Friday, July 31, 2015

Foxx Scolds Meadows

Told you so!

Virginia Foxx is never ever going to buck her party's leadership in Congress. We're referring, of course, to Congressman Mark Meadows' attempt to oust John Boehner as Speaker of the House.

Dan Way of Carolina Journal is reporting that Congresswoman Foxx "scolded" Meadows for invoking a rare procedural move to fire Boehner. “Rather than dwelling on the divisive behavior of one member, I remain focused on working with all of my colleagues on the priorities of the people of North Carolina’s Fifth District.”

To which anyone who knows her voting record, her attitude toward people who annoy her, and her petty theft sez, "Oh, do shut up!"

Meet the Most Notorious "Clerical Error" in North Carolina

Mac Butner is the newly installed chair of the Rowan County Board of Elections. He has made numerous inflammatory (i.e., racist) comments on Facebook, some of which are detailed here and here. Much of his junk has been taken down. MOST OF IT WAS/IS WRITTEN IN ALL CAPS, a form of internet abuse that belongs to another century.

Butner was chair of the Rowan County Housing Authority a year ago. He was also posting racist comments then to his Facebook page that were so foul that the Rowan County Commission called for his resignation and launched an investigation. Butner was defiant. He tried to get on the ballot in 2014 for County Commission via petition, but he failed.

Now he's Chair of the Rowan County Board of Elections, thanks to the recommendation of the Chair of the Rowan County Republican Party, which the Chair of the state GOP merely rubber-stamped and forwarded to the State Board of Elections, which duly appointed Butner last month.

Stephen Kidd, left, Chair of the Rowan GOP who
recommended Butner
Now the state GOP has discovered it has a poisonous racist running elections in Rowan County and is trying to distance itself. Although Butner's offensive Facebook posts in 2014 made national news, North Carolina GOP Press Secretary Kara Carter said yesterday that party officials were "not aware" of the posts, which she termed "offensive."

And then Kara Carter said this: "His nomination was submitted to the State Board of Elections as result of a clerical error. We have absolutely asked him to resign."

Butner, as is his habit, is defiant. He's claiming he's the victim. Many in the new, reconstituted Republican Party of North Carolina will agree with him.

For its part, the North Carolina State Board of Elections doesn't need another scandal right now. It certainly doesn't need a character like Mac Butner in charge of voting in Rowan County, or in any county.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Stewart's "Secret" Meetings With Obama

I love this man! What in the world are we going to do without him?

"Power, Money, & Flesh" -- True Words, Spoken Eight Years Ago by Pat McCrory

Back on February 2, 2007, on the Mayor Pat McCrory radio show in Charlotte ("The Inside Story with Mayor Pat McCrory"), the Mayor of North Carolina said this:
We all have to be reminded when we're in positions of power and influence, that we have to keep our ego in place, and we have to be careful of three things: power, money, and flesh....
And I'll tell you what else happens with power, and I seen it with eight mayors ... friends of mine who have been elected in the past eight years. They then started believing that they deserved more money because many of their decisions make other people money. Eight friends of mine throughout the U.S. that are now in federal jail. Because they took money believing that it was okay to take money because they're working hard and their decisions are making other people money. You justify the sin, you justify the behavior in the name of "I'm doing good for my city, I'm doing good for my community, my state, my neighborhood." When in fact, what you're trying to do is line your own pockets.
Prescient on his part. We're sorry to be reminding him of those words in the same year that he failed to report expensive luxury trips on other men's credit cards. And failed to report ownership of Duke Energy stock and failed to report income from ($185,000+) after he was sworn in as governor.

He probably feels like he earned it.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Boehner: "Who Will Rid Me of This Turbulent Congressman?"

Mark Meadows
Mark Meadows is only a sophomore in the U.S. Congress -- first elected in 2012 after Heath Shuler gave up his seat representing the 11th District of North Carolina -- but Meadows chose his 56th birthday yesterday to file a motion in the House to "vacate the chair" -- i.e., fire John Boehner from the speakership -- a parliamentary maneuver that has only been used once before in history, in 1910. It didn't succeed then, either.

Who is Mark Meadows? He grew up in Florida, and like all Floridians, he found his way to the mountains of western North Carolina where he settled in Highlands in 1981 and opened Aunt D's sandwich shop.

He's an acid-swilling Tea Partier. Since he joined the House, he...

  • led his fellow conservatives in shutting down the government in 2013
  • helped found The Freedom Caucus, which has been "a hotbed for scheming against leadership" (Boehner)
  • was one of 25 Republicans who voted against Boehner's reelection as Speaker in January
  • was one of 34 Republicans who voted against fast-tracking Obama's new trade initiative
  • hates President Obama and took a blood oath against Obamacare
For his pain-in-the-ass uppityness, he got kicked off his chairmanship of a government oversight subcommittee earlier this year -- but only briefly. Other conservative members raised a ruckus, so Boehner reinstated him. That sop obviously didn't work to quiet Meadows down.

