Monday, November 30, 2015

A Big Open Seat

Hendersonville Republican Tom Apodaca, the Tony Soprano of the Republican Senate caucus, has announced that he won't be seeking reelection.

The Republican exodus from the General Assembly is turning into a ... spectacle.

Luke Eggers Resigns from Watauga BOE

Chair Luke Eggers has tendered his resignation from the Watauga County Board of Elections, effective today.

Everyone knew this would have to happen after his aunt, Becca Eggers, was appointed to a local judgeship. It's finally happened, one day in advance of the filing period for the 2016 elections.

Now taking bets on which hardliner Anne Marie Yates & Team will appoint in his place.

The High Legal Cost of Low Legislative Motives

What bad laws coming out of Raleigh are costing North Carolina taxpayers...

At least $8 million over the next two years. That's the amount that Republicans in the General Assembly actually inserted into this year's budget bill.

According to the Charlotte Observer, the Gen'l Assembly's outside legal bills have totaled more than $3 million just since July of last year. Private lawyers are getting rich. Meanwhile, none of the GA's bad laws have been upheld in court.

Amendment One ... bad law, struck down repeatedly by federal courts, but the GA continued to spend money on private outside-state-government lawyers in trying to defend it (not counting all the money they spent on getting it passed in the first place by referendum).

The "Open Up Your Vagina, You Slut" ultrasound anti-abortion bill. Struck down.

The "Choose Life" license plate. Struck down by two federal courts and turned back by The Supremes.

Still being argued in court:
The Voter ID and Omnibus Elections Bill. How bad is that piece of bilge? So bad that a federal judge in Winston-Salem put a stay on several provisions, particularly voting out of precinct, and the General Assembly itself rushed to water down the photo ID requirement just in advance of the court trial last summer.

The gerrymandering of the state. There are three lawsuits on-going about that travesty.

Charlotte-Douglass International Airport. Who owns it, who controls it, who gets to pass out the goodies?

The Asheville water supply. Who owns it, who controls it, who gets to pass out the goodies?

We -- the taxpayers of the state -- are paying to run these lawsuits, and clearly the Republican Grandees in the General Assembly are budgeting for even more waste.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Dan Soucek Among Those Caught Skimming Money From Campaign Funds

The Raleigh News&Observer has blown the whistle on seven members of the NC General Assembly for paying themselves out of campaign funds without itemizing how those payments constitute reimbursements for legitimate campaign expenses and are not merely being used for personal expenses, which is against the law.

Senator Dan Soucek of Watauga County is on the list along with Sen. Tom Apodaca of Hendersonville; Rep. Kelly Hastings of Cleveland County; Rep. Hugh Blackwell of Morganton; Rep. Rob Bryan of Charlotte; Rep. Julia Howard of Mocksville; and Sen. Warren Daniel of Morganton. All are Republicans.

The News&Observer investigation found that "most legislators meticulously detail expenses they pay with campaign donations. Meal charges list the date, amount and the name of the restaurant. Travel expenses usually list where the legislator went and why."

Those details are missing from the Soucek reports and from the other six. Instead, the seven legislators paid themselves thousands of dollars for “expenses related to holding public office,” a deliberately vague description which frustrates the intent of campaign finance law and masks what the money is really going for.

Soucek says "nearly all for mileage and cellphone bills."

"Mileage"? Gosh, don't we remember how the Republicans went after the late Steve Goss for mileage reimbursements during his tenure in the state Senate.

"Cellphone bills"? Calls to whom, Senator?

Friday, November 27, 2015


Get his best-selling book: "Art of the Heel."

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Halloween Is Past, But McCrory Now Putting on the Mask of a Right-Wing Culture Warrior

Tyler Dukes's analysis of the sudden change of topic and tone by Governor Squishy.

Suddenly, where people go to the bathroom -- in the state of Virginia -- is of consuming concern.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Fissure Between Republicans on the Wake County Board of Elections

This is actually significant news ... when one of two Republicans (who dominate all the boards of elections in the state) splits with his Republican chairman and votes with the Democratic minority member to make voting easier for the people ... that's significant news.

WRAL was there last night at the Wake County Board of Elections meeting and took down a very telling blow-by-blow. Which is only part of what makes WRAL the indispensable source for North Carolina political news.

Brian Ratledge
Issue The First: Sunday voting, much favored and much utilized by our black citizens. The Wake Board Chairman, Republican Brian Ratledge, hates Sunday voting, but what he said was "It's not something I've been in support of in the past." Beyond that penetrating rationale, Mr. Ratledge couldn't say why Sunday voting was so needful of elimination.

