Commentary

Sigh…Kay Hagan signs on with big money lobbying firm

Kay HaganAccording to the D.C. news insider The Hill, former Senator Kay Hagan is following the well-worn path blazed by countless other former members of Congress to become a K Street lobbyist.

Among the “prominent” clients of Hagan’s new firm — an establishment law firm known as Akin Gump — listed in the article: “AT&T, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Institute for Legal Reform, Phillip Morris International, Chevron, WageWorks, Liberty Mutual Insurance Company, Honeywell International, Moody’s Corporation, the U.S. India Security Council, TripAdvisor and Amazon, among many others.”

This is from the website Open Secrets:

“With a substantial client base in the growing technology and communications sector, Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld has increased its lobbying revenues by an annual average of 14.3 percent since 1997. With 69 lobbyists registered, Akin Gump was able to pull in over $13 million in lobbying revenue in 1999. Nearly a quarter of Akin Gump’s lobbying income comes from its top five clients, while communications and electronics firms account for 22 percent of Akin Gump’s lobbying revenue. Surprisingly, Akin Gump received no money for defense lobbying in 1999 and just $80,000 from agribusiness interests.”

Pretty notably absent from the list: civil rights, human rights, economic justice and good government watchdog organizations. Just sayin’.

Commentary

Where does Tillis stand on insurance requirements?

Thom_Tillis_official_portraitWhen I last posted about the Senate debate between Speaker Thom Tillis and Sen. Kay Hagan I had listened to the exchange on radio but I had not yet watched the video. Watching television coverage of the debate one could hardly miss that Tillis was, once again, wearing a blue lapel pin from the science and advocacy organization Autism Speaks.

The pin highlights an important question that the media and voters should be asking Tillis: Where does he stand on minimum coverage requirements for insurance?

The primary argument Tillis pushes against the Affordable Care Act and Sen. Hagan is that the health law set a new floor for health insurance benefits. That’s why some plans were initially cancelled. It’s why some plans cost more than before the enactment of reform. But for the Autism community setting minimum standards for insurance was one of the most important parts of the Affordable Care Act. In fact, Autism Speaks and the Autism Society are still doing critical work to ensure that insurance companies are adhering to these new mandates.

Moreover, Tillis personally advocated for a bill expanding on the minimum requirements set by the ACA by mandating insurance coverage for the diagnoses and treatment of Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Assuming that Tillis was sincere in his support of new insurance requirements it’s difficult to see how he could object to the health reform law establishing similar mandates. And if he supports minimum requirements in general but opposes specific coverage mandates in the ACA then he should specify which services he would make optional for insurance companies. Would he say that insurers can go back to not covering pregnancy? What about prescription drugs?

The answers to these questions cut to the core of the Speaker’s opposition to health reform and voters need to know where he stands.

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Elon Poll: Voters very dissatisfied by Congress, NC General Assembly

The latest Elon University Poll finds North Carolinians unhappy with many of the incumbents representing them in Washington and in Raleigh.

The February poll found Congress’ approval rating remaining in the single digits (8%). President Barack Obama fared better with an approval rating of 39%, while the majority (over  51%) said they disapprove of the job he is doing.

As for North Carolina’s two U.S. Senators, both Senators Kay Hagan and Richard Burr have a 33% approval rating. However it’s worth noting that Hagan, who faces a tough re-election campaign this year, has seen some  support erode among women since November, when this poll was last conducted.

Thom Tillis, thought to be a front-runner among a long list of Republican candidates hoping to unseat  Hagan, has his own problems. More than 58% percent did not recognize his name, and his approval rating was just 18%, with nearly 34% of respondents saying they disapprove.

Governor Pat McCrory’s approval rating has seen a slight uptick (now at 36%) since November 2013, but that has not been the case with the NC General Assembly. Less than a third of voters approve of the job of the legislature (28%) with more than 45% saying they disapprove of the direction the General Assembly has taken the state.

The  Elon University  Poll surveyed 925 registered voters between February 23rd – 26th. For a complete look at the questions and the poll findings, click here.
elon-poll_feb2014

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Head slap time: Senator Hagan swings and misses at coal ash soft ball

Kay HaganAs part of announcing her candidacy for reelection yesterday, Senator Kay Hagan weighed in on the ongoing Duke Energy coal ash disaster that continues to unfold just a few miles down the road from her Greensboro home. You would have thought it would have been a moment on which the embattled Senator would have seized in order to pillory her Republican critics. Heck, it’s not that hard to envision a scenario in which she would have announced her campaign wearing waders in some Dan River muck!

Here’s what she said, instead, about the coal ash crisis as reported by WRAL.com:

“We’ve got to have oversight on the handling, the disposal and the storage of coal ash. When you think that just a broken pipe has caused this amount of leakage, and we know that we have 36 coal ash ponds in North Carolina, it is a serious issue, and we need to study it.”

I’m sorry, Senator. Did you say we need to study the matter? Study??!!

Earth to Kay Hagan: We know what to do about this problem. It’s already being done in South Carolina for Pete’s sake!  North Carolina doesn’t need more study; it needs immediate action and leadership from public officials who care more about the people and environment of the state than the big money campaign contributions of Duke Energy.

One would have thought that a veteran politician like Senator Hagan — someone who’s been in public office for 15 years — would have at least grasped the politics of the current situation (even if the science and policy matters escaped her). Unfortunately (and quite amazingly), this does not appear to be the case.

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Senator Burr: An up-or-down vote for the Eastern District nominee

During a 2005 stalemate over judges nominated to the federal courts, Sen. Richard Burr stood on the Senate floor and told his colleagues that regardless of what they thought of any particular nominee, they had an obligation to give each an up-or-down vote.

I believe if one of my colleagues objects to a particular nominee, it is certainly appropriate and fair for my colleague to vote against that nominee on the floor of the Senate.  But denying judicial nominees of both parties, who seek to serve their country, an up-or-down vote, simply is not fair.  It was certainly not the intention of our Founding Fathers when they designed and created this very institution.

Yet by his own actions with respect to Jennifer May-Parker, nominated by the President on June 20 to serve in the Eastern District of North Carolina, Burr is ignoring his own advice.

The vacancy in the Eastern District, based in Raleigh with courthouses in Wilmington, New Bern, Greenville, Fayetteville and Elizabeth City,  is now going on eight years — the oldest federal district court vacancy in the country.

That’s not just a dubious distinction; it’s an embarrassment.  Read more