Pat McCrory 4Got a traffic problem in your neighborhood? No problem, just call Gov. McCrory!

In case you missed it over the weekend, Raleigh’s News & Observer has yet another story about a campaign contributor to Pat McCrory getting special treatment. In this case, it appears a new Highway Patrol campaign to crack down on sleeping truckers was spurred by complaints from the owner of a winery (and McCrory campaign contributor) who kept seeing sleeping truckers parked along the highway exit he uses in Surry County. This is from “McCrory donor sparked Highway Patrol campaign against napping truckers”:

“[Charlie] Shelton says he met with McCrory in February or early March to express concern about truckers who park along the ramps up and down I-77.

‘It’s unsightly,’ Shelton, 80, said in an interview. “It’s against the law to park a tractor-trailer and go to sleep there and throw your trash out on the road. …

‘I asked to talk with him about it, and I spent a little time explaining it to him. And that’s when he got the troopers involved and the DOT involved.’

Of course, none of this is at all surprising. North Carolinians have long known that fat cat political contributors get special access to a lot of politicians and McCrory is clearly no exception. Still, the stories coming out of the Guv’s office of late are so blatant and, well, small-time (can’t the man at least save his interventions for something a little more weighty than a penny ante prison contract and traffic on a highway exit ramp?) as to be almost pathetic.

The bottom line: North Carolina must get back on the road to public campaign financing that it was traveling before Republicans took power five years ago. The only way to break the stranglehold that big money has on our political and lawmaking processes and to put an end to the kind of embarrassing corruption stories that keep emanating from the McCrory administration is to have voter owned elections. Let’s hope it doesn’t require criminal justice system involvement of the kind that sent former Speaker Jim Black to jail to make such change a reality.

Click here to read the entire N&O story.


One of the best commentaries yet on the brewing scandal surrounding the McCrory administration’s boneheaded interactions with a prison contractor/campaign contributor comes from the always amusing Barry Saunders of Raleigh’s News & Observer. This is from Saunders’ latest column (“My outrage about this prison story? How cheap it all is”):

“Great day in the morning! The real estate magnate contributed $12,000 to McCrory’s gubernatorial campaign, yet McCrory – according to our story – trekked to Charlotte on Oct. 28, 2014, to help Keith make the case that he should keep his $3-million-per-year prison maintenance contracts. Never mind that state officials felt the state could handle the job more efficiently and with more safety, savings and accountability.

Keith’s little-bitty largess bought a place at the table with the governor and other state officials, a table at which – according to a memo of the meeting – Keith proclaimed that since politicians had danced to the music, they now had to pay the piper. That since he had greased their palms, it was time for them to grease his, too.

Only difference appears to be that he greased theirs with a thimbleful and they greased his with a big ol’ tub o’ lard.

McCrory acknowledged being at the meeting, at the table, even, but said he didn’t hear the big payback pronouncement because he must’ve been engaged in a side deal – I mean a side conversation.

Anything is possible, but it’s hard to believe that McCrory, seated at the same table, didn’t hear what the stentorian, 6’5” former jock said about the reciprocation he expected. According to the memo, ‘The meeting began with the Governor McCrory making a few remarks and turning the meeting over to Graeme Keith.’”

Saunders goes on to point out that Keith gave lots of dough to Democrats in his time too and just how modest and commonplace such a contribution is:

“Who knew you could buy influence for that kind of lightweight lettuce?

I’ll tell you what: If we’d known that political influence could be bought so cheaply in North Carolina, my buddies and I would have churched up 10 years ago, bought us a pol and ensured that we kept the late, lamented 14 Karat Dinner Theater open.

If word gets out that our governor can be summoned for less than the bag boy at Piggly Wiggly makes annually – $12,000 comes out to about $6 an hour – McCrory will be a laughingstock at the next national governors’ ball.”

Sadly, Saunders is probably right on the money. Read the entire column by clicking here.

Commentary, News

Sen. Thom Tillis

[UPDATED] In case you missed it yesterday, there’s a fascinating story percolating in the insider world of big money politics right now surrounding the group Carolina Rising, which was headed during the months leading up to the 2014 election by longtime conservative activist and current state Republican Party executive director, Dallas Woodhouse. (The Center for Responsive Politics has extensive coverage of this story as well — click here to read.)