Republicans in the audience came to his aid: Mike Hinton said he is "adamantly opposed" to Sunday voting: "It seems that our government has taken the path of removing responsibility from the citizen and providing convenience."

"Providing convenience." Imagine that! If there's one thing your run-of-the-mill Republican is going to come down hard on, it's voting convenience.

Republican Bill Bryson took the bluenose route, pulling his skirts of righteousness sharply around him: "Our people need to rest on Sunday."

"Our people." No need to ask whose people Mr. Bryson was claiming as "ours."

Issue The Second: An Early Voting site in a predominantly black neighborhood. Republican Chairman Brian Ratledge opposed restoring Early Voting to the Chavis Community Center (located on Martin Luther King Blvd. and named for a 19th-century free black preacher, so go figure!), even though in 2012 the Chavis Community Center had the 3rd highest Early Voting turnout in the 2012 General Elections.

But they're black, and the Republican Chair of the Wake County Board of Elections will be damned and go to hell before he enables those people over "our people."

Chair Ratledge: If voters in southeast Raleigh didn't want to pay to park to vote downtown, they could take public transit." Seriously? (Let 'em also eat cake?)

The Democratic member of the board, Mark Ezzell, pushed back: "A couple of years ago, when you mentioned this option, I opted to ride the bus to see how easy that was. It took me three hours. It is not reasonable to expect that the people who have traditionally voted at Chavis are going to be able to get down to the Board of Elections."

Bottomline: Hearing from the public -- many other people spoke in favor of Sunday voting and in favor of restoring Early Voting to the Chavis Community Center -- the other Republican member of the board voted with Mark Ezzell. So there's that. And according to the WRAL report, Chair Ratledge won't appeal the decision to the State Board of Elections.

Josh Howard
Speaking of the State Board of Elections ... also happening yesterday, the Republican Chair of the State Board of Elections, Josh Howard, who has always led the Republican majority in voting against Democratic appeals of Early Voting plans in Watauga County, resigned his seat. From quotes to the press, he seems to want us to believe that he's going out in a blaze of glory. We think he's just going out in a blaze.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

First Trial Balloon: A Possible Republican Challenger for Governor Squishy

Robert Brawley! The Iredell thorn-in-the-cheek to former NC House Speaker Thom Tillis, sez he's now considering a primary against the terminally inept McCrory.

Brawley's current banner is opposition to adding toll lanes to I-77 north of Charlotte, a project pushed by Mr. Tillis.

Oh, Brawley knows Tillis and has every reason to hate his guts. Tillis fired Brawley as chair of the Finance Committee in the NC House and appears to have had a heavy hand in making sure that Brawley was primaried for his Iredell County House seat in 2014, which Brawley indeed lost. Brawley had charged that Tillis loves money more than he loves the truth. Tillis implied that Brawley is mentally unstable.

Our favorite factoid about Robert Brawley involves a bill he introduced in the General Assembly in 2013 to lift the ban on lobbyists' gifts to lawmakers. Brawley, who has served in the General Assembly off and on since the early 1980s, remembered the good old days with the good old boys, enjoying drinks and expensive dinners and golf trips, and thought it would be a good idea to bring back the fun times. That bill quickly died.

Now Brawley's deal is the I-77 toll lanes. According to the News&Observer, Brawley had been planning a rematch against the dude who beat him out for the NC House, Republican John Fraley, but yesterday, Brawley was noticeably inflated by all the support he was hearing and said he might just challenge McCrory for the governorship.

Where does McCrory stand on toll lanes on I-77? He stands exactly where he stands on every other issue where he's afraid someone might not like him -- especially the money guys -- if he takes a stand. He stands nowhere. He dodges. He is the inartful dodger.

Meanwhile, Mr. Brawley, may we buy you a drink?

Monday, November 23, 2015

I'm Always Thankful for the Constitution, But Did the Founding Fathers Ultimately Fail Us?

Gouverneur Morris
Through the muggy summer of 1787, up to 55 delegates from the 13 original colonies met in the State House in Philadelphia to revise the Articles of Confederation, which were weak and weren't working. Once they were in the room together, they locked the doors and closed the windows and began to innovate. What finally emerged in September was a new Constitution for the "Union of States."

Some of the men in that room were outraged at the novel direction things were taking. They were openly and red-facedly opposed to the whole new enterprise, and some of them -- like feisty little Ellbridge Gerry -- refused to sign the finished document. They had their reasons. They were afraid of the power being given a central government; many were disturbed there was no Bill of Rights (which would come very quickly after ratification); a handful hated that the text did not condemn and outlaw slavery; some were outraged that God was not mentioned, credited, and coopted. They were nervous. They were trying something wholly untested before, and they had plenty of skin in the game.

