Democracy NC Blog

Welcome to Democracy North Carolina’s main newsfeed. You can review all of our latest blog posts below, starting with the newest post on top, or you can visit our individual sections for more in-depth coverage:

  • Link-of-the-Day offers commentary on our core issues each day, courtesy of our Executive Director Bob Hall.
  • Tales From the Frontline is our official staff blog and it includes a special section just for Democracy Summer.
  • Our Media Feed provides press releases and other information of interest to members of the media.
  • Take Action Now is designed for volunteers with a little or a lot of time to give. It tells you how you can help us with our current advocacy efforts.


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.


You can also subscribe to our main RSS feed or individual category feeds here, and be alerted whenever a new blog post is created.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

March 30th, 2011

Noted constitutional law professor Richard Hazen (host of Election Law Blog) has written an essay for Slate that probes the rationale behind US Supreme Court rulings on cases involving political spending and contributions. The Court should protect the First Amendment “free speech” rights of individuals to support candidates, but it also must protect a free and fair election system from corruption or the appearance of being thoroughly rigged. In truth, the majority of Supremes care about neither as much as they worry about protecting the privilege of private wealth to buy what it wants. That’s a view we’ve expressed more than once on this site, and it’s somewhat startling to see Hazen, the independent expert, agree: “If you are looking for a common thread between the ‘more speech is better’ theory underlying Citizens United and an expected ‘more speech is unfair’ ruling for the challengers in McComish [Arizona matching funds case], it is this: Five conservatives justices on the Supreme Court appear to have no problem with the wealthy using their resources to win elections — even if doing so raises the danger of increased corruption of the political system.”

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

March 29th, 2011

Following up Friday’s posting about the public campaign financing case in the US Supreme Court, here are stories about Monday’s arguments written by the Associated Press, Washington Post and New York Times. The same five justices who twisted common sense and judicial precedent to open the door for massive corporate spending in elections were ready to gut the matching funds provision that protects publicly financed candidates from exactly that kind of excessive spending.

Friday, March 25, 2011

March 25th, 2011

The US Supreme Court will hear arguments on Monday about the constitutionality of the matching (or rescue) funds provision in Arizona’s public financing program. We have a similar provision in our North Carolina programs, so the ultimate decision (expected in late summer) will affect us, too.  The Brennan Center has an overview of the issues in the McComish v. Bennett case, plus links to various resources; and Justice at Stake calls attention to the decision’s impact on judicial public financing programs, like the one we have in North Carolina. Even if the Supremes rule against a government program providing rescue funds to qualified candidates, that does not mean the end of public financing. The New York City system and the federal Fair Elections Now Act are models of programs that provide adequate resources for a candidate without relying on that provision.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

March 24th, 2011

A significant number of legislators in Raleigh seem determined to help big political donors gut regulations and overturn state laws that protect consumers, public health and the environment. The poor state of accessible campaign finance data makes it difficult to track the pay-to-play culture, but Democracy North Carolina has highlighted the undue influence in several cases involving telecommunications firms, coastal landowners, and billboard companies. Despite promises by the new Republican leaders to cut the strings to big donors, each day seems to bring another proposal that benefits a group of private patrons at the expense of the common good. Even Republican strategist Carter Wrenn flogs Sen. Harry Brown (R-Onslow) for helping vacation homeowners with special-interest legislation that could cost taxpayers millions of dollars. (For more about Sen. Brown and coastal donors, see the charts with our report.)

Monday, March 21, 2011

March 21st, 2011

Thanks to the leadership of Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the sustained agitation of citizen activists, there are now positive signs that the New York legislature could adopt a public financing program for state elections during this legislative cycle. The program will likely follow the model used in New York City elections, where small-dollar donations raised by qualifying candidates are matched with a substantial multiple, e.g., a $5 grant for each $1 raised from small donors, up to a maximum limit. That model avoids the “rescue funds” provisions in North Carolina and other Voter-Owned Elections programs that provide additional grants to match the money of a large spending opponent; arguments about the constitutionality of that provision will be heard in the US Supreme Court on March 28. If the Court rules against rescue funds, NC and other programs will likely shift to the NYC model. The New York experience illustrates the enduring value of public campaign financing – and the value of the long-haul perspective for achieving political change.

