Commentary

Blue Cross Blue Shield, Duke Energy sponsor conference featuring extremist speakers

Representatives of the hardcore right wing of the North Carolina conservative movement will gather in Raleigh this weekend for the annual “conservative leadership conference” held by Art Pope’s Civitas institute. As in past years, the event will feature a motley collection of Trumpist politicians, anti-government crusaders, religious right social warriors, anti-choice zealots, white nationalists, xenophobes, gun mavens and alternative news propagandists — many of them too extreme even for mainstream conservatives. The featured speaker is an English politician named Nigel Farage, a Trump buddy who helped lead the “Brexit” effort and is widely regarded as a leader in the latest wave of European ethno-nationalism. Somewhat humorously, Pat McCrory is also buried at the bottom of the list of speakers — looking mostly like an afterthought. You can see the whole list by clicking here and scrolling down.

It is, in other words, business as usual for the Civitas group — the reactionary branch of the Pope empire that, if nothing else, serves to make their cousins over at the ultra-conservative/”libertarian” John Locke Foundation look somewhat more responsible — and an event that deserves to be roundly ignored by caring and thinking people.

Here, however is one aspect of the event that does deserve to be held up to the light of day: In addition to being sponsored by the usual assortment of far right funders and businesses (e.g. the Charles Koch Institute), the event has attracted financial support from two major corporations based in North Carolina that ought to know better — Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina and Duke Energy.

Of course, few have ever alleged that BCBSNC or Duke were liberal do-gooders when it comes to corporate citizenship. Duke is one of the state’s largest polluters and Blue Cross infamously attempted to convert billions of public assets to private property with its ill-fated late-1990’s effort to convert from a nonprofit into a for-profit insurance company. Both also hold something close to monopolies over their industries — electricity generation and health insurance — in North Carolina.

Still, sponsoring the Civitas event featuring such a reactionary cast of speakers is a remarkable and troubling step for two businesses that have long sought to walk the middle line in state politics. Let’s hope the sponsorship levels are small and represent the acts of mid-level bureaucrats and not of corporate leaders. If you’d like to communicate with either of the two giants about their unfortunate decisions, you can try contacting Blue by clicking here and Duke by clicking here.

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