Commentary

Convicted felon and current probationer to keynote Pope-Civitas event

You’ve got to hand it to the Pope-Civitas Institute. The group is not afraid to do whatever it takes to advance the right-wing message — even if it means setting new standards in gall and hypocrisy.

The latest exhibit: It was announced yesterday that the keynote speaker as this year’s “Conservative Leadership Conference” will be right-wing activist and convicted election law felon Dinesh D’Souza. This is from a September 2014 Huffington Post story describing D’Souza’s deeds:

“Conservative author and filmmaker Dinesh D’Souza was sentenced on Tuesday to spend eight months in a community confinement center during five years of probation after pleading guilty to a campaign finance law violation.

The defendant, a frequent critic of President Barack Obama, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Richard Berman in Manhattan. He was also given a $30,000 fine and ordered to do one day of community service a week during his probation.

D’Souza, 53, admitted in May to illegally reimbursing two ‘straw donors’ who donated $10,000 each to the unsuccessful 2012 U.S. Senate campaign in New York of Wendy Long, a Republican he had known since attending Dartmouth College in the early 1980s.

‘It was a crazy idea, it was a bad idea,’ D’Souza told Berman before being sentenced. ‘I regret breaking the law.’

Prosecutors had sought a 10-to 16-month prison sentence, rejecting defense arguments that D’Souza was ‘ashamed and contrite’ about his crime and deserved probation with community service.”

You got that? An organization that regularly rails about “soft-on-crime” policies and politicians and a supposed epidemic of election fraud in the country is nonetheless turning over its podium to someone who was sentenced for committing an election law felony less that a year a half ago. The guy just got out of jail last year and is still on probation for heaven’s sake.

Maybe the point is to have him come and hold forth on second chances for those who’ve been convicted of crimes after having made stupid mistakes in life. If that’s so, well then, good for him and the Civitasers.

But the email promoting the event gives no indication that this is the case. Instead, it’s the usual hard right vitriol. And indeed, the “about” section from the website promoting D’Souza’s new post-jail book, “Stealing America” includes this doozy of a summary: “Why Hillary, Obama, and the entire Democratic Party are no better than a gang of thieves.”

All in all, it sounds like ol’ Dinesh may be a case study in likely criminal recidivism rather than rehabilitation and second chances. Stay tuned.

Commentary

GOP support for the free market and competition? Not when it comes to NC elections

For a group of politicians so passionate about the “genius” of “free markets” and “competition,” North Carolina’s conservative leaders sure do whistle a different tune when it comes to elections. In case you missed it, the lead Sunday editorial in the Greensboro News & Record explains:

“It’s disappointing that 2016 will be another year of limited political competition in North Carolina. That’s intentional, and the design was just reaffirmed by the state Supreme Court.

While there are plenty of candidates running for governor, the U.S. Senate and some congressional seats, many legislative seats will be uncontested.

On ballots next November, 57 out of 120 state House races and 15 out of 50 state Senate contests will show just one candidate — barring the late entry of independent contenders via petition.

No wonder, when legislators drew their own districts. While they may favor competition in education or business, they fear competition in politics and do everything they can to avoid it.”

Unfortunately, as the editorial goes on to explain, North Carolina’s GOP-controlled Supreme Court recently upheld the scheme and its transparent packing of minority voters into a handful of districts:

“The North Carolina court majority found it permissible to use the 50 percent-plus standard for minority districts. It wasn’t concerned about the partisan motives of Republican legislators. Traditionally, redistricting has been an exercise meant to gain partisan advantage. Democrats did it when they were in power, and Republicans are even better at it.

The losers are voters who ought to have more choices and better government. The state should have an independent redistricting system. If such a system were proposed in a referendum, it would pass overwhelmingly, as it has in other states. But only the legislature can propose a constitutional amendment and referendum, and it’s under no political or legal pressure to allow fair competition.”

In other words, as is so often the case with the American Right, competition is a great thing — except when it interferes with the power and prerogatives of the mostly wealthy white men who dominate the American Right.

Commentary

Must read: Editorial calls on McCrory to veto “slush fund” bill

In case you missed it, one of the weekend’s best editorials appeared in Saturday’s Greensboro News & Record. It blasted the General Assembly’s dreadful 11th hour addition to the already problematic bill to move next year’s primary election to March. A day after Chris Fitzsimon rightfully called the bill “what may be the most shocking piece of legislation passed in this General Assembly,” the N&R put it this way:

“It allows the creation of ‘affiliated party committees’ controlled by the speaker of the House, president pro tem of the Senate or House and Senate minority leaders. Bob Hall of the watchdog group Democracy North Carolina called them slush funds that could raise unlimited amounts of money from corporations or lobbyists, even during legislative sessions.

‘These changes take us backwards. They undercut the reforms adopted after the deal-making scandals involving House Speaker Jim Black a decade ago,’ Hall said in a news release Friday.

He should know. He and his organization initiated the complaints that led to federal corruption charges against Black, the Democratic speaker.

Hall added: ‘They give wealthy special interests new ways to dominate N.C. politics. And they create new ways for legislative leaders to sell access, steer money into their pet causes and exert control over other legislators.’”

The editorial concluded by calling on Gov. McCrory to veto the bill. And given that the measure only squeaked through the House by three votes, perhaps this once he’ll muster the courage. Click here to read the entire editorial.

Commentary

Report bolsters call to close election reporting loophole; Advocates hopeful that lawmakers may act

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 Bus coming to NC

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