Thursday, August 31, 2023

Oppo Research Coming for Democrats


For hardcore politicos, the ones especially with a disturbingly microscopic interest in North Carolina politics, Marshall Terry's interview with Bryan Anderson about the skill and practice of "opposition research" is a really informative read. It was done for WFAE, Charlotte's NPR radio station. Anderson previously wrote a piece for The Assembly, "Oppo Man," about Charles Hellwig, a self-described "right wing nut" who wants the most conservative person to win any race he signs on to help. Hellwig was the operative who exposed Cal Cunningham's sexual adventures before the 2020 election. He's very proud of it.

So WFAE interviewer Anderson got Hellwig to spill beans on who Hellwig is currently assisting, or planning to assist, through the 2024 elections:

Erin Pare

*Erin Paré, Republican House member from Wake County (Dist. 37), the last surviving Republican to represent any Wake County district in either House or Senate. She beat Democrat Sydney Batch in 2020 and held on to the seat in 2022 by a healthy 3 points. According to press accounts, she was very active on shaping the new anti-abortion laws and was one of the "moderate" Republican women who kept the ban to 12 weeks rather than 6. She has just announced her candidacy for the U.S. Congress, for CD13, the seat currently occupied by Wiley Nickel. She came out of the gate sounding very much like the darling of a right-wing nut: "I won’t stand by while radical liberals ruin our economy, allow crime to run rampant on our streets, and indoctrinate our children. I have stood up to the woke mob here in NC and I’ll do the same in Washington! Join us - let's stop the radical Left!" So now Charles Hellwig will be digging into Wiley Nickel like a mealworm.

*Jon Hardister, who's giving up his House seat (Dist. 59) (and a powerful role as chief Republican whip) to run in 2024 for labor commissioner. He's considered a dishonest snake for being the prime operative in the budget veto override ambush pulled off by Speaker Tim Moore early on the morning of September 11, 2019. The Democrat so far in the race for Labor Commissioner: Braxton Winston II, a Charlotte city councilman. He'll no doubt present a colorful target for Hellwig's oppo research.

*Fred Von Canon, a veteran also-ran who's now signing on for a Congressional race in CD1. He ran twice unsuccessfully against Terence Everitt for the District 35 House seat. Before Von Canon can face incumbent Democrat Donald Davis in November, he must get through a possibly nasty primary with Sandy Smith, a Republican businesswoman from eastern North Carolina. She's the MAGA flamethrower who has lost a CD1 race twice in 2020 and 2022. You might expect a man like Hellwig to gravitate to the much more conservative Smith, but the other part of his druthers in a Republican candidate -- the most conservative -- is the kicker, "who can conceiveably win." Hellwig apparently doesn't think Sandy Smith can beat Don Davis.


Wednesday, August 30, 2023

Anita Earls Fights Back Against the Authoritarians


We have questions -- several unaswered questions -- about the news that WUNC broke yesterday afternoon about NC Supreme Court Justice Anita Earls ... that she is being investigated by the Judicial Standards Commission for comments she made to a legal news publication (what? where's a link?) that North Carolina's court system has a "poor track record on diversity and inclusion efforts." According to WUNC, she pointed out "a lack of diversity among judicial clerks and criticized the Supreme Court’s recent decision to disband its Commission on Fairness and Equity."

The Republicans on the Judicial Standards Commission, led by Court of Appeals judges Chris Dillon and Jeff Carpenter, have decided to be deeply offended by Earls' wholly accurate observations and have suggested that such comments by Earls is an unacceptable breach of judicial restraint. Dillon and Carpenter are looking into whether Earls violated confidentiality rules by making public comments "about matters before the court." They also question whether she violated a code of conduct that requires judges to promote "public confidence" in the integrity of the courts.

Apparently, the circus monkeys got on Earls' last nerve, for she has sued the commission to stop harassing her. "Her attorneys wrote that the commission is misinterpreting the code of conduct in an attempt to silence her." “The Commission’s actions in instituting the investigation indicate that it believes that ‘promot[ing] public confidence in the impartiality of the judiciary,’ is best accomplished by threatening judges who speak out about what they view as imperfections or defects in the judicial system and who do so in a measured and nuanced manner,” the lawsuit said. “Nothing could be more inimical to the First Amendment.”

Monday, August 28, 2023

A Resignation at the NC Supreme Court


Democratic NC Supreme Court Justice Michael Morgan has announced that he will be resigning from his seat the first week of September, which will allow Governor Roy Cooper to appoint a Democratic replacement to serve out the rest of Morgan's term and be better positioned to run for reelection in 2024.

"Morgan, a North Carolina native who spent most of his childhood in New Bern, has served for more than three decades in the state’s judicial branch. He was an administrative law judge, a Wake County District Court judge and a Superior Court judge before joining the state Supreme Court in 2016." (NandO)

Morgan has suggested that he may be interested in running for governor in 2024, which would force a primary with Attorney General Josh Stein, who is the only Democratic announced candidate at the moment.

Sunday, August 27, 2023

The Darris Moody Case: The Final Resolution


Darris Moody

We followed the strange tale of the Waynesville woman, Darris Moody, whose imagination got ignited by an anti-government website, the People's Bureau of Investigation, which induced Moody to begin sending legal-looking but bogus arrest warrants and threatening letters to a host of North Carolina officials. including judges. She was arrested in September of 2022.

That case has been resolved in federal court. Darris Moody will serve two years in prison, but the man who put her up to it, one Timothy Dever who lives in Illinois, was sentenced to 10 years.

