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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.

News

Nuns on the busThe one and only Nuns on the Bus are bringing their truly unique “get out the vote” tour to North Carolina this week. Click here to listen to NOTB Executive Director Sister Simone Campbell explain what the tour is all about. Here’s the schedule:

Oct 4, 2014 (9:30 am) Civil Rights Remembrance and Call to Vote Governmental Plaza (Between City of Greensboro & Guilford County Courthouse)
300 Washington Street, Greensboro, NC 27401
RSVP
Oct 4, 2014 (2:00 pm) Rally at the Capitol North Carolina State Capitol
1 E Edenton St, Raleigh, NC , Raleigh, NC 27601
RSVP
Oct 4, 2014 (6:30 pm) Multicultural Festival & Voter Registration Immaculate Conception Catholic Church
810 W Chapel Hill St, Durham, NC 27701
RSVP
Oct 5, 2014 (8:30 am) Pot Luck Breakfast Pullen Memorial Baptist Church
1801 Hillsborough St., Raleigh, NC 27605
RSVP
Oct 5, 2014 (11:00 am) Sunday Worship Pullen Memorial Baptist Church
1801 Hillsborough St., Raleigh, NC 27605
RSVP
Oct 5, 2014 (2:30 pm) Voter Forum Sycamore Chapel Missionary Baptist Church
1360 Farmville Blvd., Greenville, NC 27834
RSVP
Oct 6, 2014 (10:00 am) Voter Registration YWCA Asheville
85 S French Broad Ave, Asheville, NC 28801
RSVP
Oct 6, 2014 (7:00 pm) Forum (Ticket Required) Poverty Forum at Diana Wortham Theatre
2 S Pack Square, Asheville, NC 28801
Oct 7, 2014 (3:00 pm) Site Visit YWCA Central Carolinas
3420 Park Road, Charlotte, NC 28209
RSVP
Oct 7, 2014 (6:00 pm) Town Hall for the 100% St. Peter’s Catholic Church
501 South Tyron Street, Charlotte, NC 28202
RSVP
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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.
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This new report is just in from the watchdogs at Democracy North Carolina:

“Disclosure Law Shields State Legislators, Donors

As the General Assembly debates who should control the State Bureau of Investigation’s ability to probe political corruption, a new study says many state legislators are shielding themselves – and their donors – from scrutiny by filing incomplete, misleading, or hard-to-decipher campaign reports.

Under state law, legislative candidates must file six reports during the two-year campaign period to disclose who is donating to their campaigns and how the money is used.

But the election watchdog group Democracy North Carolina found that 92 of the 170 legislators

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Uncategorized

In case you missed it, the Charlotte Observer has reprinted a fine column authored by Al Hunt of Bloomberg News under the headline: “Voter suppression is the greater racist outrage.”

As Hunt aptly notes:

“The widespread condemnation of the vile prejudice expressed by a professional-basketball-team owner and a Nevada rancher underscored the progress America has made on race.

On the same day Donald Sterling, the owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, was banned from the game for life for making racist comments, another story with more important racial implications was unfolding: A federal judge in Wisconsin struck down a law passed by that state’s Republican legislators that would have made voting harder by requiring state-approved photo identification at polling places.

More than 30 states have sought to impose voting restrictions over the past three years. Supporters of the measures claim they are aimed at preventing voting fraud. Critics say they are designed to disenfranchise, particularly black Americans and members of other minorities, and are the greatest threat since the Voting Rights Act was passed almost a half century ago….. Read More