News, Trump Administration

Jeff Sessions confirmed as Trump’s Attorney General with support from Tillis and Burr

The U.S. Senate pushed through another controversial nominee of President Trump’s Wednesday, confirming Sen. Jeff Sessions on a 52-47 vote to serve as the next U.S. Attorney General.

Democrats objected to Sessions’ record on civil rights and immigration.

But Senator Richard Burr praised the Alabama Republican on social media, calling the new AG a friend with a “record of pursuing justice”:

Senator Thom Tillis acknowledged differences he had with Sessions, but said he was confident in the leadership he would bring to the Department:

On Thursday the Senate will take a final vote to confirm Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga., the President’s choice to serve as Health and Human Services Secretary.

Commentary, News, Trump Administration

Two North Carolina residents launch GoFundMe campaign to “buy” Senator Burr’s vote

Given what we know thus far, this seems as if it’s worth a try….

Durham, N.C., February 3, 2017: When North Carolina residents Eunice Chang and Lekha Shupeck realized the only way to get Senator Richard Burr’s attention was to buy it, they launched a GoFundMe campaign to do exactly that: www.gofundme.com/buy-senator-richard-burrs-vote.

Betsy DeVos gave $43,200 to Senator Richard Burr’s reelection campaign, and is getting Burr’s vote for a Cabinet seat in return. Meanwhile, as many North Carolina citizens know first-hand, Burr consistently fails to answer constituent concerns.

He refuses to hold town hall meetings because they “don’t work for him.” It’s near impossible to get in touch with staffers in his offices: phones are “busy,” voicemail boxes are full, and emails and letters are largely ignored. Burr’s office has called his own constituents, trying desperately to get their senator’s attention, “out-of-state[rs]” and “lack[ing] civility and decorum” simply for voicing their opposition to his policy decisions. In the case of the phone campaign against DeVos’ nomination, Burr himself stated that the opposition was a “strategy hatched a long time ago” rather than a genuine outpouring of concern from North Carolina citizens.

Clearly, that $43,200 means that DeVos gets Senator Burr’s attention and vote, while the citizens of North Carolina get dismissed and ignored by the person who is supposed to represent their interests. So if money is the only thing Senator Burr listens to, we want to put our money to work!

Since we believe that what DeVos did by donating to Burr’s campaign was tantamount to bribery and unethical, we won’t be trying to buy his vote directly. Instead, our fundraiser donates directly to Public School Forum of North Carolina, an organization that does important work advocating for better public education in our state’s schools.

The Public Forum’s policy work will be essential in the coming years to help protect public education in North Carolina from DeVos and the regressive efforts of the NC state legislature, whose policies have ensured that North Carolina is 47th in the nation for teacher pay and 45th in overall public school funding according to the NEA.

We hope that by donating to efforts to protect NC public education from an unqualified opponent of public education like Betsy DeVos, we can send a strong message to Senator Burr: if money is the only message you understand, we’re speaking your language now.

Commentary, Trump Administration

Tillis and Burr must stand up to Trump or take responsibility for his outrages

Richard Burr

Richard Burr

Thom Tillis

Thom Tillis

The point at which supposedly responsible conservative American leaders must begin to disavow and push back against President Donald Trump (or, at least, stop pretending that they are anything other than accomplices to his outrageous assaults on basic American values) is coming soon.

A new editorial in the Charlotte Observer does an excellent job in making this important point — especially with respect North Carolina’s U.S. Senators, Richard Burr and Thom Tillis. Here’s the Observer:

“On Friday, President Donald Trump signed an executive order temporarily halting U.S. admission of all refugees and pausing the entry of visitors from seven predominantly Muslim countries. Trump also promised that Christians would get priority in admissions.

That is, for all practical purposes, a ban based on religion. It’s a dangerous and perhaps illegal policy, and it most certainly is not what this country stands for.