U.S. Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina Dena J. King, who prosecuted the cases, said, “Dever’s anti-government rhetoric and fake arrest writs were more than a nuisance. They put hundreds of lives at risk. Those who shared Dever’s warped ideology, including Moody, became self-proclaimed bounty hunters that turned innocent victims into targets of harassment, intimidation, and death threats. But, unlike Dever and Moody’s sham court proceedings, my office has legitimate authority to hold these defendants accountable for their actions.”

Saturday, August 26, 2023

Are You Ready for a Little Litigation?


Marc Elias, the principal behind the Elias Law Group, has said that he will challenge parts of S747, the omnibus voting bill just passed (and just vetoed by Gov. Cooper) -- if and when the Republicans in the General Assembly override the veto. We've been complaining about that bill's hidden impacts on young voters, among other negative effects, so it's reassuring to have the help of the Elias Law Group, which has an impressive track record challenging other Republican voter suppression laws in other states. They don't tend to lose.

President Biden essentially fired the Elias Group as the in-house legal counsel to the Democratic National Committee, which Elias has represented since 2009. Biden took the advice of another lawyer, Bob Bauer (married to senior Biden aide Anita Dunn) because Bauer thought Elias is too aggressive. The Elias legal philosophy regarding the safeguarding of voter rights is this: "Democrats should be fighting on every possible front — filing a flurry of lawsuits and exerting public pressure through the media." Sounds good to me. Sick of nervous Democrats who always fret about what might happen if they take a stand that the Republicans don't like. Take a stand, damn it!

A very thorough unpacking of all the sections of S747 appeared on The Democracy Docket. Well worth reading. 

Thursday, August 24, 2023

What's Happening to Voting Under the Republican General Assembly


Recall for this exercise two Republican operatives in North Carolina, Jim Womack and Cleta Mitchell.

An investigative piece of journalism about the "North Carolina Election Integrity Team" (NCEIT), involving largely Jim Womack and Cleta Mitchell, appeared in The Assembly back in October last fall. It painted a picture of a kind of Republican voting gestapo of "observers" who have based all their hoped-for observations on the fantasy of widespread voter fraud. The leader of the election integrity team (NCEIT) is one Jim Womack, the GOP chair of Lee County, a former county commissioner, and a follower of Cleta Mitchell, who is herself notorious as the Trump lawyer who sat in on the call to Georgia that demanded the SecState "find" a few more thousand votes. Mitchell now lives in NC and is happy to pitch in on the project of delegitimizing democracy altogether.

According to new reporting by Randy Jacobs for WUNC, these "election integrity" gnomes have been quite active advising the General Assembly on the new Republican mega-bill changing many voting procedures, S747. Here's the flat statement of their influence: "Womack and Mitchell met with top Republican lawmakers at the state legislature as they worked on their most recent omnibus elections bill."

What they got for their trouble are all nibbles around the margins of ballot-access to pick off the young and the feckless (who are always late for whatever, it seems, but who still have a constitutional right to their vote):

Elimination of a three-day grace period for counting mail-in ballots postmarked by Election Day, a compromise law originally worked out between both parties back in 2009 -- now defunct.

Greater latitude granted to partisan poll observers, very much at the top of Womack and Mitchell's wish list. After this year, in some precincts where they don't like the voters, there'll be a greater likelihood of pushy observers trying to intimidate the ignorant.

Here is an important Subsection regarding same-day voters did not make it into Jacobs' article: Same-day registrants must have their addresses confirmed via mail immediately following their vote:

“Notwithstanding any other provision of this Chapter, if the Postal Service returns the first notice required under G.S. 163-82.7(c) as undeliverable before the close of business on the business day before canvass, the county board shall not register the applicant and shall retrieve the applicant's ballot and remove that ballot's votes from the official count.”

What that means. "Same-day" registration and voting generally involves the young and the feckless (often uninformed as election laws have changed several times in recent years: "Where do I go? What do I need?"). They go into an Early Voting site to "same-day register and vote," and they are not asked to fill out a paper form. They are asked to speak their name, address, phone number, and other stats to a poll worker, who enters it into the computer. Any typo can render that voter unreachable by mail -- it happens a lot where there are many same-day registrants, often on college campuses -- and correct addresses are obviously newly crucial in S747, because the new law (above) specifies that a single mailing will be sent to the same-day registrant after the election, and if that mailing is returned for any reason, then that voter is removed from the rolls and their paper vote retrieved and destroyed.

In a county like Watauga, that could involve up to hundreds of people who will be disenfranchised due to no error of their own. And the new law doesn't even require they be notified.

S747 has been passed by both houses and awaits either Cooper's signature or his veto. We know it ought to be a veto.

The governor has indeed vetoed this bill.

Friday, August 18, 2023

Sidney Powell and the 'Coffee County Breach'

Sidney Powell graduated from Broughton High in Raleigh in 1973 as some kind of whiz-kid brainiac. She became famous later, after getting that law degree at UNC, for taking on high-profile clients with high-profile negative energy. She represented company executives in the Enron scandal and got more famous marching like a parade float into court with her client General Michael Flynn. She came off as formidable, almost majestic. Plus that voice of hers implied an implacable force. 

When you got to know her a little better, however, Sidney Powell seemed nutty.

She plays a prominent role in the latest Fulton County indictment, mainly involving what became known as the "Coffee County Breach," one part of Powell's apparent portfolia of snooping done for Trump in at least three states including Georgia, that involved hiring a computer forensics firm, Atlanta-based SullivanStrickler, to go in and take where possible (steal) elections data in order to prove ... fraud?

Powell signed the contract with SullivanStrickler on December 6th, 2020. A month later, SullivanStrickler had successfully (and illegally) taken "ballot images, voting equipment software, and personal voter information" from Coffee County machines and uploaded it to a SullivanStrickler server where it was further accessed and shared by persons known and unknown -- many people with connections to the Trump campaign.

