from Democracy North Carolina. Happy New Year!!
Thursday, December 23rd, 2010
Remember the corrosive effect on NC politics of video poker and the lottery? Alabama is the latest state where gambling interests have upturned the political establishment – with federal indictments of state legislators involving six- and seven-figure bribes. The confession of a top lobbyist is awesome reading. You have to wonder how eager Gov. Perdue and NC legislative leaders are to wade into deep water with the crowd promoting sweepstakes poker for our state. Speaking of cash money and the sin industry, here’s a fascinating story about the political contributions given by beer wholesalers to dozens of members of Congress as the industry was seeking their sign-on to a crucial piece of legislation. The beer boys are huge contributors to state legislators, too. Can someone explain why they stepped up their giving in the 2010 election cycle to NC state legislators? Hmm. . . .
Wednesday, December 22nd, 2010
Fortunately, a healthy number of business leaders see big problems with the Supreme Court’s decision to encourage an arms race in secretive political spending; many are also opposed to the aggressive action by US Chamber of Commerce in the 2010 elections. If you’re a stockholder and get the proxy notices about how to vote your shares of stock, be on the lookout for ballot measures aimed at requiring the company to disclose its political spending, or quit the US Chamber of Commerce, or take similar actions. Meanwhile, in his final speech on the floor of the Senate, Pennsylvania’s Arlen Specter lashed out (video on CNN) against Supreme Court justices John Roberts and Samuel Alito for violating their sworn statements to Congress, overturning established law, and voting “to permit corporations and unions to secretly pay for political advertising, thus effectively undermining the basic democratic principle of the power of one person, one vote. Chief Justice Roberts promised to just call balls and strikes – but then he moved the bases.”
Tuesday, December 21st, 2010
The end of 2010 marks the eighth year that North Carolina’s voluntary public campaign financing program for statewide judicial candidates has been in effect – long enough for it to be used or rejected in the staggered election cycles that have now involved all 22 seats on the state’s Supreme Court and Court of Appeals. An analysis by Democracy North Carolina shows that a large majority of candidates across ideological, racial and gender lines have enrolled in the program, and this broad popularity has had a significant impact on increasing the diversity of judges on the two courts and reducing the role of special-interest money in their elections. When the NC Supreme Court and Court of Appeals convene next year, 17 of the 22 members (77%) will be judges who successfully qualified for public financing in their campaigns. The 17 include all 11 women and the three African Americans elected to the two courts. . . .
Monday, December 20th, 2010
The Census Bureau will begin releasing data from the 2010 Census tomorrow – just the US and state populations totals – at a webcast/press conference that you can attend by signing in. The Bureau’s website features several nifty resources that you can begin to play with and keep up with as new levels of data become available. One of the more popular will be the interactive map that should eventually take you to county level data.
Friday, December 17th, 2010
Ten years ago this week, the US Supreme Court in Bush v. Gore turned over the White House to George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, the losers of the national popular vote. The blatantly political decision to stop the Florida recount launched a new era of anti-social ideologues undermining the rights of real people in favor of corporate special interests in fields ranging from environmental protection to foreign policy, trade relations to criminal justice. The Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, coming a decade later, is a product of the same elitist mentality: diminish voter’s rights by maximizing the influence of private wealth in elections. On the anniversary of Bush v. Gore, John Nichols of The Nation proposes five practical reforms to increase voter participation. Also this week, the Nigerian government dropped its bribery charges against former VP Dick Cheney and other Halliburton officials after the company agreed to pay $250 million in fines. Halliburton had previously admitted to US authorities that it used bribery when Cheney led the company to gain a $6 billion contract with Nigeria. The background of this telling story of Cheney’s earlier corrupt leadership is at the Link of the Day for December 10, 2010.
Thursday, December 16th, 2010
Get ready: redistricting is coming! Redistricting is the process of redrawing the boundaries of political districts to make their population sizes roughly equal after the Census numbers are released. It can be a mischief filled adventure. What people get included or excluded in a district will heavily impact who gets elected and how that district’s representative votes on crucial policies affecting our lives. Most of the attention in North Carolina will be on how the General Assembly redraws its members’ lines, as well as the lines for the state’s 13 Congressional districts. But the elected representatives of school boards, city councils and county commissions will redraw their own district lines, too. If you care about your community’s future, it’s not too early to get involved in how these representatives do their job. The Brennan Center for Justice has a detailed guide about redistricting and the Southern Coalition for Social Justice is developing a website of relevant materials, articles and resources. If you/your group wants to help shape your local government’s district lines (school board, city council or county commission), please contact us at Democracy NC: firstname.lastname@example.org
Wednesday, December 15th, 2010
The Coffee Party USA is gaining strength, percolating from the ground up, and it’s now joining forces with Public Citizen, People for the American Way and others to hold actions around the nation on January 21 to “commemorate” the anniversary of the Supreme Court’s disastrous Citizens United decision. (In another sign of disgust with buy-partisan sellouts, more than 1,000 people gathered earlier this week in New York City to launch the No Labels Party.) The Coffee Party will be holding a rally on Jan. 21 in Washington, DC and a People’s Summit the next day. You can also sign up with Public Citizen to help organize an event marking the Citizens United decision to give corporations remarkable citizenship powers – and we’d love to hear from you, too, because Democracy North Carolina will very likely hold a forum or other event in one or more locations in North Carolina. Post a comment or send us an email <mailto:email@example.com> with your idea of an activity appropriate for the day.