But not bare skin in that hot room. They wore heavy wool garments, and the windows were closed (to prevent easedropping) during the hottest, muggiest, most punishing months of a Philadelphia summer. Their passions rose as high as the temperature, and they shouted at one another and insulted one another, but eventually passed by majority votes some 23 "resolves," including the wholly unheard-of idea of "three branches of government."

On September 8, 1787, they gave those 23 resolutions to the "Committee of Style and Arrangement," for the purpose of turning those statements into a text that was sufficiently explicit enough to function and sufficiently vague enough to breathe into the future.

The Committee was mainly young. Alexander Hamilton was 30 years old; Rufus King, 32; Gouverneur Morris of Pennsylvania, 35; James Madison of Virginia, 36. The oldest member, Dr. William Samuel Johnson, the president of Columbia College, was 60, so he was named chair of the committee.

But Gouverneur Morris really wrote the thing. His Preamble still rings: "We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."

By agreement of the Constitutional Convention, ratification by at least nine states would be required via state conventions. As those conventions started to take place, beginning in Pennsylvania, vocal opposition to the whole project ranged from ferocious to sometimes violent throughout the 13 former colonies of the Crown. In Pennsylvania, before a ratification convention could even be planned, 19 anti-Constitutionalists ("Antifeds") locked themselves up in a Philadelphia house, depriving the state assembly of a quorum. A mob of Pennsylvania "Feds," pro-Constitutionalists, broke down the door of the house and forcibly carted two of the abstainers to the meeting, thus establishing a quorum. Later, after Pennsylvania ratified the document, Antifeds, armed with clubs, attacked and beat one of the original signers, James Wilson, almost to death.

A Baptist preacher in North Carolina, a candidate for the state's ratification convention, told a meeting of frontier parishioners to fear a central government: "…an army of 50,000 or perhaps 100,000 men will … sally forth [from the Capitol] and enslave the people, who will be gradually disarmed." Sound familiar?

Some of the ratification votes were perilously close. In Pennsylvania, the margin for ratification was comfortable enough -- 46-23. But in Massachusetts, with a whopping 355 convention delegates elbowing each other with Puritan malice, ratification passed by only 19 votes, 187-168. New Hampshire ratified by a vote of 57-46. Virginia came in at 89-79, with fiery old Patrick Henry setting fire to the air and leading the Antifeds in very stiff opposition.

Eventually, even New York and Rhode Island joined the Union, New York by a vote of 30-27 (holy crap!). Rhode Island had been the bitch state all along, had stubbornly refused to even send delegates to Philadelphia in the first place, but Rhode Island finally capitulated and joined the other 13 on May 29, 1790, almost three full years after the original composition of the document in the City of Brotherly Love.

Like the *woman said, "miracle at Philadelphia."

George Mason, the Virginia planter and a member of the Constitutional Convention, did not sign the final document. He feared the form of government would produce a noxious oligarchy. I fear he was right, but perhaps not for the reasons he foresaw.

Rich men are in the way of owning this government, but I think not because of some inherent flaw in our founding document. Cannot I blame the Supreme Court for (1) describing corporations as corpuscles with the unalienable rights of men and women and (2) equating money with speech? If our government has become the wholly owned subsidiary of men like the Kochs, of men like Art Pope, of operatives like Karl Rove, can I not condemn the five bespoke men on the Supreme Court who have enabled the purchase?

How could James Madison and the other Philadelphia brethren foresee the perversions of money in their grand design? Even George Mason did not prophesy a Supreme Court majority that would exercise its biases with such broad destruction of democracy.

They invented the Supreme Court as a check and balance on the Congress. But where is the check and balance on a partisan majority on the Court? Through the election of presidents, who must appoint the judges? Through the election of a Congress with the courage to rise against money and erect effective barriers?

Maybe a new revolution will come against the power of wealth, but maybe not in my limited lifetime.

*Catherine Drinker Bowen, Miracle at Philadelphia: The Story of the Constitutional Convention, May to September 1787

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Pay-to-Play Is a Hard Habit To Break

Mr. Graeme Keith Sr., who's been in the news a lot lately for getting the governor to intervene for him in a contract renewal -- I've donated to your campaign, and now it's time for me to get something in return -- also had great good fortune after contributing over $30,000 to former Mecklenburg County Sheriff Jim Pendergraph. Keith, in fact, got his very first prison maintenance contract from Sheriff Pendergraph -- a no-bid contract, at that -- which is now worth some $7 million a year.

