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Just in from the watchdogs at Democracy NC (click here to read the entire report):

State Legislators Pile Up $8 Million for Campaigns;
Incumbent Advantage Will Grow with PACs’ “Gratitude Money”

A review of financial reports by the watchdog group Democracy North Carolina shows that state legislators running for reelection have stockpiled more than $8 million in cash for the final months of the 2014 campaign.

Legislators of both parties can also expect a windfall in special-interest donations when the General Assembly adjourns, likely this week, said Bob Hall, director of the nonpartisan group.

The 101 Republican legislators seeking election to the NC House or Senate hold $6.8 million in cash, more than four times as much as the $1.5 million held by the 52 Democrats. (The other 17 legislators are retiring or running for another office, or they were defeated in the primary.)

Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) led all lawmakers with $1,015,460 in cash as of June 30, the deadline for the most recent financial report. The next report is not due until late October. Senate Republican Majority Leader Harry Brown (R-Onslow) is next with $444,267, followed by Democratic Senator Josh Stein (D-Wake) with $347,413.

Because Speaker Thom Tillis is running for the U.S. Senate, the Republicans in the House who have the most cash are Rep. Tim Moore (R-Cleveland) with $251,573 and Rep. Nelson Dollar (R-Wake) with $246,216. Both men have Democratic opponents in the general election, but neither challenger had more $9,000 as of June 30.

“The combination of big-money fundraising and highly partisan redistricting means we’re seeing less competition in general elections,” said Hall “It’s hard to hold legislators accountable when they don’t have competition.”

Of the 153 legislators seeking reelection, 74 – or nearly half of them – face no opposition from the other major party. Read More

It kind of feels like dispensing praise for not robbing a bank, but hey, in today’s North Carolina political world , we’ll take what we can get.

Accordingly, the House of Representatives deserves a sincere ‘attaboy and ‘attagirl for passing legislation this week to require electronic records filing by most local and state candidates and political committees. The provision was watered down somewhat and doesn’t go into effect for three years, but it’s better than nothing. As the good people at the Coalition for Lobbying and Government Reform noted with justifiable pride:

“The North Carolina Coalition for Lobbying and Government Reform is commends the NC House for passing a bill today to require electronic filing of campaign reports.  All political campaigns and committees raising and/or spending more than $5,000 will be required to submit electronic reports to the NC Board of Elections beginning January 1, 2017.

The Coalition has been working for over five years to get electronic filing which will make it easier for citizens to see how much money candidates raise and from whom.  It will save the state money because state employees will no longer have to key in data from handwritten or typed reports.
Read More

Given that this is Election Day in many places around the state and nation,  it’s fitting that Raleigh’s News & Observer editorializes this morning against one of the great threats to fair elections in our country — namely, the vast sums of “dark money” being dumped into buying elections at all levels by fat cat special interests like the infamous Koch Brothers.

Athough the latest news stems from developments in California, this is not just a far-off problem for North Carolinians. As the editorial notes:

“The Kochs’ reach extends to North Carolina, where Americans for Prosperity, a group they started, has been orchestrating ads against Democratic U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan, who’s up for re-election in 2014. The campaign is gratuitous and hooked to an obscure issue, the carbon emissions tax, something few people are familiar with. It presents, however, an opportunity to attack a Democrat. Read More

If you can guess the answer to this question, you will have all the information you need to know about the 2013 North Carolina legislative session. Ready? Here goes:

Which of the following important dollar amounts in the North Carolina General Statutes have state lawmakers decided to raise by 25% and link to the Consumer Price Index maintained by the Bureau of Labor Statistics?

a) The state minimum wage
b) The per pupil allocation for each public school student
c) The weekly unemployment benefit drawn by claimants who are out-of-work due to plant closings
d) The maximum amount that big money campaign  contributors may bestow upon any one candidate during an election cycle

Got your answer? See the top comment below to see if you are right…

The watchdogs at Democracy NC just released the following:

Data Highlight: McCrory’s Sweetheart Deal with Duke Energy

In a remarkable sweetheart deal anchored with $1 million in campaign contributions, Gov. Pat McCrory’s administration yesterday agreed to settle a lawsuit against Duke Energy’s pollution of drinking water supplies in western North Carolina. Millions of tons of ash residue from Duke’s power plants have leaked contaminants into MountainIslandLake near Charlotte and the French BroadRiver near Asheville.

The problems have been known for years, but McCrory’s Department of Environment and Natural Resources signed an agreement that delays remedial action, calls for more study of the pollution, and fines Duke a piddling $99,112. Given Duke’s $19.6 billion in 2012 operating revenues, that’s the equivalent of fining a person with a $60,000 salary a total of 30 cents.

Under the agreement, Duke receives amnesty for its previous pollution, can continue leaching contaminants into the water, and gets to decide when its research shows that the contamination is significant enough to address. Gov. McCrory is largely turning over his responsibility to protect the public’s health to his former employer. The agreement is subject to 30 days of public comment before it can become effective.

Here are two news stories: http://www.charlotteobserver.com/2013/07/15/4166607/duke-energy-state-to-settle-ash.html and http://blogs2.citizen-times.com/outdoors/2013/07/15/nc-proposes-coal-ash-lawsuit-settlement-with-duke-energy/

The cozy relationship between Duke Energy and the McCrory administration becomes clearer when you follow the political money….

Read the rest of the release by clicking here.