campaign cashDemocracy North Carolina , Free Speech For People, The Institute For Southern Studies, North Carolina Voters For Clean Elections, and the American Constitution Society law student chapters at Duke Law School, NCCU School of Law, and UNC School of Law invite you to attend a special forum entitled “Money In Politics as a Civil Rights Issue,” hosted at the Hayti Heritage Center in Durham.

Big money interests increasingly dominate our election process and threaten the basic promise of American democracy: political equality for all. Like the poll tax of the past, today’s campaign finance system operates as a barrier to equal and meaningful participation in the political process. This special forum will address the question of money in politics from a civil rights perspective.

WHEN: Thursday, October 15, 6:30-8:30 pm

WHERE: Hayti Heritage Center, 804 Old Fayetteville St., Durham, NC 27701
(approximately 15 minutes walking distance from NCCU)

Speakers will include:

Nicole Austin-Hillery, Brennan Center for Justice
North Carolina Supreme Court Justice Cheri Beasley
Professor Guy-Uriel Charles of Duke Law School
Chris Kromm, Executive Director of the Institute for Southern Studies.
North Carolina State Senator Floyd McKissick, Jr.

This conversation will be moderated by Bob Hall, Executive Director of Democracy North Carolina.

For more information, contact Melissa Price-Kromm of NC Voters for Clean elections — or visit


Congressman Mark Meadows

Congressman Mark Meadows

As was noted in this Steve Harrison post the other day over at Blue NC, it’s rather strange that the the North Carolina news media seem not to have taken any interest in the troubling developments that have come to light surrounding Kenny West, the former chief of staff for Congressman Mark Meadows.

This is from a Huffington Post story from this Monday:

“A Republican congressman leading the fight to defund Planned Parenthood paid his chief of staff for nearly six months after at least three female staffers complained that the top aide was sexually harassing subordinates, according to four sources close to the situation.

The women told North Carolina Rep. Mark Meadows about chief of staff Kenny West’s behavior in March, sources said. At first, Meadows barred West from his D.C. office, but reassigned him to the district office and continued paying him. Meadows eventually sent West off with a sizable severance.

Any compensation that came after West was no longer working in his role as chief of staff may have violated House ethics rules. The Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust, following a Politico report of the severance payment, asked the Office of Congressional Ethics to investigate the severance payment for possible referral to the House Ethics Committee.

West officially departed Meadows’ office on May 21, but was paid his full rate of $38,750 for the period covering April 1 through June 30, and then received further pay taking him through Aug. 15. The House Ethics Manual says, ‘Compensation may be received only for duties performed within the preceding month.’ Ethics rules state that members of Congress ‘may not retain an employee who does not perform duties for the offices of the employing authority commensurate with the compensation he receives.’”

It’s hard to know what’s the weirdest or most disturbing part of this story — the fact that Meadows paid the man so much money, that he reassigned him in a manner reminiscent of the approach long taken by the Catholic church toward pedophile priests, or that West ran against Meadows in the 2012 Republican primary claiming that Meadows was unfit for office due to a character issue. Whichever the case, it sure would seem that there’s enough smoke there to prompt the mainstream news media — especially in western North Carolina — to do a little more digging.

Image: NC Department of Public Safety

Image: NC Department of Public Safety

The murky flood waters haven’t all receded yet in South Carolina (or parts of North Carolina for that matter), but it’s already crystal clear that our state’s shortsighted attitude toward climate change, rising sea levels and investments in infrastructure have been powerfully refuted once more.

The Associated Press reports:

“Long before the historic floods of the past week, crumbling roads, bridges and dams and aging drinking water systems plagued South Carolina — a poor state that didn’t spend much on them in the first place and has been loath to raise taxes for upkeep.

Now the state faces hundreds of millions if not billions of dollars’ worth of additional bills to fix or replace key pieces of its devastated infrastructure.

As the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy and other disasters shows, the federal government will cover much of the costs, but isn’t going to pay for all of it.”

In other words, much as we’d like to chalk disasters like the destructive floods of recent days up to “acts of God,” the plain and undeniable fact is that they are actually part of the new normal on our warmer, more populated and increasingly paved-over planet. Moreover, we avoid preparing for them and attempting to preemptively mitigate them at our own great peril and expense.