At the moment, Meadows is alone -- at least on paper -- in his quest to assassinate The Orange One. One thing you can bet on: Virginia Foxx will not join the revolt unless success is guaranteed. She's totally a "company woman."

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

How Much Does a Seat on the State Board of Elections Cost?

Paul Foley raised some substantial money for candidate Pat McCrory in 2012, hosting a fundraiser for the future governor and then pretty soon after that getting his appointment from McCrory to the state Board of Elections (SBOE).

McCrory has since been distancing himself from Foley, whom he forced to resign from the SBOE earlier this month, saying he didn't know Foley. Yet McCrory was present at the Foley fundraiser and posed for photographs with many of the donors in attendance. Foley presented the McCrory campaign with a bill for expenses and got reimbursed over $1,600 ($1,500 of that for the bar tab).

Under the circumstances, it would be so easy -- and so obviously human -- to forget your host and major benefactor.

This started out to be about the dirty gambling money sprayed around the North Carolina political world in 2012 by internet sweepstakes mogul Chase Burns. Now it's also about the cover-up.

Not Ready for Prime Time

Hasan Harnett, the newly installed Tea Party chair of the NCGOP, has sent out a couple of clumsy and laughable tweets trying to link Hillary Clinton to the Ku Klux Klan. Say whaaaa?

Call it the Huckabee Formula: say something so outrageous that it'll put you in the spotlight for a 24-hour news cycle, which is bound to raise your profile. Raising your profile at any cost is a good thing, right?

Former Virginia Foxx staffer and currently state Republican Party Executive Director Todd Poole attempted to defend Harnett and ended up sounding like he probably put his new chairman up to the original tweets: "The chairman isn't going to comment or give interviews on tweets, but as the first black chairman of the North Carolina Republican Party, he believes we have to learn from history and move past it."

Yup. "Learning from history and moving past it" ... a new slogan for the NCGOP.

Monday, July 27, 2015

The Arrogance of Their Power

L to R: Speaker of the NC House Tim Moore, Sen. Tom Apodaca,
Sen. Bob Rucho, Sen. Phil Berger
Thomas Mills on the arrogance of these boys

"They want taxpayers to pick up the tab for going to a conference of their choosing, even though ALEC is little more than a political organization that pushes right-wing policy ideas. They should pay a political price for such abuse, but with heavily gerrymandered districts, they don’t think they’ll be held accountable.

"Legislative Republicans have gotten very comfortable with power. Their veto proof majorities allow them to pass legislation at will and their gerrymandered district protect them from being held accountable for bad behavior–like wasting taxpayer money. With few restraints, they’ve quickly become arrogant. Corruption is surely not far behind."

Raleigh Lawmakers Want Taxpayers To Foot the Bill for Their San Diego Junket

So a bunch of our representatives in the North Carolina General Assembly put off their business finalizing a state budget and rushed off to the open bars in San Diego for the annual American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) conference, where billionaires spoon-feed pre-written legislation to idiot lawmakers who can't or won't think for themselves and wont or don't act for the benefit of their constituents instead of for the benefit of the billionaires.

In North Carolina, ALEC-inspired marching orders can be seen in the dismantling of environmental regs, in the narrowing of ballot access, and in such "tort reform" as the attempt to free pharmaceutical companies of liability if they should happen to kill or maim people.

Among several more Republican lawmakers who attended the ALEC conference this past weekend and haven't yet asked to have their travel expenses picked up by taxpayers, the following have put in requests for reimbursement:
Tim Moore, NC House Speaker
Rep. Hugh Blackwell of Burke County
Rep. John Fraley of Iredell County
Rep. Craig Horn of Union County
Sen. David Curtis of Gaston County
Pay for your own snake oil, gentlemen!

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Trudy Wade Goes Down Without a Defense

In less time than it took the General Assembly to pass it, a federal judge in Greensboro nixed the city redistricting that Sen. Trudy Wade really really wanted to impose on her hometown. Sen. Wade is pissed, too, and whining publicly that the Attorney General's office didn't show up in court to defend her gerrymandering.

"It is shameful that Attorney General Roy Cooper refuses to do his duty and defend state law," Wade said yesterday.

Photo taken of the defense table last Thursday
But the lawsuit wasn't against the State of North Carolina, and Roy Cooper had told leaders in the General Assembly in advance of the court hearing that they would have to defend the law themselves. Did they? No. In fact, no one showed up in Judge Eagles' courtroom to defend Trudy Wade's redistricting. No one.

Suggesting, we assume, that the Trudy Wade redistricting was indefensible. Also an embarrassment -- a local power-grab so nakedly unsupportable that not one sleazy lawyer could be found in the universe to slink into court to make an argument in its defense.

NC Voter Suppression Law Prevents Privileged White Girl From Voting in 2014

Mark Martin (center), when he was appointed Chief Justice
by Gov. McCrory last year. A different daughter is
on the right
Well now. In testimony Thursday in the Winston-Salem federal trial challenging the omnibus voter suppression law passed by the General Assembly in 2013, it suddenly came out that NC Chief Justice Mark Martin's daughter was flummoxed by the new law while trying to vote in 2014.