It's unclear to me what specifically they were fishing for, but it's perfectly clear that they never found anything useful, or we would surely know by now.

So why Coffee County? Dunno. It's hardly urban and certainly not strategic for Trump's turning his fortunes around in the state of Georgia. Coffee County was already indisputably "Trump Country," with an elections supervisor already predisposed to be helpful. Which is probably why Coffee County elections supervisor Misty Hampton was indicted, along with Sidney Powell and a few others who invaded the elections office in tiny Douglas, Ga., and pulled off a heist.

How did Misty Hampton become so helpful to Sidney Powell's agents from SullivanStrickler? On January 7th -- curiously, the day after the January 6th insurrection in DeeCee -- a delegation of Trump operatives showed up at Misty Hampton's office, and she allowed them not only into her office but into the computers that held all the files. The resulting theft went on for days after that, even weeks, as SullivanStrickler agents hung around and returned again and again -- all detailed in the indictment.

Video surveillance of Coffee Co. elections office
on January 7, 2021. Cathleen Latham is center, facing camera, 
with white hair; Scott Hall is to her right in the dark blue jacket;
Misty Hampton is to Latham's left in the blue T-shirt.
SullivanStrickler operatives are unnamed

Coffee County Republican Party Chair Cathleen Latham -- a well known personality to Misty Hampton -- fronted the January 7th delegation and took the lead with introducing the SullivanStrickler agents to the office (for this and other overt acts, Latham was also indicted). 

Also present in the January 7th delegation was an interesting character named Scott Hall, a local bail bondsman who also seems to have doubled as a kind of freelance P.I. and bagman for the local Republican Party. Hall, according to the indictment, was hot to get in on the action. He volunteered his services to SullivanStrickler -- via Cathleen Latham. The indictment says that Hall escorted SullivanStrickler "engineer" Alex Cruce on a flight from Atlanta to the local Coffee County airport and got him to the courthouse, where they were soon joined by a whole team of SullivanStrickler operatives, identified in the indictment only as "unindicted co-conspirator" individuals 25, 26, 27, 28, and 29, whose identities have been sussed out by various reporters. The following is according to the Washington Post:

25, Doug Logan, somewhat famous as the CEO of Cyber Ninjas, the conspiracy hounds hired in Arizona for the feverish and fruitless search for any evidence of fraud;

26, Todd Sanders, who had been a Sidney Powell data miner already in Michigan and Nevada;

27, Conan Hayes, who was also active for Powell in other states, primarily Colorado, where three officials in Mesa County have been indicted after allegedly allowing Hayes into their offices to copy sensitive data in May 2021;

28, Jim Penrose, a cybersecurity consultant from Laurel, Md., who spent much of his career as a spook at the National Security Agency (according to his résumé obtained by the WashPost). After the 2020 election, Penrose spent Thanksgiving with numerous Trump allies at the South Carolina estate of attorney L. Lin Wood Jr.

29, Jeffrey Lenberg, 67, of Tijeras, N.M., a former employee at a laboratory operated for the National Nuclear Security Administration. "On a podcast called Conservative Daily, Lenberg said in September that he and Doug Logan directed elections supervisor Misty Hampton to carry out tasks on the elections equipment and “didn’t touch” it themselves.

Misty Hampton, Cathleen Latham, and Scott Hall are together named in the indictment for six individual acts to further the conspiracy (and isn't it obvious that the un-indicted individuals 25-29 are probably cooperating with the prosecutor?):

1. "Tampering with electronic ballot markers and tabulating machines."

2. Unlawful possession of ballots.

3. Computer theft.

4. Computer trespass: "Using a computer with knowledge that such use was without authority and with the intention of removing voter data and Dominion Voting Systems data."

5. Computer invasion of privacy.

6. Conspiracy to defraud the state.

So when you get right down to it, the Coffee County Breach looks a little wacko, not to mention useless for all the good it delivered (not) to Sidney Powell and her boss. One of the strangest episodes of the conspiracy, with plenty of local damage done.

Thursday, August 17, 2023

The Cruelty of the NCGOP


Rojas and Betts, in NYTimes today:

North Carolina became the latest state to block minors from having access to gender-transition care, as Republican lawmakers voted on Wednesday to override the governor’s veto of a bill restricting hormone treatments, puberty blockers and surgeries for young people.

The move came as the State Legislature’s Republican supermajorities marshaled the votes to topple several other of Gov. Roy Cooper’s vetoes, reviving legislation that limits female transgender students’ participation in school sports and restricts what can be taught in schools about gender and sexual orientation.

North Carolina now joins about 20 other states that have enacted legislation blocking access to transition-related care for minors, with many of those laws passed this year as conservative lawmakers across the country have seized upon L.G.T.B.Q. issues....

[Transgender advocates] have contended that denying access to this kind of care can be dangerous and detrimental to transgender youths, who have high rates of anxiety, depression and suicide attempts, and whose mental health could improve with gender-affirming care, some research has shown.

“You can say that this is not anti-L.G.B.T.Q., but it is,” Senator Lisa Grafstein, a Democrat, told other lawmakers during the debate on Wednesday. “What we’re doing here will hurt people.” ...

Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, has assailed Republicans for getting swept up in what he described as “political culture wars,” devoting their attention to targeting a small and marginalized group of young people instead of attending to more pressing issues confronting the state.

Special Shoutout to Tricia Cotham for joining and enabling this legislative menace.

Wednesday, August 16, 2023

Will Berger/Moore Slip Vegas-Style Gambling Into the State Budget?


