Media Feed & Press Releases Category

Are you a reporter, radio announcer or news anchor? Do you maintain a website that covers our core issues? If so, you may be interested in the following media alerts and press releases. If you want a comment from staff, please contact our Executive Director Bob Hall directly at (919) 489-1931. Or, you can click here to automatically subscribe to our Media Feed via email or many other delivery options.

You are welcome to submit comments to this moderated blog. Please treat others with respect, avoid partisan rhetoric, and help us provide a fact-based discussion of issues related to North Carolina’s political landscape. Thank you.

LOD: Inside View of Outside Money

Friday, July 27th, 2012

Because the State Board of Elections is starved for funds, the public gets a poor view of how money flows into our elections: Who is giving and spending what for whose benefit? While other states have searchable databases of donors, the backlog for processing campaign disclosure reports in NC is measured in years. (See, for example, this Democracy NC report on the backlog.) The problem is even worse when it comes to tracking the millions spent on elections by outside groups that are supposedly not coordinated with a candidate. Thankfully, here comes the Institute for Southern Studies with what it calls “North Carolina’s first searchable database of election-year spending by independent groups in state races. . . . gathers all reports on TV ads, mailers and other independent expenditures by outside groups in North Carolina, and places them in an easy-to-use searchable and sortable database. Users can sort the information by the name of the group spending the money, the date of the expenditure, the political race where it appears and the affected candidate.” ISS emphasizes that the site is “a beta release,” undergoing revisions and updates “largely because of gaps and inconsistencies in government reports.” Check it out, play around with the data, turn in your feedback! Thanks ISS/Facing South!


LOD: Candidates Rewarded for Good

Thursday, May 24th, 2012

In the midst of Super PAC spending and candidates hustling big-dollar donors, here’s a positive story from North Carolina: Candidates are actually agreeing to accept strict campaign spending limits and to rely only on small donations and a public grant authorized by hundreds of registered voters!

Today, the State Board of Elections sent notices to all eight candidates for the NC Supreme Court and NC Court of Appeals that they had fulfilled the necessary requirements to qualify for public grants to partly support their campaigns. To qualify, the candidates raised scores of relatively small donations from registered voters and accepted strict spending and fundraising limits (e.g., no PAC or out-of-state donations). The two candidates running against each other for a seat on the state Supreme Court will each receive $240,100 in public funds. The six running for three seats on the NC Court of Appeals each receive $164,400. The public funds come from a voluntary check-off on the NC tax form and a surcharge on fees paid by attorneys.

This is the first election cycle in which all candidates in statewide judicial elections qualified for public funds – a record made more significant because the US Supreme Court recently ruled that no additional “rescue funds” may be awarded if a qualifying candidate is later hit by large spending from an outside group or opposing candidate. See this report for an analysis of the public financing program through 2010.

In addition, Superintendent of Public Instruction June Atkinson and State Auditor Beth Wood both qualified to receive public support for their re-election campaigns after gathering hundreds of small donations from registered voters. They will each receive about $214,000 beginning with an initial payment of $71,419 that the State Board of Elections authorized today.


LOD: Secrecy & Pay-to-Play

Tuesday, February 28th, 2012

House Speaker Thom Tillis left out loads of information about his donors when he filed his campaign disclosure report for the last half of 2011. He got called out by Democracy NC and others; he said he’d fix the report and file an amendment. Well, the new report is in and there are still lots of holes – but what does get included is even more stunning. Tillis labels the CEO of a consumer loan company a “homemaker” – even though she helped organize a fundraising event for him in Greenville that brought in more than $30,000.  Turns out two thirds of that money came from other loan company execs from around the state, apparently bundled together for delivery at the fundraiser, along with fat checks from the industry’s two PACs. This feels like a replay of Jim Black’s style of pay-to-play: Tillis, you will remember, muscled a controversial bill through the House for the loan companies, despite vigorous opposition from military brass and consumer advocates. Democracy North Carolina put all this info together into a release today that stimulated some press coverage, including these video reports on WRAL-TV and Raleigh’s NBC-17.


LOD: McCrory’s Opening Miscue

Thursday, February 9th, 2012

Guess where Pat McCrory ended his swing across the state, announcing the official start of his campaign for governor as the candidate who will “turn North Carolina around” and end the “corruption” of the Democrats? The trip finished in Wilmington, with a large McCrory rally at a pool hall and grill – which is owned by Steven Hebert, a donor to former House Speaker and convicted felon Jim Black, and which is stocked even today with video sweepstakes games from Southland Amusements, a company run by Robert E. (Bobby) Huckabee III. Huckabee’s Southland Amusements & Vending Inc. was at the center of the corruption complaint filed by Democracy North Carolina in July 2004 against Jim Black’s network of video-poker donors. Back then, Hebert had Huckabee’s video poker machines in his bar; the two have been doing business together for years. Many of the individuals listed in the complaint funneled campaign money to Black through other donors, with or without their knowledge, including Huckabee’s sister and Hebert’s wife-to-be, Holly Abbuhl. In testimony at the State Board of Elections into the complaint, it came out that Hebert gave Abbuhl the money to make her $1,500 donation to Black. Huckabee avoided testifying at the hearing by conveniently being out the country, but the taint of his dealings continues, as does the controversial evolution of video poker in North Carolina. It’s a surprising blunder to see Pat McCrory pledging to “turn around” pay-to-play politics at a place like Wilmington’s Break Time Billiards & Grille.