She had registered at the DMV. The DMV, as is often the case apparently, lost her registration or simply threw it away, so she was never entered into the state Board of Elections database. She went to vote early with her father in 2014, and when the poll workers could not find her in the system, she was prevented from registering again right then and there and voting, which had been the law before the Republicans changed it (same-day registration).

Also contained in this article (read all the way to the end): Did you know that Republican members of the General Assembly refused subpoenas to testify in this trial? They didn't want to say out loud and in court what their motivations were in passing the law. And the judge would not admit numerous newspaper articles quoting those same General Assembly members in 2013 about their motivations.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Federal Judge Slaps Permanent Injunction on the Greensboro Redistricting Law

Federal District Court Judge Catherine Eagles has thrown out the Trudy Wade redistricting scheme for Greensboro for this election cycle, putting off a final decision on the law's constitutionality until a trial can be held prior to the 2017 city election.

"It appears on the current record that the new statute deprives Greensboro voters, alone among municipal voters in the state, of the right to change the city’s municipal government by referendum and otherwise treats the City of Greensboro and its voters differently from all other municipalities and municipal voters, without a rational basis," wrote Judge Eagles in her order today.

Another power-grab by the NC General Assembly thrown under the proverbial bus by a judge.

Meanwhile, the Republican-dominated NC Supreme Court, voting in a strictly partisan manner (4-3), today ruled that North Carolina can use public tax dollars to help children attend private and religious schools via a voucher program that a Wake County Superior Court judge had previously ruled unconstitutional.

We've got something akin to "the Roberts Court" in North Carolina, only worse. With Associate Justice Paul Newby on the Supreme Court bench, it'll be a cold day in July before we see a ruling that actually upholds the state constitution rather than upholding the partisan whims of the General Assembly.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Luke Eggers to Watauga Municipalities: "You Have My Permission To Drop Dead"

This highly revealing passage appears in Jesse Wood's press coverage of yesterday's Watauga Board of Elections (BOE) meeting in the context of Early Voting during the upcoming municipal elections:
[Stella] Anderson said that she would like staff from the county elections office to reach out to all of the municipalities and see what early voting sites they would like to have. If those municipalities agreed to pay for the one-stop voting sites, then Anderson said there was “no reason” for the Watauga County Board of Elections to not approve those sites.
Eggers or Aceto didn’t offer a response to Anderson’s desire to seek recommendations from the municipalities during the meeting.
After the meeting, Eggers said that the office would certainly take any recommendations from the municipalities but said that there was no reason for the county to reach out to those municipalities regarding one-stop voting. [emphasis added]
The individual municipalities do pay the expenses for municipal elections, which would appear to provide a "reason" -- a very good reason -- for the county BOE to inquire what Early Voting sites the municipalities would like for their elections.

Luke Eggers
It was apparently such a novel idea to suggest that the BOE should actually ask the municipalities what they would prefer that Eggers&Aceto had no response during the meeting. (Plus Luke Eggers' big brother "Four" wasn't in the room to tell his little brother what to think, so he was rudderless.)

Only afterward did Luke Eggers decide he's better channel his big brother's total control over the BOE: "Why the hell would we ask anyone what they preferred in the way of Early Voting sites when County Attorney Four Eggers has all of that predetermined and securely locked down?"

Monday, July 20, 2015

Reality Check

In case you thought Governor Squishy amounted to more than an insignificant hill of beans, Sen. Tom Apodaca, one of the big Republican dogs in the NC Senate, gave an interview in the Asheville Citizen-Times, and in speaking about current budget negotiations, he said this:
Q: Will the governor play a role in these negotiations?
A: “No. The governor doesn’t play much of a role in anything.”
Zero respect within his own party, sub-zero impact on anything the General Assembly does, and there's simply nothing like being handed your genitals in the morning papers. Priceless!

Hattip: NC Policy Watch

Will Virginia Foxx Bow To Pope Francis?

From the New York Times:
The pope’s visit [to Capitol Hill in September] comes with inherent tension for many Republicans, including those who are Catholic. While he has made no changes in church doctrine, Francis has forcefully staked out ideological ground opposite that of Mr. Boehner and his party. He has excoriated the excesses of capitalism as the “dung of the devil,” pleaded for action to stop global warming and enthusiastically supported the new nuclear accord with Iran.
The NC 5th District congresswoman -- a full-time Catholic and part-time Southern Baptist -- is ideologically light-years to the right of Pope Francis. Will she kiss his ring? We bet she will. She loves getting the sweat of celebrity all over her.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Paul Foley Has Resigned from the State Board of Elections; What's Next?