Although (as previously discussed) a bill to legalize Vegas-style gambling casinos in North Carolina has been drafted, it's never been introduced. There is strong speculation that Berger/Moore may slip the expansion of commercial gambling into the budget bill:

Not introducing the bill to expand legalized casino gambling in the state as a stand-alone bill would result in no committee meetings where the public can comment on the issue and no separate vote. Legislators would have the choice of voting for the budget that included expanding legalized casino gambling in the state or voting against the entire budget that includes raises for state employees, including teachers and everything else in the $30 billion budget. (John Hammer)

Sounds like a Phil Berger kind of plan: Get the deed done without too much hassle from the public, which polling has shown is not enthusiastic, at least not in Rockingham, Anson, and Nash counties, where new casinos have been proposed. (The draft bill doesn’t list those counties by name. Instead, it spells out criteria for eligibility -- lying east of Interstate 77, being a border county or one traversed by Interstate 95, having a population of less than 100,000 people, and being one of the 40 most economically depressed counties in the state -- which kind of narrows it down. But House Speaker Tim Moore made it explicit in July, telling reporters that new casinos would be in Anson, Nash and Rockingham counties.)

Nash County citizens are getting nervous too. The chair of the Nash County Commish told local lawmakers that there needed to be a local referendum. "[A] controversial item like this, the people have to be involved," he said.

A public referendum -- and all the organizing that would go with it, the yard signs, the newspaper editorials -- is exactly what Berger/Moore don't want. Devoutly don't want, because a referendum would be such a ... gamble.

Read the Fulton County Indictment


The indictment text is posted all over the InnerWebs. Here's the link I used:

Photo Al Drago, NYTimes

Here is background information on all 19 named defendants:

Count 1 of the indictment (Violation of the Georgia RICO Act) details 161 overt acts in furtherance of the conspiracy, the last such act occurring less than a year ago, on September 15, 2022, when Georgia-based Trump lawyer Robert Cheeley allegedly perjured himself about his involvement in the Georgia fake electors scheme.

Former NC Congressman and Trump Chief of Staff Mark Meadows is among the 19 indicted co-conspirators, and is a named participant in a number of the overt acts:

...Mr. Meadows acknowledged that he had attended a meeting at the White House on Dec. 21, 2020, with Mr. Trump, members of Congress and others to discuss allegations of voter fraud in the state. The next day, Mr. Meadows made a surprise visit to Cobb County, Ga., in an attempt to observe an election audit that was in progress. He was told by local officials that he was not authorized to be in the room.

Mr. Meadows also spoke with Frances Watson, the chief investigator for Brad Raffensperger, the Georgia secretary of state, who was conducting an inquiry into ballot signatures in Cobb County. A day later, Mr. Trump phoned Ms. Watson himself, and told her that “when the right answer comes out, you’ll be praised.”

Prosecutors have said that a special grand jury that investigated the matter had evidence showing that Mr. Meadows had set up another notable call: the recorded conversation on Jan. 2, 2021, in which Mr. Trump can be heard telling Mr. Raffensperger that he wanted to “find 11,780 votes” that would allow him to win in Georgia.

In a material witness certificate seeking Mr. Meadows’s testimony, Judge Robert C.I. McBurney of the Fulton County Superior Court noted that Mr. Meadows also “actively participated in and spoke” during the call.... (Anna Betts, in the NYTimes)

 Poor Mark! He had to have thought that he was hitching himself to a shooting star when he resigned his safe 11th CD seat and took the job as Trump's chief of staff.

Tuesday, August 15, 2023

Citizen Uprising Against Berger's New Gambling Casinos


It just got exposed at the end of July that NC Senate boss Phil Berger (and other legislators) had received generous contributions from gambling casino developers who want four new casinos in North Carolina. No friggin' surprize that a bill to legalize them has been drafted and is moving in the General Assembly, with Senate boss Berger one of its biggest supporters. Also no friggin' surprise that one of those new casinos is planned for Berger's home county of Rockingham, and the designated site is up for a rezoning with the Rockingham County Commish on August 21. One of Berger's other sons sits on the commish.

What Phil wants, Phil gets.

But there appears to be an uprising of citizens united against the casino. Recently, the town council of Stokesdale, which sits just across the county line in Guilford but is only about six miles from the proposed 192-acre casino, passed a resolution against the project at its August 10th meeting. The resolution cites Earl Grinols and David Mustard’s “Casinos, Crime, and Community Costs,”which presents bushels of hard numbers, evidence that an average county of a population of 100,000 people can expect significant increases in major crimes where casino and gaming operations are present. Candidate for governor Mark Walker showed up to speak against the Casino, and the chair of the town council said that such a major change in state law had been moving behind closed doors and "outside of the public eye," a fact he found extraordinary and disturbing.

The little town of Summerfield, also close by in Guilford, also pushed back against what Berger wants, passing a resolution in favor of Rockingham County residents having the right to vote on the issue in a referendum. The commish in Rockingham could allow that, but they won't. Because of Berger family muscle.

For the past month, Summerfield residents have organized and communicated closely with Rockingham residents about what a casino could mean for the town of about 11,000, roughly 8.5 miles north of the 192-acre plot of land that a major national casino developer seeks to build upon.

Meanwhile, in Madison, NC, the closest town in actual Rockingham County, the town council has been lobbied by a local cheerleader for casinos but has otherwise taken no action. The man who spoke up for casinos is "a lifelong Madison resident with five homes and 55 acres of land near the US 220 plot at issue." His self-described expertise (not making this up) came directly from business trips at casino hotels in Reno, Las Vegas, and Atlantic City. He poo-poohed the fear of organized prostitution, claiming that prostitution "is thriving here already because of young women hooked on crack, meth and heroin....’’ The empathy of the business traveler!

