Rep. Dan Bishop fined for late report of campaign contributions, including one from Louis Dejoy

Rep. Dan Bishop

Postmaster General Louis Dejoy

As Raleigh’s News & Observer reported this morning, North Carolina’s 9th District congressman, Republican Rep. Dan Bishop, has been fined $11,634 by the Federal Elections Commission for late reporting of campaign contributions in the 2019 special election in which he defeated Democratic candidate Dan McCready.

This is from McClatchy reporter Brian Murphy’s story:

It was the second-largest administrative fine by the FEC for a North Carolina candidate since 2000, according to an FEC database. Former U.S. Rep. Robert Pittenger, who held the seat before Bishop, was fined $31,010 over his 48-hour reports in 2012.

The size of the fine is tied to the amount of money raised in these cases, not the seriousness of the violation.

Campaigns are required to disclose contributions of $1,000 or more received late in campaigns within 48 hours of receiving the donation. The FEC said the Bishop campaign did not submit the so-called “48-hour reports” for $110,503.60 received between Aug. 22 and Sept. 7, 2019.

The special election was on Sept. 10, 2019.

The campaign did report the donations in its post-election filing.

The FEC ruling lists more than $110,000 that the campaign received in amounts of $1,000 or more between August 26 and September 7 of 2019 that it failed to report in timely fashion. Twenty-two of the 58 contributions listed were for the maximum amount then allowed for individuals under federal law — $2,800. That list, in turn, included a number of conservative donors from around the country. One of the most notable, however, was from North Carolina: current U.S. Postmaster General Louis Dejoy of Greensboro.

Of course, the fact that Dejoy would be on such a list comes as little surprise. As NPR reported in May of 2020, shortly after Dejoy was named Postmaster General:

DeJoy has contributed more than $1.2 million to the Trump Victory Fund, and millions more to Republican Party organizations and candidates, according to Federal Election Commission records. He was also in charge of fundraising for the Republican National Convention.

Dejoy, the husband of controversial former North Carolina Health and Human Services Secretary Aldona Wos, has also been a lightning rod for controversy during his time at the Postal Service. A wide array of advocates and observers have called for his removal or resignation and just today, the Washington Post reported that several Democrats have introduced legislation that would block parts of Dejoy’s recently announced restructuring plan for the agency.

Bishop, in contrast, has been a Dejoy supporter. According to Spectrum News, the congressman issued an endorsement of Dejoy right after his selection was announced last May, saying “We need accountability. Louis Dejoy will get accountability.”

Editorial blasts “arrogant and shortsighted” chancellor search at Fayetteville State

New Fayetteville State chancellor Darrell Allison

If you get chance, check out today’s excellent lead editorial from the Greensboro News & Record about the embarrassingly political hiring process that the UNC system recently concluded for a new chancellor at Fayetteville State University. As Policy Watch investigative reporter Joe Killian has reported in great detail, the Board of Governors and system president Peter Hans selected a person for the job — conservative education lobbyist Darrell Allison — who wasn’t even a finalist when FSU’s Board of trustees vetted numerous applicants.

This is from today’s editorial:

To say his hiring was a shock is an understatement.

According to reports from at least two news outlets, Allison was not among the finalists for the FSU post, which attracted a national field of more than 60 applicants.

He has no administrative experience in higher education.

He has no teaching experience.

He has little apparent support among faculty and students.

He does have plenty of opposition. Students, alumni and faculty have staged protests. The FSU National Alumni Association has threatened legal action. An online petition to remove him from the job had gathered 2,500 signatures as of last week.

After explaining that Allison has professed to be unfazed by the criticism he has received, the editorial rightfully observes:

Even if Allison eventually should win friends and influence people in Fayetteville, the process used to hire him is fundamentally flawed and does not serve the best interests of the UNC System.

The “process” to which the editorial refers, of course, the Board of Governors’ recently adopted policy that, in effect, gives the system president the power to supersede the recommendations of campus trustees and select whomever he or she cares to choose. This, the editorial concludes, is absurd:

Given the heavily weighted vote it now bestows on the UNC Systems president, why even bother with a search? And why even bother to apply if you weren’t suggested by Hans?

…Politics has always threatened to poison chancellor searches, but this process (if you want to call it that) opens the toxic floodgates.

The Fayetteville students, faculty and trustees have good reason to be angry.

