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

Commentary, News

Senator Burr reverses stance on Supreme Court vacancy

US Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C.

US Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C.

In case you missed it, North Carolina’s senior senator Richard Burr has changed his position on the U.S. Supreme Court vacancy that was created by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia.

Eight months ago, Burr said the slot should be filled by the new president — whoever is elected next week:

“In this election year, the American people will have an opportunity to have their say in the future direction of our country. For this reason, I believe the vacancy left open by Justice Scalia should not be filled until there is a new President.”

Yesterday, he took a dramatically different position. This is from an article in this morning’s edition of Raleigh’s News & Observer:

“If Hillary becomes president, I’m going to do everything I can do to make sure that four years from now, we’re still going to have an opening on the Supreme Court,” he said.

Click below to listen to an excerpt of the audio first reported Monday by CNN.

Commentary

Voters, legal experts agree: Tillis and Burr are simply wrong on Supreme Court blockade

Thom TillisNot that it’s much of a surprise — polls have been consistent on this matter for months — but yet another one came out yesterday that shows overwhelming opposition amongst North Carolina voters to the U.S. Senate blockade (championed by Senators Tillis and Burr) of Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland. This is from the widely respected analysts at Public Policy Polling:

“We also find by a 60/23 spread that North Carolinians would like to see the Senate move forward with Merrick Garland’s nomination to the Supreme Court by holding hearings. There’s bipartisan agreement on that issue with Democrats (74/13), independents (55/24), and Republicans (43/36) all in agreement.”

The new poll numbers come on top of countless editorials and op-eds from lawyers, law professors and historians highlighting the illogical and indefensible stances taken by Burr and Tillis ( a Judiciary Committee member) in refusing to give Garland a hearing. Yesterday, a friend of N.C. Policy Watch forwarded a July post from the judicial policy experts at the national nonprofit, the Alliance for Justice (“Benched! Own Job Description Eludes Senator Tillis”) put it this way:

“As the Republican Senate has brought judicial confirmations to a standstill, refusing even to hold a hearing for Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland, and confirming lower court judges at a historically slow rate, the most obvious explanation for all the obstruction has been politics: Republicans would rather spite President Obama and preserve judicial vacancies for a Republican president than ensure a fully-functioning judiciary. But for Thom Tillis, the Republican Senator from North Carolina and member of the Judiciary Committee, the problem appears to be (for better or worse) an alarming amount of misinformation, whether it be the importance of filling judicial vacancies, how bad the vacancy crisis has become under GOP leadership, or the Senate’s basic constitutional duty to confirm judges.

On Wednesday, just before the Senate left for a seven-week vacation, Tillis objected to voting on slate of uncontroversial judicial nominees because, in his words, confirming judges has “nothing to do with doing our jobs.” That startling claim would certainly surprise the Constitution’s drafters, who wrote that the Senate must provide “advice and consent” on judicial nominations, and Democratic members were no less shocked. Read more