Approximately nine hours after declaring he would not resign, despite the governor's promise to remove him for malfeasance, State Board of Elections member Paul Foley told Board Chair Josh Howard he was resigning "to avoid distractions from the important work of the board." Foley was apparently holding out/negotiating an exit that seemed to exonerate him from all wrong-doing. About midnight, Howard sent out the announcement that Foley had resigned, adding this:
There has been no finding of wrongdoing by Mr. Foley, and the report we requested from the Attorney General found no improper influence by Mr. Foley over the outcome of the board's efforts in the matter of Chase Burns....
What that saving-of-face statement didn't address was the presumption among many of us that Foley was never really trying to influence the investigation but merely trying to get useful intel he could productively pass on to his partners at Kilpatrick Townsend, who were defending Burns.

Howard's trying to save Foley for a future leadership role in the NC Republican Party?

Hasan Harnett
New NCGOP Chair Hasan Harnett must submit three names to the governor as possible replacements for Foley. There's no reason to expect a moderating change of direction from Harnett, a tea partier who is said to be bent on purging "moderate" Republicans from other boards of elections around the state.

Plus Harnett's recent press conference in Winston-Salem accusing Rev. William Barber of being paid by labor unions and the thousands of Moral Monday protestors of being paid outside agitators does not inspire confidence in his judgment.

Either the Republican-dominated state Board of Elections can begin to rebuild its severely damaged reputation in the state, or it can continue down this hyper-partisan path toward destroying everyone's faith in fair, free, and honest elections.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

McCrory Asking for Foley's Resignation

This appeared on Instagram around 4:30 this afternoon:
BREAKING : gov McCrory says he wants NCSBE board member Paul Foley to remove himself
Then this appeared on Instagram:
FOLEY REMOVAL: gov explains why he can remove Foley
Apparently, Mr. Foley ain't going quietly.

The N&O has full coverage. Foley's gonna fight it. His statement is revealing.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Paul Foley & Four Eggers, Sitting in a Tree...

Paul Foley, email pal with...
The following investigative piece about what went down in Watauga County during 2014 flashed on the Associated Press wire earlier this evening and suggests a burning question: How many conflicts of interest can state Board of Elections member Paul Foley stand to have revealed before he does the right thing and resigns his seat?

This is all old news to us in Watauga, at least those of us involved in the struggle to stop the suppression of the ASU student vote. It's not been common knowledge, we guess, among the pooh-bahs in Raleigh, but we now welcome their gaze in our direction. Because ... shit has been going on up here in the mountains!

Emails: NC board member involved in disputed
...Stacy Eggers IV
voting plan

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — A Republican member of the North Carolina elections board worked closely with local officials in their effort to eliminate a heavily Democratic voting site, a plan a judge ruled was intended to suppress voter turnout, according to hundreds of emails reviewed by The Associated Press.

The state Board of Elections is supposed to act as a neutral arbiter when policy disputes arise involving county elections boards. The emails show that Paul J. Foley worked closely behind the scenes with GOP officials in Watauga County as they crafted a plan to eliminate the early voting site at Appalachian State University.

Foley is already under scrutiny for failing to recuse himself for 17 months from the state election agency's investigation into political donations from an Oklahoma sweepstakes mogul represented by his law firm. He recused himself only after staff learned the mogul had paid nearly $1.3 million to his firm. Details of that investigation are to be released Wednesday.

The emails between Foley and Republican officials in Watauga discussing the removal of the longstanding Appalachian State voting site were provided to AP by Pam Williamson, a Democrat who was among those who successfully sued to keep the location open for the 2014 election. She received the emails following a public records request, and the state elections board confirmed their authenticity.

"Foley was right in the middle, advising GOP movers and shakers in our county to move forward with the plan," she said. "It's our contention that things were decided before the board met."

Foley, a lawyer for the state Republican Party appointed by Gov. Pat McCrory to the state elections board in 2013, declined an interview request and did not respond to emailed questions.

Voting laws have come under scrutiny in North Carolina since the Republican-led legislature passed a sweeping election law in 2013 that in part reduced early voting and ended same-day registration.

The Watauga conflict originated when the local board's two Republicans and one Democrat couldn't agree on the early-voting plan. The state board stepped in and voted to support the county board's Republicans in their plan to eliminate the on-campus voting site.

Seven county voters sued, saying the plan burdened younger voters. A state superior court judge agreed, saying the closure was to "discourage student voting."

The lawsuit contended Foley's "continual collaboration" with Stacy Eggers IV, the Watauga County government attorney and a former local elections board member, revealed a "partisan motive" behind the action.

Their correspondence, reviewed by AP, frequently refers to "the opposition" and "the other side."

In early August, 2013, as a new county board with a Republican majority was about to be sworn in, Eggers asked Foley to examine proposals he expected would pass, including removing the early voting site from the university's Plemmons Student Union.

That was the county's only early voting site to vote Democrat in the 2008 and 2012 presidential election and the 2012 governor's race. Eggers said he wanted Foley to vet the plan because "it would be embarrassing" if state elections officials overturned it.