That's a lot of sweeping, presumably, but also a very good return on the investment. (And incidentally, McCrory went cheap. Pendergraph, not so much. He also got another $86,000 out of Keith for "consulting services.")
"The decision to award the contract without competitive bidding was not in the best interest of taxpayers, according to contracting expert Paul Light. Seeking bids from competing companies helps ensure that the public gets the best possible deal, experts say....
"The two sheriffs who succeeded Pendergraph – Chipp Bailey and Irwin Carmichael – have kept the contract in place. Those sheriffs also got campaign contributions from officials with The Keith Corp."

That's What Having No Moral Core Will Get You

Pat McCrory, in the fall of 2008: “In North Carolina, ‘it’s time for a change’ is not just a campaign slogan…it’s a necessity. As governor, I will shake up state government by establishing a culture of honesty, integrity and transparency. Corruption and fraud will not be tolerated. Public service will be conducted ethically and without undue favor.” (Hattip: NCPolicyWatch)

You've discredited yourself, Governor.

Friday, November 20, 2015

The Erosion of Boone's Single-Family Neighborhoods

Last night at its regular meeting, the Boone Town Council voted 2-2 on an ordinance amendment to allow for "planned developments" in every zoning area of Town. Mayor Rennie Brantz broke the tie by voting for the text amendments (about which, more below), siding with Council members Lynne Mason and Quint David and against members Loretta Clawson and Fred Hay.

This was Quint David's last meeting on the council, since he did not seek reelection (neither did Fred Hay). Mason and Clawson recently won reelection to four-year terms and are now well established and also sharply contrasted for differing visions of Boone's future.

Mason has been leading to make Boone friendlier to big developments and to seek a lot more New River water to sell to those developers, both inside and outside the city limits. Clawson has long been a champion of Boone's endangered single-family neighborhoods, but she's about to be even more out-numbered on the Council.

Jen Teague and Charlotte Mizelle, both elected to two-year terms earlier this month, have firmly aligned themselves with Mason and will hold a solid three-person majority. They could and probably will cement that majority when they appoint a new Council member to serve out Rennie Brantz's term (Brantz was elected Mayor, leaving his remaining time on Council to be filled by appointment).

New Rules for "Planned Developments"
The text amendments voted through last night by Mason, David, and Brantz effectively eliminate the requirement that developers follow the Town's minimal zoning standards, like setbacks, buffers, parking, etc., as long as they promise a "Planned Development," a promise that can be as empty as smoke.

The amendments allow for any use to go anywhere in town. A meeting is now required between neighborhoods and the developer to share neighborhood concerns, but the new rules do not allow for any conditions to be placed on the development other than those agreed to by the developer. There's your smoke, and how's that for the future of neighborhoods in the town of Boone?

The amendments greatly increase the power and authority of the planning administrator to approve big developments and greatly reduces a neighborhood's ability to challenge those developments. The Board of Adjustment, which ordinarily provides a judicial process for challenges and for imposing conditions on new developments, is taken out of the process altogether. The Town Council can deny a Planned Development proposal, but only on narrow grounds that do not include taking into consideration neighborhood concerns.

The removal of the Board of Adjustment, with its quasi-judicial process that can be challenged/sustained in court, paves the way for closed-door bargaining, cronyism, and the specter of favoritism.

It's just sad maddening that recently reelected Council members placed "protecting our neighborhoods" at the top of their campaign platforms when it's obvious they didn't mean a word of it. Do they think we're not paying attention?

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Virginia Foxx's Primary Opponent

McCrory Admin.: They Think We're Dumber Than 2-Dollar Dogs

“It was inappropriate. It was uncomfortable. But there has been no quid pro quo and therefore no crime.”
--Secretary of Public Safety Frank Perry, testifying before an NCGA committee yesterday about comments made by Graeme Keith Sr. that he was owed something in return for his contributions to Gov. McCrory
Are you kidding me?

The estimable and also rich Mr. Keith said he was owed in a meeting organized by McCrory, and in which McCrory sat, to get the Department of Public Safety to reconsider its decision not to re-award Mr. Keith a profitable contract. Mr. Keith said I've given money and I'm owed out loud in that meeting, with McCrory at the table.

McCrory, far left, with Graeme Keith Sr.
next to him
McCrory says he was in a "side conversation" at the time, or was checking his smart phone, or was having his blood pressure monitored, or something distracting, but the bottom-line, The Guv assures us, is that he didn't hear Mr. Keith make that statement, because if he had heard it, McCrory now claims, he would have ended that meeting immediately, because the man in the matching red sweater that McCrory has had his arm around in public and on whose shoulder he has slobbered should know better than cause the top elected official to commit a crime.

