In case you missed it yesterday, Taylor Batten of the Charlotte Observer authored a damning article about Gov. McCrory’s sudden reversal of course on Syrian refugees that took place on — what a surprise!– the same day several other Republican governors decided to stoke public fears about immigrants and attack the Obama administration.

As Batten points out, the McCrory administration was quite calm about the matter last Friday in response to a question about the refugees:

“’Prior to being given refugee status, an extensive security screening is conducted on each individual’ by the U.S. Department of State, Department of Homeland Security, and other agencies, McCrory’s office replied.”

Seventy-two hours later, however, the tune had changed:

“At a press conference in Charlotte on Monday, however, McCrory said the state has little knowledge of what those background checks entail and that they have “vulnerabilities.” Because of that, McCrory said, Syrian refugees are not welcome in this state.

McCrory joins at least eight other GOP governors who on Sunday and Monday said they would not willingly accept refugees until the federal government tightened its vetting to ensure terrorists are not admitted.

‘I am now requesting that the president and the federal government cease sending refugees from Syria to North Carolina until we are thoroughly satisfied with the effectiveness of the federal background checks and security checks on such refugees entering our country,’ McCrory said at a press conference in Charlotte.”

The bottom line: McCrory’s flip flop clearly smacks of partisan political fear mongering. As Batten points out, if the administration has genuine and specific concerns about the federal oversight of refugees, then it ought to speak up and articulate them right away. At yesterday’s press conference, however, McCrory couldn’t do anything other than offer vague criticisms that sounded suspiciously as if they had been designed to appeal to nativists in his conservative base.

The truth of the matter is that people don’t get to enter the United States as “refugees” until they’ve been thoroughly vetted by federal immigration officials. McCrory knows this. And the notion that the the feds should somehow stop accepting genuine refugees and/or set up some kind of system in which state law enforcement officials would monitor these poor souls (as McCrory implied) is as mean-spirited as it is wasteful and just plain silly.

Let’s hope caring and thinking North Carolinians of all political stripes speak up forcefully and often in the days ahead to make clear that their Governor does not speak for them on this core issue of justice and human rights.

Click here to read Batten’s entire article.


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.

Barney Fife

Image: Wikimedia Commons

The editorial page of Moore County’s The Pilot newspaper featured an excellent editorial this week on the brewing controversy/scandal surrounding Gov. Pat McCrory’s intervention to help a campaign donor and friend secure a prison contract. The editorial compares McCrory to the comic character Barney Fife from the old Andy Griffith show.

This is from “A Troubling Kind of Give-and-Take”:

“There sure was some wide-eyed optimism spouting from Pat McCrory when he ran for governor in 2012. He promised an end to politics as usual — a revolving-door relationship between elected officials and the lobbyists who earn their keep by getting fat contracts or concessions for those whom they serve.

McCrory pledged to end such lucrative pathways and hailed his Republican administration for its new way of doing things.

And yet, when just this very sort of pay-to-play relationship fell at the feet of the governor himself recently, what was his counterpunch? For a governor who prides himself on being a leader and man of integrity, did he own up to his failings?

Hardly. Instead, he tried to shoot the messenger. He took aim at The News & Observer of Raleigh and The Charlotte Observer for printing an investigative piece detailing how well he looked after his old Charlotte friends’ business ventures rather than the best interests of North Carolina taxpayers.”

The editorial goes on to describe the Guv as having acted “wrongly and unethically” in the matter and to lament his behavior since it came to light — that is, attacking the journalists who uncovered the matter:

“Predictably, McCrory followed up his denial with accusations that the liberal News & Observer was out to get him. But since the story was so well-sourced — with text messages and emails from McCrory’s own staff — the governor was left whining about photo composition and headline writing.

We are pretty sure that past Democratic politicians, such as Mike Easley and Beverly Perdue and Jim Black, offered the same blame-the-media strategy in the midst of their own pay-to-play scandals, and look how it worked out for them.

McCrory promised to be the new sheriff in town — but instead of Andy Taylor, North Carolina got Barney Fife, his shaky revolver hand and his single bullet.”

Click here to read the entire editorial.

Bob Hall

Democracy NC Executive Director Bob Hall speaks to the media in front of posters documenting sweepstakes industry contributions to Gov. McCrory, Senator Phil Berger and former Speaker Thom Tillis in August.