In an August 8, 2013 email, Foley responded that "unless something is out of whack with reality, then I don't think it is likely for the State Board to have any issues with it."

Foley spoke in favor of the plan before the state board and did not mention his involvement. The board voted 4-1 in favor of upholding it.

Chuck Winfree, a Greensboro Republican who served on the state board until 2013, said it is not unusual for a board member to communicate with local officials about various issues. But, he said, Foley should have told his fellow board members the level of his involvement and potentially recused himself.

"The last thing you want if you're a lawyer or a party before the board is for someone to have an agenda you don't know about," he said. "It would be hard to say you've gotten a fair hearing, and that would undermine the credibility of the board."

N&O Editorial Calls for Paul Foley To Resign From SBOE

One curious omission from the News&Observer's editorial RE the conflict of interest problem for Paul Foley in the investigation of Chase Burns' political contributions....

The N&O editorial mentions that Foley recused himself from the investigation into Burns but fails to note that the "recusal" didn't last. According to the memorandum that SBOE Executive Director Kim Strach wrote on October 10, Foley continued to press SBOE staff for details about the investigation and demanded an advance copy of the findings.

Those "findings" are supposed to be released by Kim Strach tomorrow at a press conference in Raleigh. We're all ears.

Meanwhile, just for the "conflict-of-interest" file we're sure you're keeping on your laptop, Kim Strach's hubby, Phil Strach, in one of the attorneys defending voter suppression in that federal courtroom in Winston-Salem this week. Strach and Foley both served the NC Republican Party as general counsels.

Paul Foley, far left (partly obscured). Phil Strach, 4th from right on
the dais (seated)

Monday, July 13, 2015

The Eyes of the Nation Are Upon Us

The federal trial over NC's voter suppression law got underway this morning in a Winston-Salem courtroom.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Key Documents in the Paul Foley/Chase Burns Nexus

Here are the key documents in the unfolding story about whether State Board of Elections member Paul Foley was funneling details about the State Board of Elections investigation into campaign contributions made to dozens of NC politicians by internet gambling mogul Chase Burns:

1. June 23, 2015, report on the investigation of Mr. Foley's activities by Senior Deputy Attorney General Alexander McC. Peters

2. Oct. 8, 2014, memo "Pending Investigation and Potential Conflict of Interest," from Kim Strach (Exec. Dir., SBOE) to Josh Howard (Chair, SBOE)

3. April 19, 2013, original complaint filed by Democracy North Carolina, calling for an SBOE investigation into campaign contributions by Chase Burns and his wife

4. March 26, 2013, Democracy North Carolina press release, "McCrory Got $70,000 from Donors Tied to Sweepstakes Gambling, Including Another Operator Arrested in Florida Scandal"

5. March 18, 2013, Democracy North Carolina press release, "Sweepstakes Gambling Operator Is Top Donor to NC Legislators; Donations with Ties to McCrory's Law Firm Raise Questions"

6. September 29, 2014, memorandum from Paul Foley to Kim Strach, recusing himself from the Chase Burns investigation

7. September 29, 2014, "CONFIDENTIAL" memo from Kim Strach to Josh Howard, "Possible conflict involving an ongoing investigation into Chase Burns and International Internet Technologies, LLC"

8. October 10, 2014, memo from Kim Strach to Josh Howard, reporting that, despite his official "recusal" from the Chase Burns investigation, Paul Foley is continuing to ask questions and demand an advance copy of the investigative report before it is made public

Saturday, July 11, 2015

No Comment

Donald Trump with NC SBOE member Paul J. Foley

What We Know So Far About State Board of Elections Member Paul Foley

Timeline below based on the investigative reporting of Michael Biesecker and Mitch Weiss for the Associated Press.

The principal actors in the timeline below:

Paul J. Foley

Kim Strach

Chase Burns

A Key Document in the Investigation
Memo from Kim Strach to Josh Howard in October 2014

State Board of Elections (SBOE) member Paul J. Foley was fishing for information about a confidential SBOE investigation of a man who had paid Foley's law firm at least $1.3 million. In an Oct. 10, 2014, memo to Josh Howard (Chair of the SBOE), Executive Director Kim Strach detailed inappropriate behavior by SBOE member Paul Foley regarding an on-going investigation into large campaign contributions given to Pat McCrory, Paul Tillis, Phil Berger, and other NC politicians in 2012 by Chase Burns, an Oklahoma Internet sweepstakes software magnate who was lobbying NC officials to make internet gambling legal in the state. SBOE Director Strach had learned belatedly that Foley's law firm represented Burns and that Foley's law firm had been paid a large sum by Burns. Foley never disclosed his conflict of interest to Strach or to anyone else at the SBOE. When Strach learned of the conflict, she insisted that Foley recuse himself from the SBOE investigation of Burns, but Foley continued to press for detailed information (particularly about which witnesses were being interviewed). “Mr. Foley stated that he wanted a copy of the findings report sent to him immediately,” Strach recounted in her Oct. 10 memo. Strach said she again advised Foley that would be improper, based on his recusal. “Mr. Foley was not satisfied with my answer …. I was alarmed by Mr. Foley’s behavior today, and I have again cautioned staff not to address any questions from Mr. Foley regarding this ongoing investigation.”