It doesn't wash. It doesn't pass the smell test. And it's embarrassing to see members of the McCrory administration making excuses for this Royal Dumbass.

What Western Carolina University Will Do For Money

WCU in Cullowhee is moving toward an agreement to indoctrinate teenagers and post-teens in the predatory capitalism of fossil fuel dinosaurs -- namely, Koch Bros. industries. Western Carolina University administrators are angling for a grant to establish a Koch-funded "Center for Study of Free Enterprise" on the Cullowhee campus (thanks to NC Policy Watch for the heads-up):
Under a proposal currently under consideration by WCU administrators, the Charles Koch Foundation would give $2 million to the university .... The faculty member driving the process appears to be Economics Department Professor Edward Lopez, who also boasts the title of “BB&T Distinguished Professor of Capitalism.” Lopez, who gave the “Friedman Legacy Lecture” this summer at the John Locke Foundation, is a graduate of the Kochs’ largest university grantee, George Mason University, and an energetic proponent of “free market” economic theories.
There's an interesting history behind that imposing title, "BB&T Distinguished Professor."

Edward Lopez
The trail goes back to 2008, when BB&T honcho John Allison was pushing Ayn Rand's "objectivist" worship of capitalism on any North Carolina college that would take his money. (He had tried to set up a study center at Appalachian State University, but ASU faculty members objected to "objectivism" and the requirement that freshmen would be forced to read Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged, among other types of indoctrination.) Allison turned his charm on WCU and got further.

Allison's BB&T Foundation inked a deal in 2008 with WCU's College of Business to set up the endowed chair that Professor Edward Lopez now occupies. The signed agreement stipulated that "the Professor shall work closely with the Ayn Rand Institute and have a reasonable understanding and positive attitude toward Ayn Rand's philosophy of Objectivism."

"Positive attitude"? That's not exactly scholarship, and it's not a disinterested search for knowledge. That's indoctrination. The WCU agreement also mandated the required reading of Atlas Shrugged, but that was later dropped when WCU faculty began finding out about this deal with the devil.

Now it appears that the Ayn Rand Professor Edward Lopez is making his own deal with other devils, the Koch Bros., for $2 million in cash -- "what many rightfully view as blood money from a corporate behemoth that is gleefully plundering and endangering the planet and buying lackey politicians and mouthpieces at a prodigious rate."

The WCU Faculty Senate is fighting this, but with the current funding cuts enacted by The Honorables in Raleigh, WCU administrators are going to be glitter-eyed at the temptation to make that deal with the devil.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Secret Revealed: Karl Rove Was Behind Dallas Woodhouse & Carolina Rising in 2014

The "single individual" which contributed 98.7% of the funds raised by Carolina Rising, the 501(c)(4) "social welfare" front group that spent 97% of its money -- nearly $5 million -- getting Thom Tillis elected to the U.S. Senate ... that single individual was Crossroads GPS, the super PAC run by Karl Rove (as revealed by newly available tax records examined by the Center for Responsive Politics and other watchdog groups).

The master mind of Carolina Rising was Dallas Woodhouse, who is now writing ungrammatical emails as executive director of the North Carolina Republican Party.

That ain't all. Crossroads GPS and Mr. Rove intend to be every bit as active in North Carolina in the 2016 general elections.

The corruption of North Carolina politics through secret big money and pay-to-play bribery is sinking us further into a swamp where the corpse of democracy is quickly rotting.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Our dim, pandering governor and the growing corruption in North Carolina!

Pay-to-Play, the General Assembly Way

Rep. David "Throw Me
in the Briar Patch" Lewis
It's about privatization. It's always about privatization.

Take a job that a state agency has been or could be doing and give it as a contract (often a no-bid contract) to a private individual, who'll profit plenty while the state saves no money whatsoever. In fact, as in this present case, the state loses money.

This case of political corruption investigated by the N&O involves Rep. David R. Lewis of Dunn and Martin Edwards & Associates of Linden, whose president is Rickie Day. Day's company has held a state contract to tow, store, and sell vehicles seized from repeat driving-while-impaired offenders.

A vulture business with a vulture protector in the General Assembly.