Friday, March 18, 2011

March 18th, 2011

Here’s a weekend adventure: Explore how the State of North Carolina spends your tax dollars, who gets the big contracts or grants for doing what, and what tax revenues are lost because of loopholes or special breaks (these are called “tax expenditures”). The NC Open Book website is rated among the best in the nation in a new report by US PIRG. The report has some details about the pluses and minuses of our state’s fiscal transparency, and you’ll no doubt be surprised by how much you can learn by using the website and its many links. Let us know your evaluation of the best and worst aspects of NC Open Book.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

March 17th, 2011

Here’s a sobering essay from Forbes magazine (“the capitalist tool”) about a two-pronged plan by the super-rich in the U.S. to gain even more political clout and wealth at the expense of the middle and working classes. Business publications (like Business Week and Fortune) are so much more straightforward in explaining how capitalism works than the bashful mainstream press. Rick Ungar’s meandering essay explains how gutting the union’s bargaining rights in Wisconsin includes a larger campaign to end the payroll check-off programs that allow public employees to painlessly send a few dollars of each paycheck to their union. The money adds up and gives organized labor the capacity to challenge pro-business political donors in some arenas (although it’s worth noting that the total assets of all unions in the U.S. equal less than the bonuses Goldman Sachs paid its executives in 2007-2009). Ungar says ending the check-off is especially important to business now that Citizen United decision allows labor to spend its general treasury money on ads for specific candidates. He then explains a second stick-it-to-the-needy strategy that is gaining support from leading Democrats and Republicans; it’s actually decades old and we see it here in North Carolina: policymakers are cutting corporate taxes or increasing business subsidies while pushing more costs onto the poor and middle-class taxpayer, pensioner and public employee. Ungar says the business elite are tired of paying for warfare and welfare; taxes are for suckers. Sharing the financial windfall from the increased productivity of a computerized workplace is also unthinkable. Hence, we’re back to the biggest gap between the rich and everybody else since the Robber Barons, and it’s growing wider.

House Bill 351: Bad Law In Motion

March 15th, 2011

House Bill 351 was introduced in the NC General Assembly yesterday requiring NC voters to present government-issued photo ID each time they vote. Our research shows that this bill could negatively affect more than 460,000  active voters statewide who lack a government-issued photo ID, primarily seniors, women, college students and African-American voters. Worse, as our official statement on the bill shows, not only does this fail to address the issue of voter fraud, it actually makes it easier to commit fraud using absentee ballots.

A summary of our statewide findings with a demographic breakdown of affected groups can be found at:

http://www.democracy-nc.org/downloads/VoterIDDataByRaceSexAgePartySumm.doc

If you have any questions about our research, please feel free to contact our Executive Director Bob Hall directly at 919-489-1931.

More Resources

You can download a copy of the bill here:

http://www.democracy-nc.org/downloads/H351v0.pdf

We have also assembled a collection of personal stories from voters explaining why the bill would make it more difficult for people without government-issued IDs to vote and why they are opposed to its passage.  You can view these stories at:

http://www.democracy-nc.org/VoterIDStories.html

Democracy North Carolina believes this is an unnecessary, expensive and ineffectual bill. For more on why we say this, please visit our website at:

http://www.democracy-nc.org

If you would like to interview anyone from our organization or get in touch with any of the voters who have shared their stories publicly, please call me at 919-286-6000, Ext. 20.

Thanks,

Katy Munger

Communications Director
Democracy North Carolina

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

March 15th, 2011

NC GOP leaders finally introduced their voter photo ID bill late yesterday and it’s just a bad bill all around. Not only does it not address the biggest causes of voter fraud, it actually makes it easier to commit absentee ballot fraud, is badly underfunded and imposes a host of costly administrative requirements on NC counties. Learn more about our reaction to the bill here or download the full text of the bill here. For more official reactions to the bill, check out the videos and other coverage at NC Policy Watch. Finally, hear the voices of those most likely to be disenfranchised by this bill.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

March 10th, 2011

The Independent Weekly this week features a blockbuster series of investigative stories about the Art Pope empire. One big shocker: Pope failed to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxes on his foundation’s earnings for YEARS, eventually begging the IRS for forgiveness with various lame excuses. So Pope turns out to be a miserly tax cheater – no, he’s just a distracted daddy. There are other nuggets in the stories. Did you know that the rightwing Civitas Institute depends on Pope’s foundation for 97% of its money? It’s basically a wholly owned subsidiary of Art Pope. The same goes for several other outfits under the Pope’s authority. The story on elections includes this gem from Pope: “If [my money] helped them win, especially in a close election, then wonderful, but that doesn’t mean I spent millions of dollars to buy the North Carolina legislature.”

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