Sam Page

So far no Rockingham municipality has passed any resolution implying doubt or criticism of Berger's pet project. Are they afraid to?

Here's what may blow up more public opposition. Longtime Rockingham County Sheriff Sam Page (some 25 years on the job) attended the Summerfield Town Council meeting that passed the resolution, "spoke loudly and clearly" --- "in no uncertain terms" -- about the dangers of legalized gambling in a mainly rural county like Rockingham. "Page said that given the 'slippery slope' of gambling that the state is already on – the Education Lottery, a move toward legalizing sports betting and now the potential proliferation of casinos – he wonders what the state will look like in the future."

He attended the Summerfield town council meeting to lend his support to the call for a referendum -- let the people decide if they want this kind of economic development. Defy Phil Berger, probably no small thing for this fellow Republican sheriff. 

Sam Page, just incidentally, announced back in May that he will be running for lieutenant governor in the 2024 Republican primary, and I think he found an issue that will resonate in other rural counties.

Monday, August 14, 2023

When It Comes To Commercial Gambling in NC, It's Easy To Follow the Money


A kind of emotional dam broke back in the middle of July after a holding company connected to a casino developer petitioned the Rockingham County Commish to rezone nearly 200 acres in the southwestern corner of the county for a gambling casino. Things got real as local residents focused on what that would mean, and even though it's the most powerful man in Rockingham who wants this casino, citizen protest may be growing. 

It had already come out publicly that a bill to legalize commercial gambling in North Carolina had been written in secret and was being quietly circulated in Raleigh. Phil Berger, who represents Rockingham and is the Biggus Dickus of the NC Senate, had spoken glowingly for the economic prospects that would follow legalizing gambling, not only in Rockingham but in other rural counties to the tune of a total of four new proposed casinos.

But the thing about the Rockingham commish -- Berger's own son sits on that board and looks like a rubberstamp, and it's going to take concerted community organizing to overcome Bergerpower. It may be happening. Recently, gubernatorial candidate Mark Walker, who lives in Guilford Co., hosted a protest rally and some 500 people showed up. Beginning of a movement against Berger?

Travis Fain gathered up for WRAL other examples of rising pushback in Rockingham. A resident near the proposed site told the Rockingham planning board, “I think it’s supposed to be hush-hush what they’re putting in there, We don’t want it.” 

The parent casino company, Cordish of Baltimore, seems to have spun off a holding company subsidiary, NC Development, which lists its address with the NC Secretary of State as the same address for Cordish in Baltimore. NC Development is the paperwork force behind rezoning that Rockingham 192 acres. NC Development filed just last June with the Secretary of State as a limited liability company, with one Joseph Weinberg listed as president. Weinberg also happens to be head of the casino division at Cordish (which brags that it has 10 main lines of business) and a Cordish senior partner. Those guys have stonewalled reporter Fain, but he knows they've hired different powerful people as lobbyists, and the influence campaign reaches high into both Republican and Democratic aeries. The company registered Tom Fetzer, who is a former Raleigh mayor and former chairman of the North Carolina Republican Party; and his sister Susan Fetzer Vick; and Zachary Dean Almond;  and L.T. McCrimmon, who used to work in the Cooper admin; and Tony Copeland, who is Cooper’s former secretary of commerce; and Tracy Kimbrell, who was Senate Republican Leader Phil Berger’s general counsel at the statehouse a decade ago.

The power players stand to make money off legalized gambling, and it all seems based on "pay to play." In other words, fundamentally corrupt. Am I the only one who watched all four seasons of Ozark?

Sunday, August 13, 2023

Sure You're Depressed, But At Least You Ain't an Iowa Democrat


Iowa Democrats are at their lowest [psychological] point in decades. “It is so bad,” said Claire Celsi, a Democratic state senator from West Des Moines. “I can’t even describe to you how bad it is.”

--Huynh & Epstein

Since 2018, I've been occasionally focused (hard) on Iowa and the chances that Democrats can flip some important seats.

In 2018, ex-baseball player J.D. Scholten made national waves challenging toxic spill Steve King, who represented the 4th CD of Iowa. Scholten showed strength, too, in a heavily Republican-leaning district and came within 3.4% of actually overtaking King. Scholten tried again in 2020 (same results), but the Democratic star of 2020 turned out to be Theresa Greenfield, mounting a lively "country girl" campaign designed to undercut incumbent Joni Ernst's tough hog-wrangler image. Greenfield ended up with just over 45% of the vote (which is less than winning but more than losing big).

The article in the NYTimes referenced above sez that Iowa Democrats "are despondent, exhausted by repeated defeats and the loss of their first-in-the-nation nominating contest." It's one thing to lose a single race; it's something wholly other when the DNC decides you, Iowa, won't be the first-in-the-nation Democratic caucus any longer. That honor (and that party-organizing tool, with all its economic side benefits -- the pouring in of money and personnel) goes now to South Carolina. Democrats are down, depressed, in the Dumps where sad ghosts dwell. There are ripple effects: Democrats in the State Legislature -- a minority that has no power whatsoever -- began to eat their own.

The trajectory for the Democratic Party in Iowa mimics the recent path of the NC Democratic Party:

Iowa’s transition to a deep-red state has taken place with remarkable speed. Democrats controlled the State Senate as recently as 2016. In 2018, Democrats won three of the state’s four congressional seats and three of the six statewide offices. But after the party’s bungling of its 2020 presidential caucuses, President Donald J. Trump cruised to victory in Iowa that November.


The underfunded, little-known Democratic nominee for governor lost by 19 percentage points to Gov. Kim Reynolds, a Republican, and carried only four of the state’s 99 counties. Republicans took all four congressional seats for the first time in 50 years, enacted a gun rights amendment in the State Constitution, ousted two of the three Democrats in statewide office and took supermajority control of both chambers of the Legislature.

