David Lewis

Rep. David Lewis

Not that we needed one, but this morning’s edition of Raleigh’s News & Observer offers yet another reminder of how state budgets are put together in Raleigh these days. As the story written by Patrick Gannon of The Insider details, Rep. David Lewis, the powerful chair of the House Rules Committee “took significant steps in this year’s legislative session to protect the state contract of a friend and campaign donor” by “tucking language into a technical corrections bill that became law in the final minutes of the session – ensured that contracts for those services would continue to be bid out to the private sector when they expire next year.”

In other words, a law was written secretly in the dead of the night to protect a campaign donor with no public sunlight or input.

Now, consider this fact in the light of yesterday’s edition of the Fitzsimon File, in which Chris reviews thePat McCrory press event expressed position of Gov. McCrory on such shenanigans in 2008, during his first run for Governor. As Chris notes, McCrory promised “to veto any state budget that includes items added in private sessions and not included by the House or Senate during the regular budget process.”

Sadly, of course, as Chris also notes, “Virtually every budget McCrory has signed would qualify for a veto under that promise but he has signed every one of them.”

Obviously, as occurred with his infamous repudiations of his 2012 promise to approve no further restrictions on access to abortion services, something changed between the 2008 campaign and McCrory becoming Governor in 2013 and it wasn’t good.

It’s too bad. Some of those 2008 promises made a lot of sense.


The parent organization of N.C. Policy Watch, the North Carolina Justice Center, issued the following statement today in response to Gov. McCrory’s announcement yesterday that he would oppose Syrian refugees coming to North Carolina:

Statement from the NC Justice Center: Syrian refugees should find home in NC

Times of great human tragedy are a moral test for all of us. Currently, thousands of Syrians are fleeing terror and violence from their war-torn home country. They want what we all want: a safe place to rebuild their lives. A home where their children don’t have to fear the constant threat of violence.

A few of these families have received refuge in our state. Every North Carolinian should be proud of this: it stands in the American tradition of accepting the tired, poor, huddled masses who yearn for nothing more than to breathe free.

There are many reasons, practical and otherwise, to be disappointed in Gov. Pat McCrory’s decision to oppose settling Syrian refugees in North Carolina. It ignores our constitutional system, where the federal government sets immigration and refugee policy. It also sends all the wrong signals — both to refugees here, and to people overseas who may perceive this move as hostility toward helping Muslims, even those in the most desperate of situations.

The savage acts of terror in Paris require a determined and vigorous international response. We grieve for the loss of innocent lives, and fight back our nation and the world must. But the enemy is not the Syrian refugee families and their children, struggling for a peaceful life. In fact, the terrorists caused these Syrian refugees to flee their homes in the first place. If we refuse to provide them a new, safe life and opportunity, we add only to their misery, do nothing to enhance our own security, and turn probable friends into possible future foes. We can fight terror without turning our back on our values and constitutional principles. If we turn our back on those values, the terrorists win in a different way.

When we think of how to handle tragedies like this one, we should imagine our own relatives in the position of the refugees. For many of us in this nation of immigrants, this is not especially hard: a few generations ago, it was our relatives in this position.

Like our relatives of a generation or two ago, today’s refugees just need shelter from the storm. They will find it in a place where they can settle, find work, prosper and contribute. Let this place be our nation. Let this place be our state.


Pat McCrory 2Dear Pat,

Regarding your recent pronouncement that we will no longer accept Syrian refugees, all I can say is, WOOOH! Yeah! Sing it, girl! Speaking truth to the powerless, that’s my guv! I mean, I don’t think it sounds terribly legal, but you were so brave and forthright, telling traumatized families to continue to wander the earth because you’re all about the safety of North Carolinians. Babe. That is so … potent. So virile.

Which brings me to a point you may not have considered. Now that you can tell people they can’t live in the state (cool superpower, bro!), you have an opportunity to exclude a truly dangerous class of people. It includes 100% of the Paris terrorists, 100% of the 9/11 hijackers, approximately 99% of all mass shooters, and roughly 90% of all murderers everywhere. Can you guess who it is? Can you, Pat? Hint: They’re not all Syrians. They’re not even all Muslims.

Violence doesn’t have a religion, a nationality, a color, or a creed, but it does have a kickstand. Do you get it now? Men. They’re all men. As soon as we stop accepting men, we will be exponentially safer. Won’t that be righteous? Everyone shall know of your commitment to the security of our citizens. Think how strong you’ll look when you make this stand for the old North State. You’ll represent the future, Patty Mac. Isn’t that what every governor wants?

The establishment of the Matriarchy in North Carolina could be your legacy. We’ll have to work out the rules, of course, about what it means when you say that certain people can’t come to the state, but there’s plenty of time for all that. (I know you’re thinking we’ll need all that time and more because the ladies can take a good long while making up their minds, amirite?) I don’t want you to worry that there will be no place for you, Pat, there will be exemptions and exceptions, and anyone who has been neutered by the Legislature should be a shoo-in. Read More


spellings-400cYesterday in The Nation, Zoe Carpenter laid bare the many reasons people who care about higher education should be concerned about the recent naming of Margaret Spellings as president of the University of North Carolina system.