Cars are towed and stored until they are either reclaimed by their owners or the courts seize them and they are sold at auction. Mr. Day's company receives the lion's share of revenue from the towing and storing of vehicles, as well as a fee when vehicles are sold. By law, Mr. Day is required to share some of the revenue with the public school system. Day's company has been pocketing over $1 million a year while school systems across the state split up considerably less than that, about $700,000 in 2014.

The State Surplus Property Agency wants to take on this job because it believes it can return more money to the school systems. The vehicles could be sold through the state’s much larger auction site, generating more money, and stored for less cost on state property.

The Timeline of Corruption
So ... Rep. George Cleveland, an Onslow County Republican, filed a bill last March that authorized the Surplus Property Agency to store, process, maintain, and sell seized cars.

On March 31, the House Regulatory Reform Committee signed off on Cleveland’s bill, sending it to the Finance Committee for consideration.

April 1, Rep. David Lewis’ campaign received a $5,000 contribution from Rickie Day, president of Martin Edwards & Associates. 

April 2, Lewis, who chairs the Rules Committee in the House, got Cleveland's bill referred to his committee, where it promptly died. That's about as clear a case of quid pro quo as we've ever seen: put the money right here, and then I take care of your little problem.

But Cleveland, chairman of the General Government budget subcommittee, didn't give up. He inserted language from the bill into the state budget. The language would transfer oversight of the seized vehicle program from private contractors to the Department of Administration, which runs the Surplus Property Agency. The General Assembly approved the budget, with Cleveland's language intact, on Sept. 18.

You'd think that would end it, but Rickie Day was going to get his $5,000 worth out of Lewis:
Less than two weeks later, behind closed doors and with no public discussion, Lewis, who is a top lieutenant of House Speaker Tim Moore, inserted a provision into a technical corrections bill deleting the budget language that allowed the state agency to provide the services.
Confronted with these facts by the N&O, Lewis was defiant and even did some political strutting: “Throw me in the briar patch,” he said. “Accuse me of trying to fight for my folks. I’m OK with that.”

What else are we to think but this: when David Lewis gets bought, he stays bought. That should go on his resume.

Read more here:

Sunday, November 15, 2015

More McCrony Pay-to-Play: You Give 'im the Bucks, You Get the Action!

Seems to be a definite pattern with this governor.

If Graeme Keith Sr. and now the Shelton Winery bros. can get such direct, quick action out of Squishy, squeezing him like a K-Mart sponge, what else have the big political sugar daddies been getting from McCrory that we don't yet know about? Inquiring minds want to know.

McCrory obviously knows from his days as Duke Energy's mayor in Charlotte that his main job is keeping the big boys happy.

Is "toady" still a word?

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Friday, November 13, 2015

Speaker Tim Moore: Big Spender, But Not So Good At Reporting It

Following up on this post RE Speaker of the North Carolina House Tim Moore's amended campaign finance reports, WBTV investigative reporter Nick Ochsner is on the hunt:
We caught up with Moore on his way into a Cleveland County Board of Commissioners meeting [Moore is also the highly paid legal counsel for the Cleveland Co. commissioners]....
At first, Moore claimed to not be aware of the discrepancies found on his campaign’s finance reports.
“We have always filed everything with the reports as they are due, so I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Moore said.
But as the conversation continued, Moore said a reporter was wrong for saying his campaign had reported years of un-itemized credit card expenses and asking how his failure to itemize credit card expenditures was any different from the un-itemized credit card expenditures that prompted the board of elections’ investigation into Fletcher Hartsell.
“I disagree with your assessment entirely,” Moore said. “Everything on my campaign finance reports are documented fully. That’s a very unfair question and statement you just made.”
When a reporter pointed out to Moore that his campaign had recently amended five years of finance reports, he disputed that.
“You are wrong. I mean, my campaign records have been filed the same way over the years. I just had an audit from the state board of elections—a random audit they do every year—that said everything we’ve done has been fine.”
Moore ended the conversation without acknowledging the amended finance reports his campaign had recently filed as a result of the state board of elections’ audit.
Some of what those amended reports show ... Speaker Moore is a big-time dispenser of steak dinners for unidentified BFFs:
The detailed credit card charges filed with the amended versions of Moore’s campaign finance reports show the Speaker spent more than $7,000 at steakhouses between the fourth quarter of 2010 and the first half of 2015....
For instance, Moore racked up nearly $500 in receipts during the first week of November 2014. On November 4 he charged $216.18 at Sullivan’s steakhouse in Raleigh. Two nights later, on November 6, he charged $246.19 at Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse in Cary.
A week later, on November 12, the Speaker charged $936.33 at Vinnie’s Steak House in Raleigh.
Moore’s detailed credit card statements and campaign finance reports include more than a half-dozen dinners at Vinnie’s steakhouse.
One dinner, listed as just ‘meals’ on the campaign finance report, charged on February 23, 2015 cost $1,429.84. It is not clear who Moore was eating with or why the meal cost so much.
When asked about the expenses, though, Moore defended the charges that, until recently, had gone un-reported.
“We’ve always been very responsible in the way campaign money is spent,” Moore said.
“If there were meals, that’s where I’m taking out a large group of folks who may come up and visit or other legislators,” Moore explained.
Ah yes! Those blessed Republicans and their red meat!