LOD: Pope’s Blessing

Thursday, January 26th, 2012

An editorial writer for the Raleigh News & Observer handed Art Pope a bevy of compliments for his “humanitarian” philanthropy, extolling the list of “charities and universities the Pope Foundation blessed with $1.2 million in grants last year.” Alliance Medical Ministries – $10,000; Barium Springs Home for Children – $10,000; Blessed Sacrament School – $10,000; etc. The writer, Burgetta Wheeler, managed this sweet story by cherry picking from the list of foundation recipients and committing the “one dimensional” journalism she ascribes to Pope’s detractors. Here’s a link to the complete list (pp. 20-23). A balanced story would have noted that the Pope Foundation gave a whopping $1.35 million to the strident rightwing group Americans for Prosperity in the same fiscal year, more than the combined total of Wheeler’s featured grantees. Or how does Pope’s giving to the goody-good list compare to one gift for college sports – $1,000,000 to UNC’s Rams Club, cleverly named The Educational Foundation Inc. Other unmentionables for the year: John Locke Foundation – $2.6 million; Civitas Institute – $1.2 million; NC Institute for Constitutional Law – $710,000; Pope Center for Higher Education – $542,800; NC Family Policy Council – $100,000; Job Creators Alliance – $100,000; NC Free Enterprise Foundation – $95,000; Heritage Foundation – $50,000. To shore up the foundation’s cash flow, Art and sister Amanda each donated $3.5 million, presumably from their share of earnings from Variety Wholesalers (Roses, Maxway, Super Dollar). An LOD account of previous foundation donations is here.


LOD: Lobbyist-Donor Ban Upheld

Monday, November 7th, 2011

The US Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals today upheld North Carolina’s year-round ban on registered lobbyists making campaign contributions to state candidates. Previously, NC had a ban while the General Assembly was in session, but after the fiasco involving then-Speaker Jim Black, the legislature expanding the prohibition to cover 24/7, 365 days a year. Democracy North Carolina and Common Cause-NC led the fight for a package of lobbying and campaign finance reforms during that crucial 2005-2006 period, along with excellent leadership inside the Building from Rep. Joe Hackney and a number of other legislators. Some of us were not sure the total ban would hold up, but the Court today affirmed the district court’s opinion: “Applying the ‘closely drawn’ standard of scrutiny that we conclude is applicable to such contribution restrictions, we hold that the statute is constitutional, both facially and as applied to Preston [the plaintiff], as a valid exercise of North Carolina’s legislative prerogative to address potential corruption and the appearance of corruption in the State.”


LOD: Justice at Stake

Thursday, October 27th, 2011

A trio of groups that analyze judicial elections today released a report documenting a national campaign “to intimidate America’s state judges into becoming accountable to money and ideologies instead of the Constitution and the law.” The New Politics of Judicial Elections, 2010 examines the “hostile takeover” of judicial elections by special interests and the attacks on impartial courts by state legislatures. The report was written by the Justice at Stake Campaign, the Brennan Center for Justice, and the National Institute on Money in State Politics.

North Carolina is held up as a national model because it provides state judicial candidates with a viable public financing alternative to the private money chase. The pioneering program has earned acclaim from reformers, the American Bar Association, and NC judges across the political spectrum. A blog entry today by Mark Binker at the Greensboro News & Record notes that Republican leaders in the NC General Assembly plan to keep the program, but delete a rescue-funds provision that mirrors one struck down by the US Supreme Court. The public grants and a state voter guide are not funded from the NC General Fund. A similar program for some Council of State offices will be suspended because it only has money from the General Fund; efforts last year to provide an independent source of funding for that Voter-Owned Elections program were stymied.


LOD: Duke, Progress & Political $$

Wednesday, October 19th, 2011

The behemoth created by the proposed merger of Duke Energy and Progress Energy would not only yield the nation’s largest electric utility. The new creature would become the most politically influential corporation in NC, according to a new analysis by Democracy North Carolina. Duke and Progress Energy have long sponsored PACs that rank among the top 10 in the state; together, they would surpass Bank of America to form the largest corporate PAC in North Carolina. Charts compiled by Democracy NC show that their utilities’ combined spending to lobby and donate to NC and federal policymakers hit $19 million in the 2009-2010 cycle and a total of $52 million over the past eight years. In the 2010 election, 115 of the 170 state legislative winners got a donation from one or both of the utilities; one-fourth of the legislators got at least $3,500 and the top legislative leaders from both parties received at least $13,000 each. Will all this money and the companies’ other ways of accumulating goodwill give them an even bigger advantage over their critics? Says the report, “Policymakers often act like the utilities are the experts on energy issues but the public has a right to know that alternative perspectives and better strategies are not being overlooked because of the utilities’ money and lobbying muscle.”


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