Gosh. Sounds familiar, like maybe we've been here before and didn't learn anything. Now, while Iowa Democrats are Sisyphusing a huge stone, trying to recruit viable candidates under a defeatist cloud, at least the Democrats of North Carolina have some new energy -- and a new strategy -- because of 25-year-old Anderson Clayton.

Saturday, August 12, 2023

'No Labels' On the NC Ballot in 2024? Have Democrats Been Out of Line?


Tomorrow, Sunday, in a special called meeting the State Board of Elections will make a decision regarding No Labels, the putative new political party that Pat McCrory is jointly leading, and whether it has navigated new and frankly unjustifiable questions about its purpose which Democrats on the SBOE have posed before they'll let No Labels on next year's ballot.

At its last meeting on July 6th, SBOE officials acknowledged that No Labels had submitted 14,797 verified signatures on a petition requesting ballot access, which according to law must be granted. That number of verified signatures is more than enough. Nevertheless (and here's where I have to agree with Pat McCrory that it's all political, and I'm not happy about it), the Democratic Chair of SBOE, Alan Hirsch, managed to delay approval for "more time to ask questions," the most important of which apparently runs "Who are you really, and who do you stand to hurt?" which is a solidly political consideration, appears to frustrate the law, and is therefore out of line.

I also fear what No Labels can do to enable Trump back into the White House, a place that man should never darken again, but pulling a stunt like delay to handicap a movement that has otherwise followed the law and met a demanding threshold -- that ain't a good look for Democrats. It's a lousy look and I rue the day:

As for who No Labels might field in 2024?

Well, that decision will not be made this year.

Republicans and Democrats alike have labelled No Labels a spoiler.

NC Newsline asked Catawba College political scientist Dr. Michael Bitzer this week about McCrory’s newfound attraction for a third party and their chances of making political history.

“The sense that I got was after the U.S. Senate nomination loss, he [McCrory] felt very much like a person without a political home,” said Bitzer.

And even as voters voice their objections about Democrats and Republicans or a rehash of 2020, there is a certain practicality as they get closer to casting their own ballot.

“In the end, people tend to be party loyalists and they tend to come home. And third parties tend to be the spoilers in American politics,” Bitzer explained. (Clayton Henkel, NCNewsline)


Thursday, August 10, 2023

Oh Dear Lord


“I believe God may be calling me to help the country during this important time. In calling our previous donors, I am finding overwhelming encouragement.” 

--Rev. Mark Harris

To recap: The Reverend ran successfully in 2018 for the 9th CD, beat the Republican incumbent Robert Pittenger in the primary and then beat Democrat Dan McCready in the general election, but had it all thrown out because of absentee ballot fraud allegedly perpetrated by a Mark Harris campaign hiree, McCrae Dowless (now deceased and never convicted). Harris was photographed sobbing as his son testified against him at the State Board of Elections hearing, after which a new election was ordered (the special election that Dan Bishop ended up winning).

That Rev. Mark Harris (who's currently a senior pastor at Trinity Baptist Church in Mooresville). He told Dallas Woodhouse at Carolina Journal that "God may be calling me," and I appreciate the modesty of the conditional "may be," but I've known a lot of Baptist preachers in my life and forbearance ain't generally in their skill-set. Besides, in the very next sentence, he brings up "previous donors" and their "overwhelming encouragement," and may be those potential dollars speak louder than any Still Small Voice. 

Plus there's always waaay too much stuff that needs saving to hold back the immodesty. So Harris tells Woodhouse that he may run for what is now the 8th CD, and I expect he will. That's the seat that the aforementioned Dan Bishop is giving up to run for our Attorney General. When the Republicans send their candidates, they don't always send their best.

Wednesday, August 09, 2023

New Republican in the Guv Race, Alludes to Mark Robinson as an 'Extremist'


AP reporting:

A retired health care executive has entered next year's race for North Carolina governor, with Jesse Thomas describing himself as a “no-nonsense Republican” who aims to attract a broad middle ground of voters.

Thomas, who led the Medicaid plan offered by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina to hundreds of thousands of consumers, announced his bid on a Greensboro-area podcast last week, when he also filed his candidate committee paperwork.

Recently involved in the North Carolina chapter of the Forward Party — founded by former presidential candidate Andrew Yang — Thomas joins an already crowded GOP gubernatorial field. Candidates include Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson, State Treasurer Dale Folwell, former U.S. Rep. Mark Walker and ex-state legislator Andy Wells.

“North Carolinians are ready for a Governor that will provide real results for our citizens, not one who opines to the Nonsense of the hour,” Thomas said in a news release.

Tuesday, August 08, 2023

The World Tomorrow, If We Don't Stop It


There can’t be any doubt what we’re in for.

--Gene Nichol


Gene Nichol is the liberal UNC law professor who gives the Republican General Assembly the dickens regularly on the op-ed pages of the News and Observer. Nichol is a hard puncher with a gift for clarity:


[The NCGOP's] most consistent goal is to slant the playing field in its favor, democracy be damned. You know the list — redistricting, voter suppression, ballot manipulation, legislative process tampering, impermissible power grabs and more. (Aug. 6)


More? Nichol lays out the full complaint against the Republican super-majority in Raleigh. Number One: "Our nearly all-white Republican legislative caucuses repeatedly burden and disadvantage Black Tar Heels. The case reports of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals prove it to be so. Lawmakers don’t like it mentioned, but it is what it is."


Women (especially the ones of childbearing age) and LGBTQ have been treated as second- and third-class citizens -- with abortion restrictions, gay marriage bans, licenses to discriminate, House Bill 2, and "the brutal targeting of transgender teens."


