Pay to Play Category

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LOD: From the Horse’s Mouth

Friday, April 6th, 2012

In this hour-long production, the radio documentary “This American Life” manages to get Washington politicians and lobbyists saying the worst things possible about themselves, political corruption and the all-consuming money chase. Amazing! Who needs more evidence of the need for fundamental change? It begins with the tape of a shakedown fundraising call from a member of Congress to a developer, proceeds with similar candor through a dozen interviews, and ends with Sen. John McCain’s comments about the Supreme Court’s sarcasm and stupidity in the Citizens United case.


LOD: Oily Protection Money

Thursday, April 5th, 2012

The protection money that Big Oil doles out to politicians has paid off again in Washington. A solid majority of Americans want to end tax breaks worth over $4 billion a year for oil companies, but 43 Republicans and 4 Democrats blocked a crucial vote in US Senate last week, so the windfall continues. An analysis by Think Progress shows that Big Oil’s supporters received nearly four times the campaign donations of those standing for responsible fiscal policy. Since January 2005, US Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) has received $234,800 from oil and gas industry donors, while Sen. Kay Hagan took in $17,550. Hagan voted to end the tax subsidy, Burr voted to keep it. The New Yorker has a long story (“Gusher”) about the recent history of ExxonMobil’s remarkable political clout, but at the moment only an abstract is accessible. For details about the oil industry’s subsidies and more, see this article from OMB Watch.


LOD: Guns, Money and ALEC

Monday, March 26th, 2012

The gun lobby nurtures fear to make money and increases its profits through a partnership with the American Legislative Exchange Council, writes Paul Krugman of the New York Times. Florida’s radical version of ALEC’s boilerplate Castle Doctrine legislation cost young Trayvon Martin his life, but it is paying off for gun makers, gun dealers, the National Rifle Association, and their lobbyists – and the NRA/ALEC alliance continues to push the Florida model in other states. Public Campaign traces the impact of NRA’s political donations in Florida. “We need a political system that listens to families like Trayvon Martin’s and not the wealthy special interests,” says David Donnelly of the Public Campaign Action Fund. The gun lobby succeeded in pushing through a less extreme version of the Castle Doctrine in North Carolina last year – less extreme but still dangerous and deadly. Despite claims that the NC law has effective safeguards, we’re doomed to witness its harsh consequences on life, liberty and, says Krugman, “our society — and our democracy.”


LOD: Toxic Mix in Raleigh

Thursday, March 22nd, 2012

Despite promises of cleaning up what it called a “pay-to-play culture in Raleigh,” the new leadership in the General Assembly has done nothing to strengthen ethics or campaign finance laws. It hasn’t even enacted stronger disclosure laws to help the public’s right to know how money flows through the political system. Instead, as the Independent Weekly details, the Republican leadership in the NC House now appears to embrace a quid pro quo approach to passing legislation – campaign money is being traded for favorable public policy. Keep your eye on what happens next with proposed legislation to gut North Carolina’s regulation of chemicals pumped into the air by utilities, manufacturers and others. Will the millions invested in NC politics by the toxics lobby overcome our current public health standards? The NC Coastal Federation has a two-part profile (part one, part two) of what’s at stake, who’s involved, and why you should care about the outcome of a General Assembly committee considering this legislation today.


LOD: Broadband Bandits

Wednesday, March 21st, 2012

A new report by the National Institute on Money in State Politics examines the money behind the telecommunications industry’s recent success in passing legislation to restrict local governments from building broadband networks that hooked local businesses and residents to the Internet, even in areas long ignored by the private providers. According to the report, “The state’s two biggest cable providers, Time Warner Cable and CenturyLink, along with the North Carolina Cable and Telecommunications Association (NCCTA), aggressively lobbied for the bill and were prominent campaign donors. . . . Republican lawmakers and those who held key leadership positions, sponsored the bill, and/or who voted in favor of the bill received considerably more campaign contributions from the telecommunication donors than did their colleagues. For example, lawmakers who voted in favor of HB 129 received on average 76 percent more than the average received by those who voted against the bill. The four primary sponsors of the bill received an average of $9,438 each, more than double the $3,658 given on average to lawmakers who did not sponsor the bill.”


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: 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: 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.


LOD: Green Votes in Raleigh, 2011

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.


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