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This is just in from the good people at Democracy North Carolina:

Legislative Leaders Are Setting Record for Fundraising from Special Interests; Speaker’s Solicitation Called “Shakedown

Despite efforts to reduce the influence of lobbyists and special interests in political fundraising, the top leaders of the NC General Assembly are on pace to break two records, according to a review of disclosure reports by the watchdog group Democracy North Carolina:

(1) they are raising more money from special-interest political action committees (PACs) than any of their predecessors, and

(2) they are relying more heavily on PACs to reach and exceed the large fundraising totals of past legislative leaders – in the range of $1 million and beyond. Read More

NC Voters for Clean Elections is out with a new and, sadly, not terribly surprising report on the big campaign money flowing from the pro-fracking crowd. This is from the release that accompanied the report:

RALEIGH, N.C. – As North Carolina lawmakers take up a new bill on hydraulic fracturing, the much-debated energy drilling method commonly known as “fracking,” a new report finds that energy interests tied to fracking gave campaign contributions to more than 100 state legislators between 2009 and 2011.

The report by N.C. Voters for Clean Elections, a state coalition focused on the role of money in politics, also finds that legislators who supported a pro-fracking bill in 2011 received more than triple the amount of campaign money from energy interests than did opponents of the legislation. Read More

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You’ve got to hand it to House Speaker Thom Tillis: the man has a remarkable amount of gall.

Who else would call a press conference to announce a new initiative to go after “fraud” in the unemployment insurance system (mind you, it’s only worker ”fraud” that the Speaker cares about — not employer fraud) on the same day that nonpartisan watchdogs and media outlets are questioning HIS embarrassingly inaccurate campaign finance reports.

The Locke people have posted a video of the entire press event – you have to fast forward to the last couple minutes to hear Tillis do his best Ralph Kramden “homina, homina, homina” impression when reporters ask him about his inaccurate reports.  

According to Tillis it’s all the fault of his “volunteer treasurer” Read More

The watchdogs at Democracy NC released the following sad but not surprising report earlier this morning:

For Release Tuesday, February 28, 2012 — Contact: Bob Hall, 919-489-1931

Amended Report from Speaker Thom Tillis Reveals Large Donations from Industry He Helped

A revised campaign disclosure report filed by House Speaker Thom Tillis earlier this month reveals that he received more than $20,000 last October from a special-interest group whose priority legislation he pushed through the House despite stiff opposition from consumer advocates and the United States military. Read More

For us folks in Wilmington, the tug-o-war over construction of a functional convention center has been putting people to sleep for years while those attending events with more than a few dozen others at the current facility spend useless minutes, gas, and patience trying to park and dodge comunity college students.

We were suddenly awakened a few weeks ago when Wilmington city officials worked through a pending law suit, political fallout, and general malaise to inform us that yes, Wilmington was going to break ground on a new convention center after over a decade of discussion, pricey hired consultants, and general empty rhetoric. 

That's the good news.  The bad news is that city chose Raleigh based builder J.M. Thompson to complete the project; this the same outfit that went over budget $1,000,000 on the recently completed New Hanover County jail, charged the county thousands to rent basic equipment such as copiers and computers, and took twice as long to complete the job as scheduled.  Seems to me to be a bit boneheaded to hire an out of town builder that has a poor track record in your area, especially when a local builder was hired to help complete their last disaster.

As stated in the Wilmington Star-News, our city manager (hired after the previous manager was fired in a male ego hissyfit orchestrated by a former mayor) cited the decades of time that Thompson had been in business as an indication that they would perform well with the convention center contract.  I guess he's never been to jail, or the new jail, anyway.

Wilmington needs a space for professionals to gather, and let's just hope that this choice doesn't make the process take even longer and cost even more. It seems our town is getting a statewide reputation for bad municipal decisions, unethical elected officials, non-existent attention to infrastructure, and development influenced government.  If we're not careful, Myrtle Beach may come a lot closer than an hour away.