Monday, December 13th, 2010
Our friend Gene Nichol at UNC Law School has an op-ed column in today’s News & Observer that not only says democracy is under attack by the money-is-speech ideologues on the US Supreme Court; his words (contrary to his everyday deeds) could even lead you to think it’s time to declare total defeat. Indeed, there is a war going on and it can be framed in many ways. In his opposition to the binge tax giveaways for the super-rich, US Senator Bernie Sanders eloquently describes the assault by mega-millionaires on the working and middle class, common-sense regulations, democracy, and the future of America. His must-see speech parallels Nichol’s description of the Supreme Court majority’s determination to “constitutionalize economic privilege.” But “the war” is not over and this is no time to call it quits. Nichol is right, for example, to say the Supremes will likely gut the rescue funds provision in North Carolina’s public campaign financing programs; that provision helps a publicly financed candidate with an extra boost of matching public funds if the opposition’s spending exceeds a certain amount. But even without that provision, public campaign financing can survive in a new form that still provides qualifying candidates with the funds needed to wage a competitive campaign. Existing programs in New York City and elsewhere and the federal Fair Elections Now Act do this by offering extra funds that match the small donations raised by qualifying candidates rather than the money spent by the opposition. So voter-owned public financing is not dead, and neither is the larger effort, now centuries old, to make real the promise of democracy for a progressive society. It’s okay to feel frustrated and beleaguered, and also good to be armed with analysis and vision, because the battles ahead are many.
Friday, December 10th, 2010
This is a level of corruption that we don’t often see: The new government in Nigeria wants to charge Dick Cheney, the former vice president and chairman of Halliburton, in connection with $180 million in bribes paid to Nigerian lawmakers. The lawmakers awarded a $6 billion construction contract for a natural gas pipeline to Halliburton when Cheney led the company. Those are some big numbers! But consider these: Millionaires paid more than $200 million in bribes – oops, legal campaign contributions – to Members of Congress who are now maneuvering to award them a tax break worth $100 billion a year. And here’s another absolute outrage, a follow-up to the story (Link: 12/8/2010) about the Duke Energy executive in Charlotte, Jim Turner, who resigned in the midst of an embarrassing scandal involving job promises to top regulators overseeing the cost of Duke’s construction project in Indiana. Under pressure from angry citizens in Indiana, Duke has agreed to renegotiate how much it charges utility customers for its construction project. But now it turns out that Duke will pay Turner a $3.8 million severance package, plus a possible half-million-dollar bonus for 2010. So, contrary to being an embarrassment, Duke might as well as say, “Job well done, young man! We agree: screw the public, grow the profits.” The NC Utilities Commission should investigate whether the ratepayers of this regulated monopoly will be stuck with the bill for Turner’s misconduct or will it come out Duke’s shareholder profits. Who is holding corporations accountable for crossing the line? Should we invite the Nigerian government to North Carolina to teach us some lessons? In the post-Citizens United era, when corporations claim enlarged domain over elections, regulators and lawmakers, the public has every right to demand enlarged accountability for every mistake corporations make that affect our public life. Rights come with responsibilities.
Thursday, December 9th, 2010
Fred Hobbs of Pinehurst, a former state senator and co-owner of a civil engineering firm that boasts of its connections to high-level state officials, today paid the largest civil fine ever levied by the State Board of Elections – $150,000. After being exposed, Hobbs readily admitted he used a money laundering scheme to funnel $148,000 into the campaigns of several powerful politicians over the past decade, including Governors Bev Perdue and Mike Easley and, the top recipient, state Sen. Marc Basnight. Hobbs essentially washed dirty money from his company (which can’t legally make direct donations to candidates) by converting the funds into contributions from various employees. A few months ago, Rusty Carter of Wilmington admitted he did the same thing; he paid a $100,000 fine to the State Board. The Hobbs case is now before the District Attorney in Moore County because, at a minimum, his violations during the 2008 election cycle are still subject to Class 2 Misdemeanor charges; the DA may also be exploring if Hobbs’ contributions somehow purchased special treatment from government regulators for his engineering projects.
Wednesday, December 8th, 2010
Another Duke Energy executive has resigned in connection with a too-cozy arrangement with a top utility regulator in Indiana, where the company has a huge operation. The regulator was overseeing approval of Duke’s $2.9 billion coal gasification plant while also negotiating a job offer with the company. Hmmm. Do you think that’s a problem? Indiana’s governor sacked the head of the utility commission because he sanctioned this obvious conflict of interest, and the regulator and the president of Duke’s Indiana division, himself a former regulator, were both put on leave during an investigation. Now it turns out another executive, the president of Duke’s utility division based in Charlotte, was courting a top Indiana regulator – until a string of chummy emails surfaced and cost the president his job. The emails appeared after Duke’s chairman, Jim Rogers, denied the existence of “any inappropriate ex parte communications.” Some state officials are calling for a broader investigation of the revolving door between Indiana’s utility regulatory commission and the utility companies “serving” the state.
Tuesday, December 7th, 2010
Following up yesterday’s post about the NC Republican’s quest to ban certain citizens from voting, here’s a marvelous account from the Institute for Southern Studies that unpacks the disturbing parallels between the Democrats’ anti-black, anti-poor Jim Crow laws of the early 20th Century and the Republicans’ voter suppression campaign of the early 21st Century. Highly recommended reading! (You may want to subscribe to the ISS’s Facing South blog while you’re on the site. Democracy NC is a spin off of a project that spun off from ISS about 15 years ago.)
Tuesday, December 7th, 2010
We’re taking a look at the new political landscape here at Democracy NC, reviewing our core mission, looking at the opportunities and challenges ahead and talking strategy. As part of that process, we’re interested in what you think we should focus on in 2011, as well as any ideas or other thoughts you’d care to share on the coming legislative session and electoral season. Please comment below, keep it civil and, as always, respect all viewpoints offered in kind. Thanks for your input!