They target poor people -- abolishing the earned income tax credit, slashing the state’s unemployment compensation program, cutting SNAP benefits for poor kids, and dramatically reducing legal aid support. "Stepping on their necks is, apparently, the moral high ground." 


The decimating of public schools. Vouchers, charters, the incursion of corporate entities into education-for-profit -- tearing down public education. "They don’t admit it. They just do it. Day in, day out." For higher education, their loathing of liberal professors like Gene Nichol has spilled over on the state's flagship universities. A stacked Board of Governors with yes-men for Berger/Moore make life sometimes miserable for university chancellors who want to be independent.


That's the path the General Assembly has taken under a Republican majority. Gene Nichol lays it out, and it's a depressing fact, but voters can storm the helm and turn the ship. It's the only thing.

Monday, August 07, 2023

Defections -- As Well As Elections -- Have Consequences


Danielle Battaglia in the NandO last Wednesday:

Rep. Jeff Jackson said Wednesday morning he requested a campaign donation refund from N.C. Rep. Tricia Cotham after she “misrepresented herself” during the 2022 election. 

“I took her at her word,” Jackson said about why he donated to her campaign. “That turned out to be a mistake.” 

His campaign was among seven people or groups receiving refunds of their donations to Cotham’s campaign during the last six months.

Refunds totaling $8,500 (according to Cotham's mid-year finance report) have been returned to donors and are itemized by Battaglia. They range from a major California pro-women's rights fundraiser to an Elizabeth City school teacher and a Southport lawyer.

Sunday, August 06, 2023

Limits to Proselytizing for Jesus


Aurora Pro Services in Greensboro, offering HVAC, plumbing, electrical, and roofing services and repairs, has settled with two former employees who were punished and fired for refusing to attend company prayer sessions, and not just any kind of prayer sessions. Pretty aggressively evangelistic services (and if you've never attended one, believe me, it can get uncomfortable like prickly heat). One of the employees who sued had declared himself an atheist but was nevertheless asked point-blank to lead a group prayer. Saying "no," especially when Jehovah is involved, creates acid.

That plaintiff alleged that the religious meetings came to last 45 minutes and the other plaintiff said they were becoming "cult-like." 

The owner of Aurora Pro Services told [the 1st plaintiff] “he did not have to believe in God, and he did not have to like the prayer meetings, but he had to participate” before the worker refused to attend the meetings altogether and was fired over it in the fall of 2020.... (Julia Marnin)

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission sued the company on behalf of the fired employees, and the company avoided trial by paying out a settlement of $50,000 (mainly back wages), divided between the two employees (EEOC news release). 

Saturday, August 05, 2023

Tillis Tagged for Aiding and Abetting "Bidenomics"

In the hard-right precincts of the NCGOP, Sen. Thom Tillis continues to cement his new role of "moderate deal-maker" and hence his punching-bag status among Trumpists for his non-MAGA sins of omission and commission, most recently the accusation that Tillis was an enabler of "Bidenomics":

Had your fill of high inflation, high gas prices, high mortgage rates and other parts of Bidenomics? You can thank establishment liberal US Senator Thom Tillis (RINO-NC). (Beaufort Observer)

Tillis was one of 19 Republican senators who voted for the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act in August 2021, President Biden's plan to roughly double the funds spent over a decade on roads, bridges, the electric grid, and broadband. Tillis was also one of 17 Republican senators who helped advance the CHIPS Act in July 2022, which provides tax and other incentives to expand U.S. semiconductor production. Those two laws form a core of the economic boom now accelerating, a “middle-out” and “bottom-up” approach to the economy that has produced historic employment. Ole Joe is only too pleased to hear it called "Bidenomics."

And Tillis actually defended his votes to a Washington Examiner reporter, even if those votes inadvertently helped build the "Bidenomics reelection strategy." “I think people need to understand how a bill becomes a law,” Tillis said. “The only reason those bills became law is because Republicans supported them.”

Precisely! yell the hard-right. It remains to be seen whether Tillis's tightrope waltz leads to his downfall.

But Tillis doesn't seem to care, or at least he's lost his terror, because he's understood the statistics: It's now the Unaffiliateds -- independents -- who determine elections in North Carolina, or at least can determine elections if it's motivated.

Friday, August 04, 2023

Dan Bishop Wants To Be A.G. -- Good Lord!


The man who wrote, championed, and defended the notorious Bathroom Bill when he was an NC senator now wants to run our state's law enforcement. H.B. 2 was fairly quickly repealed, though not until major economic damage had been done to the state.

Now Bishop says he's giving up his 8th CD seat in Congress for the opportunity to frustrate even more progressive ideals. He made the announcement on live radio yesterday morning, on WBT's morning show, and immediately signaled that he intended to harass "liberals" in the cities, especially a certain mountain town with a hippy image:

“I think it’s a particular time to reinforce support for prosecutors and front line law enforcement officers,” Bishop said. “I think there’s an opportunity to use the influence of that office to restore law and order to our cities like Asheville, in particular, Charlotte, and some others.”

"Asheville, in particular."

You want a man of such titanic prejudices yoked to the power to persecute, right?

Dan Bishop, who's prominent in the Freedom Caucus, who has parroted Trump's lies and applauded Trump's abuse of power, who tortures House Speaker Kevin McCarthy for being too soft on Democrats .... that guy? That's the guy the Republicans want in charge of our laws?

At the moment, a novice Democrat, Fayetteville lawyer and ex-Marine Tim Dunn, is the only announced Democrat for A.G., the post that Josh Stein has held for two election cycles. Nobody's ever heard of Tim Dunn. That's no match for Dan Bishop's name recognition.