Timeline for Understanding What's Up With Paul Foley

2012 election cycle: Chase Burns, the internet sweepstakes magnate, gives at least $520,000 to dozens of NC politicians including Pat McCrory, who is running for governor. The money is disbursed to those politicians by lobbyists for the Charlotte law firm of Moore & Van Allen, which also happens to be Pat McCrory's former employer. Checks are written on an Oklahoma bank account which is subsequently seized for containing illegal sweepstakes money. The handwriting on the checks draws scrutiny: the politicians' names filled in as payees appear to be in a different handwriting from the amounts on the checks.

March 2013: Chase Burns is arrested in Florida on felony racketeering and conspiracy charges related to a fake veterans’ charity prosecutors say was used to launder $300 million from sweepstakes cafes there. Court filings from the Florida case show that Burns’ company made another $98 million from Internet cafes in North Carolina, though the games were illegal here.

April 19, 2013: Democracy North Carolina files a formal complaint about the Burns contributions with the SBOE, which at that time still has three Democrats and two Republicans sitting on the board. Democracy North Carolina wants to know if the contributions were made using corporate, rather than personal, funds, and was someone other than the contributor directing who received the money?

April 25, 2013: A majority on the SBOE agree that an investigation of Burns is warranted and is therefore set in motion.

April 26, 2013: Newly elected Gov. Pat McCrory replaces every board member on the SBOE to reflect the results of the 2012 elections: three new Republican members and two new Democratic members. Paul Foley is one of the Republicans appointed. The Burns investigation is already underway.

September 2014: SBOE staffers, looking through documents from the Florida investigation, discover that Burns has paid Foley’s law firm nearly $1.3 million between 2009 and March 2013, when Burns was arrested and his accounts frozen (including the account used to send the half-million to the North Carolina politicians).

September 29, 2014: Foley recuses himself from the Burns investigation (but not actually). He continues to press Strach and SBOE investigative staffers for details and updates.

October 10, 2014: Strach spills the beans about Foley's conflict of interest and his behavior to SBOE Chair Josh Howard. Howard quickly requests the Attorney General's office to investigate whether Foley’s conflict of interest tainted the Burns investigation.

June 23, 2015: Senior Deputy Attorney General Alexander Peters concludes in a letter to SBOE Chair Howard that it was proper for Foley to recuse himself from issues involving Burns but that Foley has not compromised the investigation (because SBOE investigators have mainly ignored his fishing). SBOE employees told the Attorney General's office that Foley’s behavior had been “unusual” and “unprecedented.” (SBOE officials hadn’t known about the connection between Foley’s firm and Burns.) The Attorney General's office did not investigate whether Foley had leaked information to lawyers in his firm who were actively representing Burns and said that the ethics commission or the Bar Association would be responsible for addressing whether Foley had acted ethically. Foley meanwhile chooses to interpret this opinion from the Attorney General's office as "exoneration."

Friday, July 10, 2015

Thursday, July 09, 2015

This Joke of a "Public Servant" Will Have a Credible Opponent Next Fall

She's no prize, that Cherie Berry ... North Carolina's Secretary of Labor, which allows her to put her picture in every elevator in the state because she has jurisdiction over elevator inspections. But she also has jurisdiction over worker safety issues, for which she's amassed a dismal record of non-performance and waaay too cozy a relationship with the businesses she's supposed to regulate. (For specifics, you can start here.)

Following the Charlotte Observer investigative series about her failure to enforce worker safety in the chicken processing industry (linked above), the NC General Assembly appropriated more money to the Labor Department to cover four additional inspectors for chicken-processing plants. Berry immediately declared that she'd take the money but wouldn't use it as intended.

She's a prick.

Charles Meeker
But now she's drawn a very credible Democratic challenger for 2016 in Charles Meeker, the former several term (and highly popular) mayor of Raleigh. Meeker should be able to raise the money to give her a real contest.

It's high time we retired "the elevator lady."

Religion and Politics in the Age of Gay Marriage

When the president of the Southern Baptist Convention publishes an essay titled "A Country in Chaos: What Southern Baptists Should Do" in The Baptist Press, no way under God's blue sky shall I not pay heed.

"Chaos"? It's the gay marriage thing and the incipient threat that any minute now some gay couples are going to be showing up at Southern Baptist congregations all across the land and demanding a big church wedding, with gay ring-bearers and the whole works!