King of Spades Unhappy With His Own Jokers

Republican leaders of the North Carolina General Assembly chose the current members of the University of North Carolina Board of Governors (BOG) -- picked every last one of them -- and now the King of the General Assembly, Phil Berger, is demanding their secrets in a public records request.

Secrets? Yes, indeedy. At their October 30 meeting, the BOG raised the salaries substantially of 12 university chancellors, and did it in a closed meeting, which appears to violate the open meetings law.

According to the News&Observer, Andrew Tripp, general counsel to Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger, wrote to UNC attorney Tom Shanahan on the same day as the BOG meeting (on behalf of both Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore) demanding all paper and/or audio evidence: “This request includes but is not limited to i) the audio recording made of both the open and closed portions of today’s meeting and ii) any agendas and minutes produced pursuant to G.S. 143-318.10, including draft and final versions, for both the open and closed portions of today’s meeting.”

Well, you appointed 'em, so I guess you can order 'em around like the flunkies they are.

BOG "leaders" (and it's unclear who that includes), along with lawyer Shanahan, have also been ordered to appear before the Joint Legislative Commission on Governmental Operations, which Berger and Moore jointly chair, next week -- presumably for a dressing down. From the N&O report, it sounds as though the BOG's violation of the open meetings law will be a major topic -- not so much that the press and the public were shut out but that Berger and Moore were kept in the dark.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Republicans in NC House Try To Shut Down Investigative Reporter

Pretty much simultaneously, apparently, in October the state Board of Elections (SBOE) conducted a "random audit" of NC House Speaker Tim Moore's campaign finance reports while WBTV investigative reporter was also poking around into the campaign reports of all the Charlotte-area members of the NC General Assembly.

Bottomline: the SBOE audit found that Moore had failed to itemize tens-of-thousands of dollars in payments his campaign made with a credit card from 2007 to 2015, a requirement in campaign finance law that was enacted in 2006 (went into effect on Jan. 1, 2007). Tim Moore was both a listed sponsor of that bill in 2006 and voted for it at every reading, including on final passage. Yet he has been in constant and consistent violation of it.

The Tim Moore campaign busily set about amending the reports covering 2005-2015, with the WBTV investigative reporter hot on the story.

That reporter's name: Nick Ochsner. The emergence of Ochsner's name as the target of state GOP Executive Director Dallas Woodhouse's poison pen (illiterate as that pen happens to be) has now become the story.

Seems that Ochsner, while working in Raleigh and before he joined the team at WBTV, was approached by the Tim Moore people with a job offer: Would Ochsner consider becoming Moore's communications director? Ochsner said of course he might be interested but that he was also trying to relocate to Charlotte, where his wife was working. That ended the job feeler.

Ochsner subsequently landed the job at WBTV, and now he's broadcasting news about Tim Moore's failings at following NC campaign finance law, and Dallas Woodhouse, the new and thuggish Executive Director of the NC GOP, doesn't like it one little bit. Woodhouse wrote Ochsner's boss at WBTV that Moore's interest in hiring Ochsner should disqualify him from reporting on issues related to the North Carolina General Assembly. Seriously.

"It seems to me this is an extreme conflict of interest," wrote Woodhouse, "that should prevent the reporter from covering the man whose office recently rejected him for employment."

"Rejected him for employment"? That's a deliberate misrepresentation of the facts intended to taint Ochsner's motives. But it got worse, and much more ungrammatical:

"Are you aware that just a few months ago he applied to be the house speakers official spokesman? [Not true. He didn't apply. He was recruited.] He was actually interviewed for the position over the telephone he was not offered the job. should you want to see a documented paper trail on this issue I am able to provide one."

WBTV was not impressed by either Woodhouse's attempt at bullying or his writing ability: "Being approached about a job and having a phone call with an interested potential employer is not a conflict of interest. Nick's reporting has been fair and based on facts. I welcome all scrutiny of the facts of the story."