How did Tillis respond? With a sterile statement that tiptoed around the danger at hand. Tillis applauded the ‘tightening’ of refugee screening, but noted ‘confusion’ surrounding the order. ‘Implementation,’ he said, should be ‘refined to provide more clarity.’

That was better, at least, than our state’s other Republican U.S. senator, Richard Burr, who was either too cautious or too cowed to tell his constituents what he thought of Trump’s order.”

News, Tracking the Cuts: The Dismantling of Our Public Schools, Trump Administration

In DeVos nomination, Sen. Richard Burr to cast confirmation vote on one of his key contributors

Betsy DeVos, President Trump’s nominee for U.S. Secretary of Education

Despite significant push-back from progressives and public school backers, members of a key U.S. Senate committee are expected to confirm President Trump’s nominee for U.S. Secretary of Education, Michigan billionaire Betsy DeVos, on Tuesday.

As critics point out, DeVos, a controversial school choice Republican in Michigan, has no professional experience in public schools. Nevertheless, conservatives tout her as a reformer who will aid children languishing in long-struggling public schools.

But here’s one overlooked component of this developing story: Richard Burr, North Carolina’s senior senator and a member of the Senate confirmation committee that could advance or turn back DeVos on Tuesday, has benefited from the political largesse of DeVos and her wealthy Michigan family in recent years.

According to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics, a campaign finance watchdog in D.C., DeVos’ family made individual contributions to Burr’s campaign in 2015 totaling $43,200. Family members each gave $2,700, the maximum amount per individual allowed for a candidate during one election cycle.

Of course, given the murkiness of federal election laws concerning Super PACs, it’s hard to gauge exactly how much DeVos cash went Burr’s way.

But it’s worth noting Burr, in the midst of a tight race with Democrat Deborah Ross last year, reportedly received a major boost weeks before Election Day from groups like the Senate Leadership Fund, a conservative Super PAC that pledged last September to spend a whopping $8 million on North Carolina television ads.

Records show DeVos’ family funneled $2.25 million to the Super PAC in 2016.

Burr is expected to cast a vote in support of DeVos Tuesday, despite blistering criticism from groups such as the American Federation of Teachers, the N.C. Association of Educators and more.

Commentary, News, Trump Administration

Campaign finance reformers demand Burr recuse himself from considering Trump Ed Secretary nominee over $43K in contributions

Two national advocacy groups dedicated to combating big money corruption in politics are calling on Senator Richard Burr to recuse himself from considering Donald Trump’s nominee for U.S. Education Secretary. And from the sounds of the following release distributed by the groups (End Citizens United and Every Voice) they’ve got a heck of a strong argument.

See what you think:

Campaign Finance Reformers to Senator Burr: Recuse Yourself on DeVos Nomination

North Carolina members of End Citizens United and Every Voice demand recusal of Sen. Burr, who has personally benefited from DeVos donations

DeVos, a zealous opponent of campaign finance safeguards, represents the worst of a rigged Washington system

Money-in-politics reform groups End Citizens United and Every Voice today kicked off a grassroots campaign with a petition calling on Senator Richard Burr to recuse himself from voting on the nomination of Betsy DeVos, President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee for Secretary of Education.

Republican mega-donor Betsy DeVos and her family have funneled more than $20 million to Republican campaigns, their super PACs, and their dark money allies across the country. [1]  That includes nearly $43,000 in direct contributions to Burr, who sits on the Senate’s Health, Education, Labor and Pension committee, which has jurisdiction over her nomination. [2]

DeVos has said that she’s, “decided…to stop taking offense at the suggestion that we are buying influence.  Now I simply concede the point.  They are right.  We do expect some things in return.” [3]

“Donald Trump’s nomination of Betsy DeVos represents the worst of the rigged system in Washington,” said Tiffany Muller, End Citizens United Executive Director.  “She’s admitted to using her millions to buy influence and now the same Senators that she funneled money to are voting on her nomination.  This is outrageous pay-to-play politics.  Our members are calling on Senator Burr to acknowledge his conflict of interest and recuse himself from the vote on her nomination.” Read more