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For years, North Carolina progressives have frequently been critical of what might properly be described as the state’s “good ol’ boy economic development establishment.” This skeptical attitude — which has been constant under both Democratic and Republican leadership — was/is born of the rightful perception that too much of the money the state spends in this area (be it on tax breaks and loopholes for corporations, direct handouts to businesses by various governors and their Departments of Commerce or on nonprofit economic development agencies) is subject to favoritism and lack of rigor when it comes to demanding real results. 

Given this backdrop, the recent attention on the North Carolina Rural Center is not unwelcome. The recent examination of the Center by the state Auditor provides strong evidence that the Center had many “good ol’ boy” tendencies and didn’t always get all the bang for its buck that would have been desirable (and that it probably led many to believe it was actually generating). In addition, the compensation package for the Executive Director was way too high. 

 All that said, this morning’s editorial in Raleigh’s News & Observer is absolutely right about the need to avoid rash action on the Center’s future. As the editorial puts it: Read More

The nonpartisan Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington has released a new 105 page report documenting the sins of the 18 “worst governors in America.” The list is divided into three categories: “ringmasters,” “clowns” and “sideshows.” As you can see at page 87 of the report (page 90 of the PDF) Gov. McCrory is included in category #2.

Other prominent governors featured include: Jan Brewer of Arizona, Nikki Haley of South Carolina, Andrew Cuomo of New York and Bobby Jindal of Louisiana.

According to the report, the criteria used in assessment are: Read More

This morning’s edition of the Greenville Daily Reflector included this excellent editorial:

“The men and women arrested each week during the “Moral Monday” protests at the Legislative Building know they will face charges of trespassing, disorderly conduct and failure to disperse. Until recently, however, they could not expect that their name to land in an online database compiled by a right-wing advocacy group once funded by the state budget director.

The Civitas Institute, which maintains the listing on its website, is violating no law in compiling this public information and claims to be merely fighting back against the protesters’ message. But the organization’s connection to Art Pope, the conservative financier who Gov. Pat McCrory tapped to write the state budget, gives the database a more sinister overtone and makes the practice highly questionable.

As is now typical in Raleigh, a large crowd gathered on Monday night to decry the work of the Republican-led General Assembly. North Carolina Democrats and their supporters cannot halt legislation and therefore seek to offer a rhetorical counterpoint through protest and civil disobedience.

This week marked the 10th event, dubbed by the organizing NAACP as “Moral Mondays.” What began in small numbers now draws thousands to the Legislative Building, and more than 600 have submitted to arrest as a result of their deliberate action. Though the courts will determine the legal ramifications, peaceable assembly and the right to petition one’s government are both protected by the First Amendment.

The Civitas Institute, a nonprofit organization backing conservative policies, has a vested interest in seeing these protests fail….”

Read the rest by clicking here.

In case you missed it, Billy Corriher, a native North Carolinian and current Associate Director of Research at Legal Progress– a branch of the Washington, DC-based Center for American Progress — has an excellent “For the record” essay in the Charlotte Observer.

How Art Pope killed a popular judicial financing program

This is the story of how one very wealthy man stopped a government program endorsed by three North Carolina governors (two Republicans and a Democrat), most of the judges from both parties on the state’s top courts, and hundreds of civic and business leaders. Read More

Sue Sturgis over at the Institute for Southern Studies has a new story out about the Pope-Civitas Institute’s latest intimidation tactic toward legislative protesters.

“The John W. Pope Civitas Institute, a conservative think tank based in Raleigh, N.C., has launched a database targeting people who’ve been arrested as part of the Moral Monday nonviolent protests at the state legislature.

The Civitas Institute was founded by conservative mega-donor and discount-retail mogul Art Pope, now the North Carolina budget director under Republican Gov. Pat McCrory, and it was named for Pope’s father. The nonprofit gets about 94 percent of its funding from the family foundation Pope chairs. That raises questions about the ethics of a public official who’s been a target of the protests being involved in an apparent effort to target the protesters for harassment — or worse.”

No word yet on whether the effort is being coordinated with the group’s chief funder (i.e. the state budget ), legislative leaders or other far right groups, but as Sturgis reports, the tactic is reminiscent of the one’s used by the reactionary opponents of the Civil Rights movement, so nothing would come as a surprise.

Read the entire story by clicking here.