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.


Senator Thom Tillis

One of the this morning’s “must read” editorials comes from the Fayetteville Observer. As the authors note, the recent news about Carolina Rising — the supposed charitable nonprofit that was in fact a thinly disguised front group for the Senate candidacy of Thom Tillis  — tells us much of what we need to know about the sorry state of U.S. campaign finance laws and their enforcement.

Here’s the Observer:

“Bad enough that the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision opened the door to unfettered purchasing of elections by wealthy donors. But so much worse when the few remaining restrictions on the buying of elections are ignored, as well.

North Carolina has a picture of how bad it can get. We see it in Carolina Rising, a 501(c)(4) social-welfare organization that apparently served the welfare of just one man: Thom Tillis, who now represents North Carolina in the U.S. Senate.

According to Carolina Rising’s tax filings, the group spent $4.7 million in 2014 on advertising that extolled Tillis’ legislative virtues. He was speaker of the N.C. House at the time, running to unseat then-Sen. Kay Hagan.

Tillis won, in no small measure because of Carolina Rising’s efforts. Afterward, the nonprofit’s director, Dallas Woodhouse, rejoiced for a TV news camera: ‘$4.7 million. We did it.’ Woodhouse, who more recently became executive director of the state Republican Party, later walked that back, saying it was victory-party euphoria, and all of Carolina Rising’s spending was within the letter of the law.”

As the editorial also notes, as weak as the law is, there’s still reason for federal officials to investigate and hope that Carolina Rising will be called on the carpet:

“But where were the Internal Revenue Service and the Federal Election Commission, the agencies that are supposed to police nonprofits and political spending? Apparently, they were hearing no evil and seeing no evil – and they certainly haven’t been speaking up about it.

Like other such groups, Carolina Rising is allowed to keep its donors secret. But the group does have to partially disclose its funding sources, and nearly 99 percent of the money came from one donor.

It would be good to know just who bought the election for Thom Tillis. Even in an era of unrestrained political spending, we should know where the money’s coming from. But “dark money” is gaining a powerful grip on our electoral system.

If Carolina Rising gets away with what it did in 2014, that grip is likely to tighten, and voters will be as deeply in the dark as the money that’s being spent to buy elections.”

Click here to read the entire editorial, “A chance to shine light on ‘dark money’ politics.”


Some interesting rulings from courts around the country came down on Monday addressing issues that may well land at the U.S. Supreme Court in the near future.

Gun control:  A federal appeals court in New York largely upheld gun control laws passed in New York and Connecticut after the 2012 Newton shootings, finding that there was a substantial relationship between bans on the possession of semi-automatic weapons and large-capacity magazines and the states’ compelling interests in controlling crime.

Writing for the 2d U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals,  Judge Jose A. Cabranes said:

“When used, these weapons tend to result in more numerous wounds, more serious wounds, and more victims. These weapons are disproportionately used in crime, and particularly in criminal mass shootings. They are also disproportionately used to kill law enforcement officers.”

Read the full opinion here.

Defunding Planned Parenthood: While lawmakers in Texas cut state Medicaid funding for Planned Parenthood, a federal district court judge in Louisiana temporarily blocked lawmakers there from doing the same, finding that Planned Parenthood could likely succeed on its claims that the cuts targeted medical services provided to thousands of low-income women and had little to do with the competence of the group’s clinics there.

Calling out the cuts as politically-motivated,  U.S. District Judge John deGravelles wrote:

The uncontradicted evidence in the record at this time is that PPGC does not perform abortions in Louisiana, is not involved in the sale of fetal tissue and none of the conduct in question occurred at the PPGC’s two Louisiana facilities. Based on the record before it, it appears likely that Plaintiff will be able to prove that the attempted termination against it are motived and driven, at least in large part, by reasons unrelated to its competence and unique to it.

Read that decision here, and more on the case from Mother Jones here.

Campaign finance:  The U.S. Supreme Court refused to review a decision out of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals requiring the group Montanans for Community Development to disclose its donors and spending while it attempts to have state laws that prevent outside groups from coordinating with candidates overturned.

The SCOTUS order is here.


wb-9292015As reported in yesterday’s Weekly Briefing, Republicans have been attempting in the final days of the 2015 session to address an intramural battle over the control of campaign finance funds by allowing legislative leaders to create slush funds of their own that could act very much like political parties — i.e. not subject to many campaign finance limitations.

When this action provoked a firestorm of opposition from Tea Party Republicans (and even the possibility of a gubernatorial veto), however, the lawmakers solved the conflict by taking the amazing step of inserting a provision in the “technical corrections” bill last night that will give members of the Council of State, including Gov. Pat McCrory, the authority to set up their own “affiliated campaign committees” separate from party funds. WRAL has more here.

In other words, now there will be lots more political slush funds under the control of the state’s statewide elected officials! What could possibly go wrong?

We’ll have more details and analysis from campaign watchdogs on this provision later this morning. Stay tuned.


Some seats still remain for tomorrow’s Crucial Conversation luncheon – “Dirty money, dirty water: The end of judicial campaign public financing in North Carolina.”

The event will feature Billy Corriher, the Director of Research for Legal Progress at the Center for American Progress in Washington, D.C., where his work focuses on state courts and the influence of political contributions on judges.

Corriher will be joined by Chris Kromm, Executive Director of the Durham-based Institute for Southern Studies and one of North Carolina’s best-known muckrakers. When: Tuesday, September 30, 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)

Space is limited – pre-registration required.

Cost: $10, admission includes a box lunch.

Click here to register

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