With the legalization of same-sex marriage, the reverend writes,
we see a country divided and teetering on a moral collapse. You see, as many of us warned, this is not the end, but the beginning of so much more. The court's overreach could now push us to more of a divide, creating chaos in many towns, cities and states. Plus, the court itself, the White House and Congress will begin to see that some people are just not going to give up their values.
Some will be willing to walk away. Southern Baptist Linda Barnette resigned her county clerk job after 24 years, refusing to issue marriage licenses for same-sex couples. I spoke with Linda and her husband Sherman of Mississippi, encouraging and thanking them for their stand. Let me make something clear: This couple and others like them are not troublemakers or radicals, but born-again Bible believers who stand on the authority of Scripture.
I'm totally cool with "Southern Baptist Linda Barnette" resigning her job because of her "values." She should do exactly that. She's in the minority, apparently, among public officials paid to do a job who subsequently refuse to do that job because doing it would offend their Christian beliefs. (There are such officials, a few of them, in certain counties of Alabama, where the clock hasn't ticked a second past 1926, and in Texas, where clocks are actually running backward now. Even in North Carolina, where the General Assembly, accompanied by much religious grandstanding, passed the magistrate recusal law, only a handful of magistrates, out of over 600, have opted out to issuing marriage licenses. They didn't want to do their jobs. They don't have to now by law.)

I wanted to push on to the end of the reverend's article, to the subhead "What We Should Do." Pray is number 1, and of course. Nothing wrong with that. Number 2 is "Raise up convictional leaders who will do what is right in the eyes of God," and that Byzantine word-choice seems designed to hide what is actually being said.

"Convictional leaders"? What does that mean? After much prayerful thought, I believe it means "leaders who will never relent on their opposition to gay marriage," and the good reverend is in very good stead with the entire 128-candidate field of Republicans running for president. Every last one of them has expressed outrage about the Supremes' gay marriage ruling.

"Raise up convictional leaders," the reverend advises. Raise up. Is that more of the call to action of # 1, i.e., pray? Probably it means something a little more, something along the lines of "make your local church a forward base for political activism, O my brethren."

In other words, do exactly what you've been doing for years.

Hardly seems like action commensurate to the destructive chaos descending on America, does it? What? No pitchforks and torches? No calling down fire from heaven on the heads of sinners?

Wednesday, July 08, 2015

Christmas in July!

Oh, Jeez, let it be so! "Trump Top Contender in NC Poll."

The Senator Who Kicked a Hornet's Nest

Sen. Trudy Wade, the Republican who engineered the cynical gerrymandering of the Greensboro city council, may have earned her comeuppance next year. We can only hope that the voters, including fair-minded Republicans in Greensboro (if there are any left), teach her a lesson about arrogance.

In the meantime, the Greensboro News&Record is leading the charge with public outrage and a we're-not-going-to-take-this call to action: "Sue 'em, Greensboro" (editorial) and columnist Susan Ladd's "Resist, rally and vote until HB 263 and Wade are defeated."

Teach 'em a lesson, Greensboro.

Tuesday, July 07, 2015

NC House Member to Governor: "Your Comments Are Sophomoric"

Michael Speciale
Michael Speciale, R-New Bern, who originally voted against Trudy Wade's scheme to seize control of the Greensboro city council for Republicans (before he got himself disciplined by the Republican leadership in the NC House and came back into the House chamber to vote for the "local bill"), has lashed out at his fellow Republican, Governor Pat McCrory, who called Trudy Wade's plot against Greensboro Democrats “a bad bill and a shameful process.”

Speciale isn't having it! With a guilty conscience for having changed his vote and allowing this piece of garbage to become law, Speciale posted this on his Facebook page: “Gov. McCrory just cannot seem to get that he is no longer a Mayor and we are not his Aldermen. As usual, the governor’s comments about the General Assembly are sophomoric and borne of ignorance and a lack of knowledge. The Executive Branch needs your attention, governor, not the Legislative Branch!”

Speciale went on to suggest that McCrory is “constantly grandstanding in the press.”

Well, yes he is ... constantly grandstanding in the press ... but what's really striking here is how little respect the governor gets from members of his own party, let alone from political hacks like yours truly. Is this good for North Carolina? To have a governor whose own "allies" in the General Assembly characterize as "sophomoric" (which in other instances might be an apt adjective, but not in this present case)?

How Is Maymead Asphalt Like a Bakery?

"And we know you love them too!"
It was a packed house at this morning's Watauga County Commission meeting. Maymead Materials Inc., the asphalt producer that wants a new plant on the Doc & Merle Watson Scenic Byway, asked and received 20 minutes of the commissioners' time to present their side in the fight over whether the county should allow them to set up in near proximity to many residences and two schools.

I was expecting a legal argument from Maymead ... that the company is already "vested" in that property and therefore can't be stopped, or that the county's 30-day moratorium is illegal, or that proposed changes to the High Impact Land Use Ordinance are arbitrary and capricious.

Instead, the audience got a dog-and-pony show -- a bunch of assertions offered by a Greensboro lawyer and a female project manager that asphalt is a naturally occurring substance and is perfectly harmless and that a bread bakery emits as many volatile compounds as an asphalt plant and if asphalt fumes are harmful then why doesn't OSHA make workers wear protective gear, and what's all the fuss any way?