Raleigh’s News & Observer reports this morning that Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman is investigating the ties between gambling industry executives and some important state political leaders and has asked the FBI for assistance. The news comes months after the State Board of Elections chose not to pursue the matter further following a lengthy but incomplete investigation.

For those who may have forgotten, here is what advocates at the government watchdog group Democracy North Carolina had to say in the aftermath of the State Board’s decision this past summer when they called on Freeman and U.S. Attorney Thomas Walker to investigate “possible criminal violations involving the sweepstakes gaming industry, lobbyists and candidates in the 2012 election, including Gov. Pat McCrory, Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger, and then House Speaker Thom Tillis”:

“After two years, the State Board of Elections voted on July 15, 2015, not to find or pursue any violations related to North Carolina’s campaign finance statutes. However, a number of findings in the report prepared by the staff reinforce my concern about illegal acts.

These include:

  • One lobbyist (Tommy Sevier of Moore & Van Allen) admitted he delivered bundled contributions on two occasions (pages 29-30 of the
    SBE report).
  • Bank account records of the Chase Burns Trust showed millions of dollars transferred from his IIT sweepstake software corporation into the Trust’s account, which was used to write $274,000 in campaign contributions to dozens of legislators and others, making the Burns
    Trust the top campaign donor to NC candidates in the 2012 election cycle (pages 9-15 of the SBE report).
  • The contributions written from the Chase Burns Trust roughly follow the recommendations in a memo titled “IIT Political Contribution Strategy” that was prepared by lobbyists at Moore & Van Allen, the firm retained not by Burns personally but by his sweepstakes’ corporation, IIT (Exhibit 2 of the SBE report).
  • The IIT corporation collected a 3% surcharge on sweepstakes parlor owners it serviced for a political and lobbying fund. A different but somewhat similar arrangement in Florida included allocating part of the surcharge for campaign donations, but Board staff did not find a similar link to donations in the NC arrangement (pages 32 of the SBE report).
  • Gardner Payne, a major sweepstakes operator, “talked about raising money from the sweepstakes industry for Governor McCrory” during a meeting where the two men discussed ways to legalize the sweepstakes industry (pages 32 of the SBE report). Read More

North Carolina state sealThe New Bern Sun Journal featured a powerful op-ed over the weekend by Carrie Clark and Dan Crawford of the League of Conservation Voters that skewered the Governor’s penchant for talking out of both sides of his mouth when it comes to North Carolina’s natural environment. As Clark and Crawford explained, McCrory has repeatedly sought to portray himself as a friend of renewable energy and environmental protection (positions he knows to be popular with voters) even as his administration promotes policies that go in precisely the opposite direction:

“Consider the case of North Carolina’s growing solar industry. As McCrory touts the need to support solar energy in our state, he talks out of the other side of its mouth when he signs legislation that ends it. This short-sighted reversal comes just as the industry was taking off. In 2014, the solar industry provided 4,000 North Carolinians with jobs, but by allowing the Renewable Energy Investment Tax Credit to expire, the McCrory administration is effectively turning out the lights on solar energy in North Carolina.

One side of the McCrory administration will tell you that they are simply trying to get the government out of the business of picking winners and losers. Here again, they are being two-faced because McCrory will point to the importance of creating jobs when justifying government subsidies for fracking.

The same duplicitous language is evident in McCrory’s economic rationale for supporting dirty energy. While van der Vaart vocalizes energy affordability as a “weapon against poverty,” he openly fights against renewable energy sources as part of the energy mix, which have proven cost-savings for all North Carolinians, not to mention reduced public health and environmental impacts….

While McCrory’s public-facing persona continues to take advantage of photo ops such as the “historic” construction of a wind farm, his talking head van der Vaart guts renewable energy from the inside. Under van der Vaart, the McCrory administration outlined the “harms” of solar energy panels on our environment; a PR campaign in support of opening North Carolina’s coast to offshore oil and gas drilling; and not one but two lawsuits against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on key federal policies: the Clean Water Rule and Clean Power Plan.”

The bottom line: North Carolina’s state motto is, of course, Esse quam videri (“To be rather than to seem”). Unfortunately, when it comes to the natural environment, the stance of the McCrory administration is almost always the precise opposite of this maxim. Click here to read the entire op-ed.