And the rest of the UNC campuses have good reason to be concerned.

The bottom line: The conservative majority at the General Assembly — the politicians who are ultimately behind this whole mess — has been  wreaking havoc in the UNC system for years and one can only hope that some sort of rescue can be effected before the damage becomes irreparable.

Colorado mass shooting is latest assault on American freedom

Image: Adobe Stock

One of the most perverse things to happen to the American experiment in recent decades has the been the extreme right’s hijacking of the word “freedom.” In this bizarre, through-the-looking-glass view of the world that’s taken hold in many places thanks to relentless propaganda mills like Fox News, right-wing talk radio and the NRA, “freedom” is more about making money (mostly for rich people and corporations) and the “right” to own mass killing machines, than it is about the simple freedom to live one’s life without worrying about how one will afford basic healthcare, or walk into a grocery store without fear of being murdered by an assault weapon-toting madman.

This tragic perversion was on display yet again for the umpteenth time yesterday in Boulder, Colorado as yet another disturbed individual armed with AR-15 (according to CNN) caused 10 people to lose their lives in a supermarket.

Dear readers, this is utter madness.

As Becky Ceartas of North Carolinians Against Gun Violence wrote more than three years ago in the aftermath on the horrific mass shooting in Las Vegas:

While the gun industry and its vast network of paid apologists love to cast their promotion of unfettered gun rights as somehow constituting a defense of freedom and liberty, the opposite is actually the case.

After all, which poses a greater threat to our nation’s freedom and liberty: the fear that now regularly grips tens of millions of Americans as they contemplate the risk of violence every time they enter a concert, sports arena or theater or the requirement that a small percentage of our citizens (gun owners and would be gun owners) endure the kind of limitations everyone endures when obtaining a driver’s license and/or registering an automobile?

As Newsweek reported, in the immediate aftermath of yesterday’s horror, a number of important elected leaders issued statements on social media calling for new and commonsense gun safety laws.

“It doesn’t have to be this way,” [Colorado congressman Joe] Neguse wrote. “There are steps we can take — and must take — to protect our community; common-sense, broadly supported proposals that will save lives. If we are truly invested in saving lives, then we must have the willpower to act and to pass meaningful gun reform. The time for inaction is over.”

In a tweet, Democratic California Representative Adam Schiff wrote, “Once again, a gunman has turned a public space into a site of tragedy. We don’t have to live in fear like this. We must pass commonsense gun reforms.”

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer tweetedThis Senate must and will move forward on legislation to help stop the epidemic of gun violence.

But, of course, we’ve heard this before.

And much as we might wish it otherwise, it seems all but certain that these calls will be ineffective. Much in the same way that North Carolina Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger continues to cost thousands of North Carolinians their lives (and limit the freedom of hundreds of thousands more) with his cruel and senseless blockade of Medicaid expansion, Republican leaders will block reasonable gun control laws and continue their assault on the freedom of hundreds of millions of Americans by forcing them to put their lives at risk every time they enter a public space.

Editorial: It’s time for NC to help ditch the Electoral College

Be sure to check out this morning’s on-the-mark Capitol Broadcasting Company editorial on WRAL.com. The subject is the United States’ obsolete and anti-democratic system for electing presidents. As the editorial explains, it’s past time for the nation to get rid of the Electoral College and we don’t have to amend the Constitution to do it.

This is from “Presidential candidate with most votes should win. N.C. should join the pact”:

When it comes to electing the president, North Carolina needs to go back to the future.

In 2007 the state Senate passed a bill directing that the state’s electoral college votes for president be cast for the candidate who received the most votes nationwide. Essentially, it rids the nation of the antiquated electoral college without the cumbersome process of amending the U.S. Constitution.

It will give EVERY voter in the state a stronger voice in determining who becomes the nation’s next president.

As the editorial explains, the state House never took the measure up so it did not become law, but the basic premise remains:

  1. States have the power to award their electoral votes however they choose — the U.S. Supreme Court recently affirmed this;
  2. If enough states (representing 270 Electoral College votes) enact a law whereby their votes are awarded to the candidate who wins the national popular vote, then the the old system of having to win state-by-state is effectively ended.
  3. North Carolina should join the growing list of states that have formed a compact to do precisely that. States representing 196 votes have already done so.

As the editorial notes, the phenomenon of candidates winning the presidency with a minority of votes five times in U.S. history, but twice in the century — 2000 and 2016. This is simply wrong.