The attempt to silence Ochsner did not stop thereRepresentative Charles Jeter (R-Mecklenburg), who is the House Republican Conference Chair, emailed all Republican representatives instructing them not to talk with Ochsner: "I wanted to follow up on the Speaker's note from the weekend. If Nick Ochsner the reporter contacts you I urge you to not take his calls." Jeter then repeated the conflict of interest claim concocted by Woodhouse.

And so it goes.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close: The 4th Republican Presidential Debate

9:10 p.m.
Trump, Carson, and Rubio are hitting the first question outta the Republican ballpark: Should we raise the minimum wage? No, they say, but in this ballpark, it's a display of pure charity. Trump actually allowed as how wages are "too high" now and that "people have to go out, they have to work really hard and have to get into that upper stratum." I'm doing you a favor to keep you at $7.25 an hour. (Or you could borrow a million dollars from your daddy!)
Carson, always ready with a line that can be demonstrably disproven: "Every time we raise the minimum wage, the number of jobless people increases." Fact checkers, go! (And, indeed, that statement isn't true.)
Rubio danced. My parents made minimum wage, and look at me. Ain't I purty?
9:20 p.m.
Bush would repeal every law that Obama even breathed on during the last seven years. Internet. Clean Power. Water. Repeal 'em all. Bush is Mr. Strong Man this evening!
9:23 p.m.
Someone pushed "play" on the Fiorina machine! When she starts, she doesn't stop. Most rehearsed candidate by far, except for Cruz, who has his zingers queued up and ready to go.
9:26 p.m.
Rand Paul: "I think that we ought to look where income inequality seems to be the worst. It seems to be worst in cities run by Democrats, governors of... [APPLAUSE]. States run by Democrats and countries currently run by Democrats." Well, now. North Carolina is completely run by Republicans, and how do we stack up? Higher unemployment, a new tax system that favors the rich.... How about Kansas, that model of Republican management?
9:38 p.m.
Scuffle has broken out over immigration. Kasich starts a fight with Trump after Trump reaffirms that he's going to ship 5 million people out of the country. Kasich says, "Come on, people. It's a silly argument." Trump disses Ohio. Kasich defends Ohio's honor. Trump: I'm rich. I don't have to talk to Kasich. Boos.
9:42 p.m.
Cruz is ready with one of his rehearsed lines: "If Republicans join Democrats as the party of amnesty, we will lose." Then, because attacking the media got him the biggest applause in the last debate, Cruz goes after the press in a clever way: "I will say the politics of immigration will be very, very different if a bunch of lawyers or bankers were crossing the Rio Grande. Or if a bunch of people with journalism degrees were coming over and driving down the wages in the press." Best line of the night.
9:45 p.m.
Fiorina: "We need free-market health care!" The mind develops an instant absess.
10:00 p.m.
The Cruz polish gets a scuff mark: He sez he would cut five agencies: IRS, Commerce, Energy, Commerce, and HUD. Paging Rick Perry!
10:05 p.m.
Paul and Rubio in a fight over Rubio's child tax credit proposal, which Paul calls an entitlement and which therefore means Rubio is not a conservative. Rubio: Family values, family, fam'bly! Rubio fights back, implying Paul is a big wimp because he doesn't want to pour more money into the military. Everybody else begins to pipe up like hungry sea gulls that they want a big military too, goddamn it! Fiorina is positively gonna stomp all over this globe with her armed forces!
10:11 p.m.
Trump says the TPP trade deal is the worst trade deal in the history of trade deals because it advantages China, which is burying us. Paul calmly zings back: China isn't a part of the TPP deal. Trump falls silent.
10:18 p.m.
Carson's plan for ISIS: We have to make them "look like losers." We do that by taking their oil fields and then destroying them. "We could do this, I believe, fairly easily." Carson says he learned that from "several generals." Come on, folks! ISIS is just like 8th grade nerds. Take their lunch money, pants them, and shove 'em in a locker!
10:28 p.m.
Fiorina says she's met Putin not in a green room, like Trump, but in a private meeting. Fiorina is like the president of the most exclusive sorority on campus, putting a rival sorority in its place. "There's that Vladimir Putin. Let's not talk to him!"
10:31 p.m.
Trump comes mighty close to saying STFU to Fiorina. "Why do you keep interrupting everyone? Terrible!"
10:37 p.m.
Kasich, who's barged into other candidates' statements several times and is the real interrupter, is now whining about not getting enough time in this debate.

10:57 p.m.
Fiorina sez for at least the third time: "We have got to take our country back." But did anybody keep the receipt?
Donald Trump said that no debate should go more than two hours, so we break away now to watch Trevor Noah.