Thursday, August 03, 2023

Tim Scott's Record-Keeping


News about Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, running in the Republican primary for president:

Mr. Scott entered the 2024 race with a war chest of $22 million, and his campaign raised $5.8 million from April through June. In that same time, he laid out about $6.6 million, a significant clip — but most of it cannot be traced to an actual vendor.

Instead, roughly $5.3 million went to two shadowy entities: newly formed limited liability companies with no online presence and no record of other federal election work, whose addresses are Staples stores in suburban strip malls. Their minimal business records show they were set up by the same person in the months before Mr. Scott entered the race. [NYTimes]

 The appearance of corruption: the new Republican garb.

Wednesday, August 02, 2023

Read the Indictment


Whether you want to dispute or want to applaud the new indictment of Donald J. Trump, you should first read the indictment.

Basic intellectual decency requires at least that.


The entire 45 pages are stuffed with detail. Paragraph 65 lays out the election results in the seven states that Trump and his co-conspirators targeted (with fake slates of electors) to overthrow the election:

The legitimate electoral votes that Biden won in the states that the Defendant [Trump] targeted, and the Defendant's margin of defeat, were as follows:

Arizona (11 electoral votes; 10,457 votes)

Georgia (16 electoral votes; 11,779 votes)

Michigan (16 electoral votes; 154,188 votes)

Nevada (6 electoral votes; 33,596 votes)

New Mexico (5 electoral votes; 99,720 votes),

Pennsylvania (20 electoral votes; 80,555 votes) and

Wisconsin (10 electoral votes; 20,682 votes) 

Those votes add up to 410,977 people, whose right to vote and their right to have their votes counted were injured and threatened by a conspiracy entered into by Defendant, which led to Count 4 of this indictment.

The Intellectual Conditioning of Ray Pickett

Around 40 of North Carolina’s 170 lawmakers are members of ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council, an arm of corporate America which produces "model bills" touching on every aspect of American life in a way that usually directly benefits corporate ambitions (i.e., greed). The Center for Media and Democracy publishes "ALEC Exposed," a detailed listing of ALEC-written bills and the lengths to which it goes to influence state-level legislators. Among its goals are the elimination of regulations regarding corporate behavior, the cramping of voting rights (to keep "the right people" in power), and a new Constitutional Convention of the states to rewrite our basic governing document. ALEC claims to include “nearly one-quarter of the country’s state legislators and stakeholders.”

Ray Pickett

Not a lot of the North Carolina members of ALEC talk publicly about their involvement -- given the highly controversial nature of the org and the dark implications of unseen forces using idiots elected officials as their puppets -- but apparently Rep. Ray Pickett of the NC House (93rd Dist.), "a newer ALEC member who has attended two of its conferences," didn't get the keep-quiet memo, and he became the chief source behind a NandO investigative piece published on Sunday, "A Look Inside ALEC's Influence in NC."

Pickett is an enthusiastic acolyte to the corporate vision for America and was forthcoming with helpful info:

There are two primary ALEC memberships: legislative and private sector. Legislative members like Pickett must be elected officials, and pay a $200 two-year membership fee. Costs incurred from attending conferences can eventually get reimbursed by ALEC, according to Pickett.

Members are divided into task forces that hold online meetings throughout the year to discuss model legislation proposals. According to Pickett — who is a member of the energy, environment and agriculture task force — 50 to 70 proposals are made each year. About four are chosen to be discussed further. The task forces then meet in-person at the annual conferences, where the chosen proposals are voted on. Within each task force, there is a fifty-fifty split between legislative members and private sector members, who all get a vote. If passed, the model legislation moves to the ALEC Board of Directors, which decides whether to give the model legislation official ALEC endorsement. The board consists of lawmakers and ex-lawmakers, but also has a corporate/industry presence. “It’s like any other conference. Doctors, they have conferences, and they talk about new technology,” Pickett said. “But we talk about new policy, and that’s what we discuss pretty much all day long.”

...Pickett said the contacts he has made with corporate representatives at ALEC meetings have helped him serve his constituents better, especially on more technical topics in which he lacks expertise, like telecommunications.“

Well golly gee! It's swell that ALEC has corporate geniuses ready and willing to help him program his smart TV! What Pickett doesn't realize, or realizes but doesn't care, is that the corporate dudes he's meeting with are also lobbyists sitting him down in private rooms at high-priced hotels and feeding him a steady diet of what he either wants to hear or thinks is brilliant because it comes with flattery and isn't actually intellectual pressure at all to do the bidding of very dark forces that distrust our democracy.

Tuesday, August 01, 2023

Deanna Ballard, Ousted From Her NC Senate Seat, Now Running for Lt. Gov.


It was no secret that the Republican leadership in the NC Senate essentially put a knife in former Dist. 45 Senator Deanna Ballard's backside in 2022, double-bunking her in Dist. 47 with powerful Sen. Ralph Hise, chair of the Appropriations Committee and of the (ahem) Redistricting Committee. Hise did the deed to Ballard, drawing them both into his district, and he subsequently knocked her off in the 2022 primary (though with a winning margin of only 362 votes).

According to Ballotpedia, there are already five other Republicans running in the Lt. Gov. primary in 2024. None of them have big statewide name recognition, as is also certainly the case with Deanna Ballard.

Ballard has put out a press release announcing her candidacy for Lt. Gov. It's a curious document in that she seems to be running pretty exclusively on re-litigating the COVID pandemic, particularly the Governor's decision to close schools, because the Republican playbook during the Trump era is all about sorehead, backward looking, not-getting-over-it resentment for any public policy meant to save lives.

Ballard also manages to embrace Mark Robinson as a guiding light in her attempt to replace him in office. Yuck.