This week’s highlight was attending our Lobby Day on Tuesday at the General Assembly in Raleigh. All day Monday we made last-minute phone calls to our confirmed attendees and rented a 12 passenger van to make the trip. We also put together information packets with bill descriptions, factsheets about Voter-Owned Elections, and the day’s agenda. We departed Tuesday morning slightly after 7 am and arrived in Raleigh at about 9:15 after a quick pick-up stop in Greensboro. We headed immediately into our scheduled meetings for a packed day.
We met with Representatives Earline Parmon, Larry Womble, Pricey Harrison, Annie Mobley, and many others. We spoke with Senator Linda Garrou’s legislative research aide and briefly caught up with Senator Pete Brunstetter after an ethics committee meeting. Although he did not support VOE and gave us typical political answers about why he wanted it removed from the ethics legislation, our group made its presence known to him and showed that his constituents cared about the issue. Here is video of us with Sen. Brunstetter: [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lV2hGyHjFZQ] We ran into numerous other elected officials in the hallways and corridors.
Overall, I think Ray and I handled the chaotic events as best we could and effectively got our points across to the busy legislators. We attended the ethics committee meeting which saw many partisan fireworks, and we witnessed an incredible lecture by Harvard Professor Larry Lessig. Lessig is a democracy reform advocate and leads the Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard. If you have not seen his powerpoint presentation on money in politics, please check it out! It blew my mind: http://blip.tv/file/3797334
The Lobby Day experience, with nearly 125 dedicated people from all across the state attending, was a great feeling of accomplishment that made Ray and I feel like we were truly making an impact. Although the results of the day were originally promising (the ethics package included public financing and passed through 2 committees), it became all too clear that we have much more work to do. Overnight, robo-calls from the national special interest group “Americans for Prosperity” were made to voters in conservative Democratic senate districts. Former Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory was featured in the call, lying about the VOE proposals by saying it would raise taxes. Some Democratic Senators caved and the Democratic leadership panicked (which is embarrassing) and returned the bill to committee to have it stripped of public campaign financing.You can listen to the robo-call call here: http://www.newsobserver.com/2010/06/24/548872/public-finance-plan-fizzles.html
This sorry episode, where a nationally funded group manipulates NC voters and subverts the will of the majority is exactly why reform is needed in the political process! Despite this setback, we have already accomplished more than we could have expected in this short legislative session. We are re-doubling our efforts and will continue to fight for what is right in North Carolina. Voter-Owned Elections is on the radar, we are getting attention, and the opposition from special interests means we must be doing something right! Thanks to everyone who came with us to the Lobby Day and all the organizers who set the agenda. It was a tremendous experience.
-Sean Maxwell and Ray Robinson