The Maymead female project manager was the comic highlight of the morning. She actually showed slides of herself posing with her two small children with various Maymead asphalt facilities in the background, trying to prove (we assume) that asphalt is tee-totally safe for small children, or at least a convenient backdrop for company-inspired photo ops, but really proving that some professionals will use their own children as cynical props for company P.R. It was enough to make your skin crawl.

This combined assault by Maymead on the audience's logic and its patience reminded me very much of the current incessant TV ads produced by Sea World to convince us all that keeping killer whales in confinement really expresses love for the animals. Those creepy ads have set a new benchmark for industry hypocrisy, and they fool no one. Same for Maymead this morning.

On the other side of the issue, the Commission heard from more than a dozen speakers who pointed out the glaring holes in the county's current High Impact Land Use Ordinance, particularly its lack of public notice/public hearing when a proposed polluting industry wants to locate here. County Planner Joe Furman can very quietly approve those applications -- as he did for Johnny Hampton several years ago, the permit that Maymead has been trying to ride to glory by simple transference of name. The first thing anyone knows who lives nearby is that work has begun. That sick, sinking feeling can visit any homeowner at any time in this county.

The Commission took no action after the public hearing, and one wonders what the three-Republican majority will do, because they hold the power. Can't help but note that circulating among them this morning was former Commission Chair Nathan Miller, who's on record as opposing any government regulation over any land use that a land owner can think up. He was there, perhaps, to jerk a knot in his former obedient followers, commissioners Perry Yates and David Blust, who in a moment of weakness voted for the present moratorium. Nathan Miller will put an end to further and future weaknesses if he can.

Oops. Left the meeting early. The Commission did vote 4-1 to add a 750-foot buffer from residential property lines and a 1,500-foot buffer from scenic byways and the Blue Ridge Parkway to the High Impact Land Use Ordinance. They did not add a provision for public notice/public hearing to the ordinance. The single no vote was Commissioner John Welch, who thought the amendments to the HILU ordinance did not go far enough.

Sunday, July 05, 2015

McCrory in Full Stutter Mode: "Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda"

Depend on Governor McCrory to pick a fight with his fellow Republicans in the General Assembly on an issue he could not under statute do anything about ... the "local bill" to redistrict Greensboro's city council to make it easier for Trudy Wade's clones to take it over this fall.

Local bills are not subject to veto by the governor. "I would've vetoed it if I could," sez the Guv, puffing out his chest in that pathetic attempt to seem relevant.

Funny man, this governor. Let's see him veto something he actually can veto, and let's see him raise the stakes publicly for sustaining his veto. Soon, very soon, someone's gonna set a match to this paper tiger.

Friday, July 03, 2015

Courtesy of The World's Most Dangerous Beauty Salon, Inc.

Bastards Grab Power in Greensboro

Illegitimate power, illegitimately achieved.

Four sitting minority members of the Greensboro city council are now forced to run against one another as Greensboro's city government is "redistricted" to suit Republican Sen. Trudy Wade, in a process that blocked the wishes of the actual residents of Greensboro, not to mention their elected representatives in both city government and in the North Carolina General Assembly. (Rep. John Blust gets credit for standing up to his fellow Republicans.)

The power grabs in cities, the high-handed mucking about in local issues, and arrogant seizure of process so that no actual citizens have a fighting chance to choose their own course of action ... this is the contemporary Republican Party in North Carolina -- a circle-jerk of super jerks bent on seizing everything they can while they can.

The Lord Voldemorts who run these plays have drawn their own legislative districts to keep the very possibility of change completely beyond hope ... they think. How long are the citizens going to allow this?

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

The Toxic Dawn in North Carolina

While a growing group of Watauga County citizens have become aware of how Watauga County ordinances actually welcome toxic polluters through weak or non-existent protections, that bunch of Republicans in Raleigh are fast-tracking a bill which loosens regulations for air quality, water quality, and recycling, a new set of regs meant to completely neuter whatever is left of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

Naturally, it's coming out of the NC Senate, which is so far to the right on everything that our feckless governor ... oh, never mind! It's coming out of the Senate, which is where extremism has its home office. And who's "shepherding" this particular piece of backward thinking but Sen. Trudy Wade, she of the Greensboro redistricting meanness, which is also slouching toward Bethlehem to be born.

The News&Observer reports:
...DENR distributed a 12-page analysis for lawmakers enumerating the agency’s concerns with the legislation. The document stands out for its tone of alarm coming from an agency that under Republican Gov. Pat McCrory had vowed to treat businesses as partners and customers rather than adversaries.
“The complaints that would be generated as a result of this proposed legislation would be innumerable,” the document stated. The agency warned that one proposal would lead to “severe environmental damage,” while another could result in federal authorities moving in “to take over the North Carolina public drinking water program.”
Doesn't matter. This Polluter Protection Act will pass the Senate. It'll be up to the NC House to have a sane moment. Don't laugh. It could happen.