Here’s the editorial’s fine conclusion:

The state and nation’s political landscape is changing yet we continue to hold onto outdated, outmoded and irrelevant practices of the past that weaken the voices of ALL North Carolinians in determining who they elect and how they are governed.

Rep. James Holland of North Carolina was right in 1803 when he said during a congressional debate: “The will of the majority in their election of the Chief Magistrate” must be “the first principle of our Government.” The state Senate was right when it voted to join the compact in 2007 and the time is right to revive that legislation and pass it into law now.

A national election system where the candidate who gets the most votes wins will give North Carolina a STRONGER voice in the selection of the president. Candidates will need to pay more heed to all the state’s voters and campaign more vigorously to win support. Writing off North Carolina because of current electoral college calculations, won’t be an option.

North Carolina must be heard in Washington. Joining the compact will give the state a stronger voice.

Click here to read the entire editorial.

The battle for Alamance: Check out the new Policy Watch special report

What is the deal with Alamance County?

That’s a question that many caring and thinking North Carolinians have posed a lot in recent decades as they’ve confronted and digested repeated reports of racial tensions, discriminatory misconduct by law enforcement, and displays of white supremacy.

At first blush, Alamance seems an unlikely locale for such issues. With a population of more than 160,000, bisected by a major interstate, and sandwiched between two large and increasingly diverse and tolerant metro areas (the Triad and the Triangle), Alamance is no off-the-beaten-path, Old South backwater.

Indeed, North Carolina’s 17th largest county is home to a sizable private university of growing renown and at one point, its textile industry was a thriving economic engine that employed thousands and attracted skilled transplants from around the country. Alamance has also elected at least a smattering of progressive politicians to public office down through the years, and in 2020, it elected the first Latinx Democrat to ever serve in the North Carolina House – a son of Salvadoran immigrants named Ricky Hurtado.

Sadly, however, as Alamance looks ahead to the 175th anniversary of its founding in just under three years, such attributes aren’t the things for which it has come to be best known.

While the county is increasingly diverse and home to many forward-looking residents determined to build a 21st Century economy and a community of real and sustainable tolerance, Alamance’s chief cause célèbre in 2021 is its status as locus of reaction, repression, and conflict.

Just last year, the county seat of Graham was the site of multiple racially charged incidents involving demonstrations against abusive law enforcement and jail practices, access to the polls, and the future of Confederate monuments – incidents that gave rise to several highly questionable arrests and multiple complaints of civil rights violations.

And of course, these events happened in a county whose best-known politician – Sheriff Terry Johnson – is a hard-right law enforcement officer who has gained regional and national attention for targeting Latinx immigrants and uttering Trump-like pronouncements for nearly two decades. Trump himself bested Joe Biden in the county by 8.4% in 2020 and Hillary Clinton by 12.6% in 2016.

So, what gives? How did this complex situation arise? What does one find today when one looks beyond the headlines? And what might the future hold?

Over the coming weeks the NC Policy Watch team of journalists will provide at least partial answers to these and some related questions in a series of special reports examining different aspects of the Alamance story.

Today, we begin the series with a fascinating but sobering report from Investigative Reporter Joe Killian on the deep-seated racism and frequently horrific incidents of violence and repression that have long plagued the county.

Reports in the coming weeks will include:

  • Investigative Reporter Lynn Bonner on the politics surrounding a Confederate monument that stands outside the county courthouse and the refusal of an all-white county commission that’s elected at-large to seriously consider its removal;
  • Education Reporter Greg Childress on the myriad challenges that confront the county’s public school system in an era of inadequate resources, resegregation, and privatization;
  • Courts, Law and Democracy Reporter Yanqi Xu on how Sheriff Terry Johnson’s controversial force is interacting with and impacting the lives of people of color nearly a decade after the U.S. Department of Justice found it had engaged in a pattern of racial profiling; and
  • Environmental Reporter Lisa Sorg on the environmental justice and public health issues related to polluters that disproportionately burden the county’s low-income neighborhoods and communities of color.

It’s our hope that, taken together and in the best tradition of investigative journalism, these reports will shine a spotlight on several important problems that have remained hidden below the surface too long, and ultimately, lead to the kind of open and honest discussions that are a necessary predicate to progress.

We welcome your questions, feedback, and suggestions for additional reporting going forward.