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The Civitas Institute, a Raleigh-based conservative group, has filed a public records request for emails and correspondence of Gene Nichol, a tenured University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill law professor who has been critical of McCrory Administration policies.

Gene Nichol

Gene Nichol

The public records request for Nichol’s emails was reported Thursday afternoon by Sue Sturgis of the Institute for Southern Studies, a group which has closely tracked spending by Art Pope, a wealthy Republican donor serving as McCrory’s budget director. Civitas is funded almost entirely by a family foundation run by Pope.

From Sturgis’ post:

The Raleigh, N.C.-based Civitas Institute wants the email correspondence, phone records, and calendars of Gene Nichol, director of the UNC Center on Poverty, Work and Opportunity and a Moral Monday protest participant. It seeks Nichols’ records during the period from Sept. 14 through Oct. 25, the day the request was filed. Civitas submitted the FOIA request the week after Nichol wrote a newspaper column critical of the McCrory administration.

FOIA laws were designed to ensure government information is available to the public. But in recent years, requests from conservative groups for the records of academics in Virginia, Texas, Wisconsin and Michigan have raised questions whether FOIA is being used for politically motivated harassment.

“For a crowd that talks so much about liberty, they sure love to shut people up,” Nichol told Facing South.

Civitas, which was also behind the controversial database of Moral Monday arrestees, filed the information request 11 days after Nichol published a column in The News & Observer of Raleigh in which he called North Carolina’s new election law imposing strict photo voter ID requirements and other limits on voting the “most oppressive in the nation” and likened Gov. Pat McCrory (R) to “a 21st century successor to Maddox, Wallace and Faubus,” referring to the segregationist governors of Georgia, Alabama and Arkansas.

To read more, click here.

Nichol is also a board member of the N.C. Justice Center, an anti-poverty non-profit that N.C. Policy Watch is a part of.

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(Updated – See comment #1 below)The stories are coming so thick and fast that it’s getting harder and harder to shock caring and thinking North Carolinians with tales of laugh-out-loud malfeasance and the elevation of political operatives to positions of power and influence in North Carolina’s far-right state government.  

Francis De LucaStill, it’s fair to say that a lot of eyebrows had to have been raised in Raleigh yesterday with the appointment by state Senate Leader Phil Berger of Francis De Luca, the head of one of the state’s most aggressive conservative advocacy groups, the Pope-Civitas Institute, to, of all things, the Board of the State Ethics Commission. After all, as director of Pope-Civitas — a group funded almost exclusively by the family foundation of state Budget Director Art Pope — De Luca is paid to be a fire-breathing crusader for a very specific political agenda. What’s more, he also heads a 501(c)(4) political group — Civitas Action — that is dedicated to, among other things, producing slick (and in some cases, downright malicious) attack ads against disfavored political candidates. Click here to see some the group’s handiwork from 2010 and 2011. (To add to the irony of the whole thing, De Luca was appointed to take the place of another former Pope group employee, Les Merritt, who resigned because of a potential conflict of interest posed by his current $312,000 per year job in the McCrory administration).   

In addition to raising eyebrows, the appointment ought to raise legal questions as well. According to the State Government Ethics Act, Section 138A-7 (d)(3), Read More

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In case you missed it, this Fayetteville Observer editorial helps explain the remarkable blindness of the Pope/Tillis/Berger/McCrory decision to deny health insurance to a half-million North Carolinians by refusing to allow the expansion of Medicaid at a comparatively tiny cost to the state. After documenting the disastrous impact the decision is having on poorer, rural hospitals like Southeastern Regional Medical Center in Lumberton, the editorial concludes this way:

“The rationale for the legislature’s decision was that Medicaid is “broken” because its cost rose as more people sought assistance while recovery from a record recession lagged.

The illogic of that position must be drawing some political heat. This week Senate and House leaders took to filming a protest and doing head counts of protesters and journalists – small-bore politics.

‘An expansion of Medicaid would cost North Carolina taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars through 2021,’ they said in a joint release.

Probably so. But not expanding Medicaid is going to cost us billions, much sooner. If it leaves a landscape strewn with closed, underfunded or understaffed hospitals, that will be the heaviest cost of all.”

Read the entire editorial by clicking here.

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Pat McCrory 2Art Pope 3In a rather amazing response to the bad P.R. they’ve been receiving for their toughest-in-the-nation policies toward the poor and unemployed over the last several months, Gov. McCrory and his budget director, chain store magnate Art Pope, issued a pair of press releases today in an attempt to show what caring souls they are.

Unfortunately for both men, both statements come off as almost comically pathetic in their failure to appreciate the magnitude of the problem confronting people in need.

The Governor’s statement was probably the funniest: he announced that:

“approximately 6,700 pounds of fresh turnip greens harvested at the state prison farm at Caledonia Correctional Institution are being delivered to the Food Bank of Central & Eastern North Carolina.”

Gee thanks, Guv! That ought to take care of that pesky hunger problem!

Pope, meanwhile, Read More

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Aldona WosArt popePat McCrory 4How much lower can the performance of the folks running North Carolina’s Department of Health and Human Services sink? By all indications, DHHS now stands for Department of Hell for Hurting Souls.

The latest outrage, of course, is the decision to give life to the late night fantasies of the Randians in the Pope Empire by using the federal government shutdown as an excuse to close the last vestiges of North Carolina’s already pitiable “welfare” program: Work First. The program has already been allowed to wither to the point at which it serves only a tiny fragment of those who should be receiving assistance. It cost less than $5 million for the entire state in September — barely enough to renovate two dozen nice bathrooms.

And still, the McCrory/Pope/Wos triumvirate can’t be bothered to do what the leaders of every other state in the union have done — states who, by the way, almost all have much, much larger bills to pay — namely, to stick a crow bar in their precious rainy day fund and free up a few hundred thousand bucks for a few days.     

The decision, of course, comes on top of similar decisions to halt  payments for several other programs serving the most needy, including WIC (subsequently rescinded in the wake of widespread public outrage), vocational rehabilitation and the TEACH childcare program.

All in all, it is just one more  toxic brick in the reprehensible wall being constructed by the nation’s most extreme administration that continues to divide citizens from their government and the haves of society from the have nots.