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Former House Speaker-turned lobbyist Harold Brubaker

Former House Speaker and current top-ranked lobbyist Harold Brubaker – Photo: NC General Assembly

The North Carolina Center for Public Policy Research is a fine and venerable organization that has done many great services to the state. Moreover, its commitment to sober and thorough research in which the focus is on getting things right more than getting them fast is a welcome departure from the norm in today’s hyper-fast-paced policy environment.

That said, here’s a vote for doing away with one of the organization’s signature products — its annual “rankings” of lobbyists and lawmakers.

Every year (or at least it seems like every year anyway — I’m actually not sure how often these darned things come out ), the Center releases the results of surveys it conducts of the denizens of the state Legislative Building on the “effectiveness” of lawmakers and lobbyists. The results are then converted into a “rankings” system and released with much fanfare. Think of it as a kind of once-per-year AP Top 25 football team poll for politicos. Today, the Center released its lobbyist list.

It’s hard to pinpoint what’s most offensive about the rankings. Maybe it’s the use of the word “effectiveness,” which as a practical matter, has come to mean “power and influence.” Surprise! This year, the “most effective” lobbyist is former House Speaker and ALEC chairman emeritus-turned corporate mouthpiece Harold Brubaker. Similarly, last spring’s rankings touted Phil Berger and Thom Tillis as the “most effective” legislators. What a shocker that was! (I mean, who’s kidding who? Saying Harold Brubaker is “more effective” than some underpaid nonprofit advocate for sick kids or the environment is like seriously reporting that Florida State has a “more effective” football team than N.C. Central.)

Maybe it’s the notion Read More

NC Budget and Tax Center

Supporters of the Senate’s billion-dollar-a-year tax cut proposal gave North Carolinians an earful last week about the need to improve our state’s “business climate.” Unfortunately, their comments in the debate on the tax plan reflected a measure  of business climate based on  a misleading and incomplete index manufactured by an organization dedicated to cutting all taxes, all the time and justifying it no matter what the facts might be.

Like many indices that claim to assess and compare states’ ability to compete for business investment, the Tax Foundation’s approach focuses entirely on taxes even though  a range of other policies are crucial for meeting the needs of business, creating jobs, and building a strong economy. So it’s no surprise that the results bear little resemblance to reality. 

So here are three reasons that the Tax Foundation rankings are the wrong foundation for making tax policy in North Carolina:

1.       They focus exclusively on cherry-picked tax policies the Tax Foundation just doesn’t like, rather than on the whole range of factors that genuinely drive business investment decisions.

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Raleigh will play host to two excellent events next week that will shine a light on the efforts by big money to purchase our government.

On Tuesday evening February 19, the national executive director of Common Cause, Bob Edgar, will be in town to lead a discussion of the growing and pernicious influence of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). The event will take place at Pullen Memorial Baptist Church, 1801 Hillsborough Street at 7:00 pm. RSVP by contacting NC Common Cause Director Bob Phillips at 919-836-0027 or bphillips@commoncause.org.

Two days later, at 12 noon on February 21, NC Policy Watch will team up with Common Cause for a special Crucial Conversation luncheon:

Big money, dark money: The threat posed to our democracy by media consolidation and secretly-funded elections – Featuring the former Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, Dr. Michael Copps.

The luncheon will take place at the Center for Community Leadership Training Room at the Junior League of Raleigh Building, 711 Hillsborough St. at the corner of Hillsborough and St. Mary’s Streets).

Click here for more information and to register.

 

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Hurricane Isaac is raking the Gulf Coast this morning on the seventh anniversary of Katrina and will undoubtedly leave a trail of destruction and woe behind. Elsewhere, however — for better or worse — the world moves on. Here’s one small bright spot worth celebrating: The good people at the Center for Media and Democracy report that the front group for right-wing economic and social causes known as the American Legislative Exchange Council (or ALEC) continues to lose more and more members.

According to this encouraging report:

“Six more companies have indicated that they are cutting, or have cut, ties to ALEC: General Electric (GE), Western Union, Sprint Nextel, Symantec (maker of Norton antivirus software), Reckitt Benckiser Group (a British consumer goods company that makes such brands as French’s mustard, Woolite, Lysol, Clearasil, Durex, and D-Con), and Entergy (a power plant company headquartered in New Orleans)…. Read More

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As we and others reported on Friday, a candidate for state Democratic Party Chair, Donald Vaughan, was revealed in recent days to have been a member of the corporate-funded, arch-conservative group ALEC. Late on Friday, Vaughan sent us a letter in which he explained that he is resigning from the group. Click here to read the letter.

Good for Vaughan. It remains to be seen, however, whether the state’s Democrats will find the explanation compelling or too little too late.