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

Commentary, Trump Administration

Why Burr and Tillis should oppose Trump nominee for Attorney General

Reject Sessions banner

Image: People for the American Way – www.pfaw.org

The American Right’s capacity for rolling back the clock on progress and retrieving hateful ideas and prejudices from the ash heap of history never ceases to amaze. Just when you thought the march of time and human progress had finally put nails in the coffins of any number of of regressive beliefs and practices, up pops the “Heil Trump” crowd, the KKK or, more immediately, the nomination of a possible U.S. Attorney General that all of these hateful creeps must be celebrating.

The person at issue, of course, is Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions — President-elect Donald Trump’s execrable nominee for A.G. For those who may have been shielding themselves from the hateful lunacy of people you might have reasonably dismissed as mere flotsam and jetsam from the racist fringe, you owe it yourself to familiarize yourself  with this very troubled man and his frightening past. In the coming days, Sessions will go before Thom Tillis, Richard Burr and his other colleagues in the U.S. Senate — the same Senate that refused to consider the Supreme Court nomination of Merrick Garland — to consider whether he is qualified to be the nation’s top law enforcement officer.

In response, an array of civil rights and civil liberties groups have been marshaling a campaign to oppose the nomination. One of the best summaries of the countless problems with the Sessions nomination comes from the American Civil Liberties Union, a group that as a matter of organizational policy doesn’t even take an official position on nominees. The ACLU’s detailed report is entitled “The Confirmation Sessions” and it ought to be required reading for all Americans who care about their country and its Constitution. Here is a brief summary:

More than thirty years ago, Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III, Donald Trump’s pick for attorney general, was in a similar situation as he will be on January 10 when he goes before the Senate Judiciary Committee for his confirmation hearing. Tapped by President Ronald Reagan for a federal judgeship in 1986, Sessions sat before the very same committee for his previous confirmation hearing. Things did not go well.

Witnesses accused Sessions, then the U.S. attorney for the southern district of Alabama, of repeatedly making racially insensitive and racist remarks. Thomas Figures — a former assistant U.S. attorney in Mobile, Alabama, who worked for Sessions — told the Senate Judiciary Committee that his former boss said he thought the Ku Klux Klan was okay until he learned members smoked pot. Sessions said the comment wasn’t serious. Figures, an African-American man, also alleged that Sessions called him “boy” and told him “to be careful what you say to white folks.” Sessions denied this, too.

But Figures wasn’t alone. Read more

Commentary, Trump Administration

NC teacher pens open letter to Burr re: Trump nominee for Education Secretary

NC Policy Watch friend and occasional contributor, Forsyth County public schoolteacher Stuart Egan, has authored another one of his fine open letters to a powerful politician about our public schools. The latest is a passionate plea directed to Senator Richard Burr regarding Donald Trump’s troubling plan to nominate Michigan Amway queen Betsy Devos as Secretary of the U.S. Department of Education.

Senator Burr,

As the senior senator of our state embarking on your third term in office, your voice in the national arena carries both weight and experienced perspective. And while you and I share many differing opinions on issues that affect our country, I do believe that we share a passion to make sure that all students have access to a great public education.

In preparing to cast my vote this past election, I did review your website to glean your perspective on some issues that seemed to become lost in the national debate with what might be one of the more bombastic presidential elections in history. On your www.burrforsenate.com website, you posted on op-ed you wrote for the Fayetteville Observer entitled “Giving our children a better future.”

In it you made statements such as:

“Our children are the future of North Carolina, and they represent the best of us. I am proud to be an avid defender of North Carolina students in the Senate.”

“As a part of my commitment to defending North Carolina students, I was proud to offer an amendment to fix a long-standing inequality in education funding that has shortchanged North Carolina’s teachers, schools and low-income students for over 15 years.”

“My amendment makes sure that federal education funding meant for schools that serve kids from low-income families actually goes to those very schools.”

“This means that with more education dollars coming to North Carolina, we will have more teachers in North Carolina helping our students get a great education.”

“We have made great strides this Congress to deliver control of K-12 education back to local communities, while making sure limited federal education funding is going to the communities that need it the most. But making sure that our children are getting the best education possible is going to be an ongoing fight for North Carolina families in Washington. I’m pledging to continue fighting for North Carolina’s schools, teachers and students, because a brighter future for North Carolina students means a brighter future for North Carolina.”

What I sense in these words is a commitment to our public schools.

In fact, you are the son of a former public school teacher and a graduate of R.J. Reynolds High School in Winston-Salem. I teach at another school in Reynolds’s district, West Forsyth High School, and am proud to report that Reynolds still holds an incredible reputation as a historically effective institution and I know many of the fantastic teachers who work there.

However, we are experiencing in North Carolina a decline in teacher candidates. Why? Because public education is under attack. And when public education is under attack by “re-forming” efforts like vouchers and unregulated charter school growth then communities suffer. Your wife is a leading realtor in the Triad area. I feel very confident that she could tell you the effect that the public school system has on the “value” of property in our communities.

I say all of this because President-elect Trump has appointed a candidate to lead the nation’s public schools who very well may be the most unqualified individual to ever be considered for the position.

And you have the power to help keep that from happening.

Read more