Tragically, however, this painfully obvious reality continues to escape our state’s political leaders and the “free market think tanks” on whom they rely for policy advice. Indeed, as was explained by the good people at the Sierra Club earlier this week, a so-called “regulatory reform” bill currently awaiting Gov. McCrory’s signature would directly contribute to more of the kind of flooding experienced in the Carolinas in recent days by further limiting protections of the kinds of intermittent streams that help absorb runoff and alleviate flooding.

The bottom line: North Carolina can pay a lot now or vastly more later to address the impacts of our changing planet and growing population. And for the time being, it’s clear that we’ve opted for the latter option.

UNC Nobel prize

Image: UNC Chapel Hill

As one of the first acts of his governorship back in 2013, Pat McCrory went on a national right-wing radio show to attack “the educational elite” in our university system who supposedly weren’t doing enough to gets student “butts in jobs.” Since that time, his administration has waged a more or less permanent war against academia by repeatedly allowing faculty salaries to slide and just generally under-investing in public colleges and universities.

Whether a sincerely held belief or just a convenient scrap of red meat to toss to the intellectual-hating far right, McCrory’s stance is predicated on the notion (regularly championed by denizens of the Art Pope empire) that universities should be more like training institutes in which faculty devote the overwhelming majority of their time to preparing students for employment. Meanwhile, “luxuries” like the liberal arts and research for the sake of advancing knowledge are just that — extravagances to be left to the vagaries of the “market” and the “demand” provided by well-off students and parents willing to underwrite their cost via private school tuition.

This morning, North Carolinians received yet another powerful reminder of the absurdity of the Governor’s stance on these issues when Prof. Aziz Sancar of the UNC School of Medicine was awarded the Nobel Prize for Chemistry. According to the Associated Press:

“The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said their [Pro. Sancar’s and his fellow recipients’] work on DNA repair had provided ‘fundamental knowledge’ about how cells function and shed light on the mechanisms behind both cancer and aging.”

You got that? Prof. Sancar helped advance an important piece of “fundamental knowledge” that has the potential to greatly benefit all of humankind. From this vantage point, that sounds like a pretty darned good use of tax dollars.

Let’s hope Sancar’s award spurs the Guv and his allies to think a little harder about their simplistic takes on higher education — especially when it comes to the numerous would-be Aziz Sancars who continue to be driven out of North Carolina by the administration’s shortsighted approach to faculty compensation and duties.


Average working people will be raising their voices today to demand their fair share of the nation’s economic pie. As the good people at the AFL-CIO remind us:

Today is the day for the White House Summit on Worker Voice. Starting at 10:30 a.m. ET, you can watch the summit live right here. The summit is designed to bring together working people, labor leaders, advocates, employers, members of Congress, state and local officials and others to explore ways to make sure that working people are sharing in the benefits of economic growth and have access to a voice on the job.

To learn more about the summit, visit the official White House website.

Meanwhile, workers in North Carolina will gather at the state Legislative Building in Raleigh for the first “People’s Wage Board.” Here are the details:

The Fight for $15 and a union will convene a forum at the state legislature on October 7th to take testimony from workers and supporters and to call for the creation of a “People’s Wage Board” to advocate for raising wages in North Carolina.

What: Underpaid workers testify
When: Wednesday, October 7, 2015 at noon
Where: NC General Assembly Building – 3rd Floor Auditorium, 16 W Jones Street, Raleigh, NC 27601

From the Facebook event page:

Inspired by fast food workers in New York who for years organized, and took bold action that encouraged Governor Cuomo and his appointed Wage Board to recommend $15 an hour by 2020, underpaid workers in North Carolina are coming together to call on elected officials to give us a much needed raise to what we deserve: $15 an hour!

Home healthcare workers, fast food workers, child care workers, community members, and NC State Representative Yvonne Holley are putting together ‘A People’s Wage Board’ to record testimony from underpaid workers at the North Carolina Legislature.

The fastest growing jobs are also the lowest paid. With industries like fast food making $200 billion a year, we know the companies we work for can afford to pay us a living wage of $15 an hour so that we have enough to care for our families.

Stand with us as we call on elected officials to do the right thing, give struggling workers a raise so that we can lift up North Carolina!