Those reasons — close ties to the deceptive and imploding for-profit college sector, former leadership of a student loan debt collection company, homophobic comments — may already be old news to state residents, but here’s some elaboration from Carpenter:

At the Department of Education, Spellings tried to bring the focus on performance metrics and accountability that drove No Child Left Behind in higher-education policy.She convened a Commission on the Future of Higher Education, whose final report referred to students as “consumers,” and lauded elements of the for-profit education industry for embracing “an aggressive, outcomes-based approach.” Ironically, it’s the for-profit industry that has failed most egregiously since then to produce positive results for students. Kaplan Higher Education, one of the companies praised in the Spellings report, was forced to refund over a million dollars to hundreds of students in January after a federal investigation into the hiring of unqualified instructors, and another$1.3 million in July.

Spellings went on to work in the troubled for-profit industry after leaving the White House—an experience, she told UNC’s board of governors, that taught her “a lot about how we can serve our students and think of them as customers in providing a product in convenient ways for them.” Beginning in 2012 she served on the board of the Apollo Group, the parent company of for-profit chain University of Phoenix. That “diploma factory” is now under investigation by the Federal Trade Commission, in part for its aggressive recruiting of military veterans. Its online program has a graduation rate of just 7.3 percent, and the student loan default rate is up 5 percent from the national average.

Spellings also chaired the board of the Ceannate Corporation, a student loan–collection agency. It’s not surprising that she had connections there: During Spellings’s tenure the education department was accused of acting “as a wholly owned subsidiary” of the student-loan industry. Preying on student borrowers is lucrative business: profit margins for loan collectors average 30 percent. “Despite widespread calls to reform the student loan industry, Spellings and the Ceannate Corporation have simply profited off of it,” two UNC professors wrote in a recent op-ed. “Spellings’ defense of for-profit colleges [following her appointment] is perhaps just as disturbing as the predatory practices these institutions use to fleece students.”

Spellings has also come under fire for homophobia. She used her second day as education secretary to send a letter to the chief executive of PBS, admonishing her for a brief, unaired scene on a show called Postcards From Buster that depicted a same-sex couple. “Many parents would not want their young children exposed to the lifestyles portrayed in the episode,” she wrote. Spellings asked for the network to return the public funds that had been used to film it. Asked about the comments after her election to the top post at UNC, she said, “I’m not going to comment on those lifestyles.” She defended her actions, arguing that it was “a matter of how we use taxpayer dollars,” not about “any particular view” on “particular groups of people.”

Add to those yesterday’s announcement of a $102 million student loan forgiveness settlement involving Education Management Corporation — yet another connection Spellings had with the for-profit college industry.

Turns out that after leaving the White House Spellings also worked as a consultant to EDMC, and in comments at a forum for higher education leaders, defended the for-profit college world.

“We need to again use better data to make our case … to tell our story in credible ways,” Spellings was quoted by Inside Higher Ed as having told the folks gathered at that forum.

“We’re seen as wild-eyed, often profit-making, the wild west of higher education, and often don’t get credit for what we do.”


In case you missed it yesterday, Taylor Batten of the Charlotte Observer authored a damning article about Gov. McCrory’s sudden reversal of course on Syrian refugees that took place on — what a surprise!– the same day several other Republican governors decided to stoke public fears about immigrants and attack the Obama administration.

As Batten points out, the McCrory administration was quite calm about the matter last Friday in response to a question about the refugees:

“’Prior to being given refugee status, an extensive security screening is conducted on each individual’ by the U.S. Department of State, Department of Homeland Security, and other agencies, McCrory’s office replied.”

Seventy-two hours later, however, the tune had changed:

“At a press conference in Charlotte on Monday, however, McCrory said the state has little knowledge of what those background checks entail and that they have “vulnerabilities.” Because of that, McCrory said, Syrian refugees are not welcome in this state.

McCrory joins at least eight other GOP governors who on Sunday and Monday said they would not willingly accept refugees until the federal government tightened its vetting to ensure terrorists are not admitted.

‘I am now requesting that the president and the federal government cease sending refugees from Syria to North Carolina until we are thoroughly satisfied with the effectiveness of the federal background checks and security checks on such refugees entering our country,’ McCrory said at a press conference in Charlotte.”

The bottom line: McCrory’s flip flop clearly smacks of partisan political fear mongering. As Batten points out, if the administration has genuine and specific concerns about the federal oversight of refugees, then it ought to speak up and articulate them right away. At yesterday’s press conference, however, McCrory couldn’t do anything other than offer vague criticisms that sounded suspiciously as if they had been designed to appeal to nativists in his conservative base.

The truth of the matter is that people don’t get to enter the United States as “refugees” until they’ve been thoroughly vetted by federal immigration officials. McCrory knows this. And the notion that the the feds should somehow stop accepting genuine refugees and/or set up some kind of system in which state law enforcement officials would monitor these poor souls (as McCrory implied) is as mean-spirited as it is wasteful and just plain silly.

Let’s hope caring and thinking North Carolinians of all political stripes speak up forcefully and often in the days ahead to make clear that their Governor does not speak for them on this core issue of justice and human rights.

Click here to read Batten’s entire article.