Commentary

Burr must do his patriotic duty in Russia investigation

This morning’s lead editorial in the Charlotte Observer is on the money in pointing out that the nation is depending on North Carolina Senator Richard Burr to step up to the plate and get moving with the investigation in to Russian interference in the U.S. electoral process. Unfortunately, the signs are not encouraging:

“Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina assured the public that the Senate investigation he is charged with leading will be aboveboard. So far, it doesn’t look anything like the balm that could help heal the country’s political wounds. Recent reports from investigative reporters with Yahoo! News, The Daily Beast and CNN suggest the investigation is stalled even as sources claim Russia allegedly tried to infiltrate the Trump campaign through Trump advisers.

Sen. Lindsey Graham said Tuesday he’ll hold a hearing May 8. But the Senate Intelligence Committee hasn’t gathered documents or interviewed key witnesses three months into the probe. Though Democrats have requested evidence such as emails and phone records from the Trump campaign, Burr has yet to sign off on them. And the committee is lightly staffed and doesn’t include those with an intricate knowledge of Russia or have investigative skills….

Intelligence agencies have already determined that a combination of the propagation of Russia-inspired fake news and selectively timed leaks of sensitive emails from Hillary Clinton and other top Democrats through WikiLeaks had an impact on our elections. How to reckon with that reality responsibly to shield ourselves from further incursions is difficult enough. It’s a delicate dance, requiring a firm response without igniting an unnecessary war or hearkening back to the days of the Red Scare.

Without a full, complete nonpartisan investigation, the public will be ill-equipped to assess what policy responses make the most sense, making it that much more difficult to garner widespread support. We get the politics: Burr and his colleagues were sent to Washington to further the agenda of their respective parties. Their supporters expect nothing less.

But there are moments when a political party’s short-term goals must take a backseat to the country’s well-being. This is one of those times. Burr must seize it.”

Clearly, the time for action is now. Burr can show once and for all whether he is a patriotic American or an incompetent political hack in the days to come. Let’s hope for the former.

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.