Yesterday, the nonprofit watchdog Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) filed a complaint with the Internal Revenue Service in which it alleges that Carolina Rising violated IRS rules surrounding the permissible activities of 501(c)(4) nonprofits. The complaint asks the IRS to: “investigate whether Carolina Rising…violated the tax code by operating primarily to influence political campaigns and for the private benefit of now-Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC), and whether Carolina Rising and its president, Dallas Woodhouse, violated federal law by failing to disclose on its tax return nearly $4.7 million Carolina Rising spent on political activity in 2014.”

The gist of the complaint is that Carolina Rising acted, despite its claims to be an issue advocacy group, as a campaign organization that existed to get Tillis elected. This conclusion is boosted, the complainants argue, by Woodhouse’s own admission to a TV reporter on the night of Tillis’ election in which the following exchange took place:

Reporter: “You spent a whole lot of money to get this man elected, right?”
Woodhouse: “4.7 million dollars! We did it.”

In addition to the tax code issues raised by the complaint, another fascinating aspect to the story is the question of who funded Carolina Rising. This is from a summary of the issue posted by CREW yesterday: Read More


RSVP today for next Tuesday’s Crucial Conversation luncheon:
Sweepstakes industry corruption: How far does it go? What should be done?

Featuring Bob Hall, Executive Director of Democracy North Carolina

Bob Hall, Executive Director of Democracy NC

It’s been almost a decade since the efforts of a determined group of nonprofit watchdogs, led by Democracy North Carolina Executive Director Bob Hall, helped expose the corruption of former North Carolina House Speaker Jim Black. In addition to driving Black from office, those efforts helped spur a number of improvements to state laws governing campaign finance, gifts to public officials, lobbying disclosures and many other important areas.

Now, however, corruption has reared its ugly head again and there are real questions as to whether the existing structure for enforcing state campaign finance laws can respond adequately to the challenge. As detailed in a letter Hall delivered to federal and state prosecutors earlier this month, several of North Carolina’s most important political leaders were the recipients of large and potentially illegal campaign contributions from individuals affiliated with the controversial “sweepstakes” industry in 2011 and 2012. Strangely and surprisingly, however, officials at the State Board of Elections chose not to follow up on Hall’s findings. Now Hall and his colleagues are appealing to the U.S. Attorney and Wake County District Attorney to take a second look.

Join us as Hall explains his findings, what Democracy NC is asking prosecutors to do and the overall state of political corruption in North Carolina politics today.

Click here to register

When: Tuesday, August 25, at noon — Box lunches will be available at 11:45 a.m.

Where: 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 parking info.

Space is limited – preregistration required.

Cost: $10, admission includes a box lunch.

Click here to register

Questions?? Contact Rob Schofield at 919-861-2065 or


There hasn’t been much to cheer about in the General Assembly this session, but some of the good folks working to reform our broken and plutocrat-owned election system are finding some inklings of hope. Word on Jones Street is that there may be a chance that lawmakers will insert a provision into this year’s omnibus elections law legislation that will close a giant loophole that’s currently shielding a lot of big money from public view.

As Alex Kotch of the Institute for Southern Studies reported recently:

hidden-money-pieA measure that may come before the North Carolina legislature this session could bring to light millions of dollars in political spending that is now often disclosed days or weeks after TV or radio ads air or political mailers are sent out — and in some cases, even after the elections they seek to influence have taken place.

Due to a loophole in North Carolina law, some outside political groups — those that are not affiliated with a candidate and spend independently to influence elections — are not required to disclose their spending until after an election. According to current disclosure rules, these “registered” political committees, whose primary purpose is to support or oppose candidates for office, only need to report expenditures on a quarterly schedule during election years. Consequently, information about who paid for many television and radio ads aired and mailers distributed before last November’s state-level elections and how much they paid was not disclosed until January of this year.

In 2013 a bill that would have tightened disclosure requirements for outside groups, H918, passed the state House with wide, bipartisan support in a vote of 97 to 16 but then stalled. Had it passed, a Facing South/Institute for Southern Studies analysis finds, more than $7.1 million in outside election spending in 2014 would have been disclosed earlier, 71 percent of the nearly $10.1 million in total outside spending in the state.

Of that amount, $1.6 million would have been disclosed before the 2014 elections if the loophole had been closed. Instead, spending information was kept hidden until after voting had ended, making it difficult for the public to know what special interests were seeking to influence North Carolina elections.

Let’s hope this measure develops some real traction in the waning says of the 2015 session. Click here to read the rest of Kotch’s report and here for more information on the necessary legislation in a fact sheet from the folks at NC Voters for Clean Elections.