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Pat McCrory 2There was some confusion this week as to who was ultimately responsible for the appointment of Pope-Civitas Institute executive director Francis De Luca to the state Ethics Commission. De Luca’s own press release said the appointment was made by the Governor on the recommendation of Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger. At first blush, this statement seemed to conflict with the terms of the Ethics Act itself, which gives the Governor four appointments (all of which are already filled) and the General Assembly four (two each to the House Speaker and Senate President Pro Tem).  

The answer appears to lie in the fact that the General Assembly is not currently in session and therefore could not, technically, make a new appointment. In such circumstances, the Ethics Act references another state statute (G.S. 120-122) which vests the authority in the Governor to make the appointment upon the recommendation of the relevant legislative officer.

The bottom line: Things are even more depressing than they originally appeared. The head of a political attack group that produces malicious attack ads is now a member of the Board of the State Ethics Commission and both the Governor and the leader of the state Senate had a hand in making it happen.

(Updated – See comment #1 below)The stories are coming so thick and fast that it’s getting harder and harder to shock caring and thinking North Carolinians with tales of laugh-out-loud malfeasance and the elevation of political operatives to positions of power and influence in North Carolina’s far-right state government.  

Francis De LucaStill, it’s fair to say that a lot of eyebrows had to have been raised in Raleigh yesterday with the appointment by state Senate Leader Phil Berger of Francis De Luca, the head of one of the state’s most aggressive conservative advocacy groups, the Pope-Civitas Institute, to, of all things, the Board of the State Ethics Commission. After all, as director of Pope-Civitas — a group funded almost exclusively by the family foundation of state Budget Director Art Pope – De Luca is paid to be a fire-breathing crusader for a very specific political agenda. What’s more, he also heads a 501(c)(4) political group — Civitas Action — that is dedicated to, among other things, producing slick (and in some cases, downright malicious) attack ads against disfavored political candidates. Click here to see some the group’s handiwork from 2010 and 2011. (To add to the irony of the whole thing, De Luca was appointed to take the place of another former Pope group employee, Les Merritt, who resigned because of a potential conflict of interest posed by his current $312,000 per year job in the McCrory administration).   

In addition to raising eyebrows, the appointment ought to raise legal questions as well. According to the State Government Ethics Act, Section 138A-7 (d)(3), Read More

As Raleigh’s News & Observer reported yesterday, the executive director of the Pope-Civitas Institute, Francis DeLuca, has publicly apologized for last week’s blog post in which he criticized the the man who serves — technically anyway — as his chief funder’s boss (i.e. Gov. McCrory) for attending an event sponsored by minority economic development nonprofits. 

Among other things, DeLuca said that:

“In talking about the event the Governor attended, I painted with too broad a brush by implying that an elected official’s appearance at an event involving organizations that lobby for state funds is tantamount to cronyism.”

In short, DeLuca admits that, as his group has long had a tendency to do, he got carried away with his conservative rhetoric. Good for him.  Though imperfect and at times borderline incoherent (the apology features a new attack on N.C. Policy Watch for, it would seem, raising the issue of his initial attack in the first place) DeLuca deserves credit for admitting that he was wrong.

Now then, as long as he’s taken that important first step, here are just a few of several other things for which he should publicly apologize: Read More

One of the more interesting developments on Right-Wing Avenue in recent weeks has been the emergence of some relatively gentle criticisms of Gov. McCrory. The Pope-Civitas Institute (which was, of course, founded by the Governor’s budget director), for example, has been featuring an article entitled “Tell Gov. McCrory to Enforce the Law” in which readers are encouraged to sign a petition urging the Guv to implement the new law to drug test public assistance applicants that he had made noises about not implementing.

Then last Tuesday, Pope-Civitas director Francis DeLuca authored a lengthy article in which he attacked McCrory for speaking at an event that also featured speakers from the Institute for Minority Economic Development (a group DeLuca derided for having worked with Rev. William Barber’s Historic Thousands of Jones Street Coalition). The article even highlighted the fact that Yolanda Stith, wife of McCrory chief of staff Thomas Stith, is a lobbyist on behalf of one of the conveners of the event.

Today, both articles appear to have all but vanished from the Pope-Civitas websites. Read More

Lunch sandwichHere’s something to spur a little dyspepsia on the first day of a short work week: The General Assembly is back in Raleigh!  Yes, just six weeks or so after blowing town, the honorables are back for what will apparently be a two-day veto session. In case you’ve forgotten, the state Constitution (Article II, Section 22) requires an affirmative vote of three-fifths of those present and voting to override a gubernatorial veto and, at this point, it looks very much as if both the House and Senate will produce margins of this amount or greater on both bills at issue. In other words, it would appear that Governor McCrory’s September is about to get off to a start very much consistent with his extremely lousy August – a month so bad that it prompted his hometown newspaper to question his truthfulness.  

And speaking of important official events in Raleigh today, the State Board of Elections will convene at 1:00 to take up an appeal of a candidate challenge to Montravias King from Pasquotank County. Click here to watch the live feed from WRAL. The Board will also consider the appeals for one-stop alternate plans for 2013 municipal elections in Watauga and Pitt counties. Students and civic groups including NCPIRG, Common Cause, Ignite NC, NCSU Student Power Union, Democracy NC and Rock the Vote will be on hand to call on the Board to reverse recent decisions by local county boards of elections that make it harder for young people to vote.

And speaking of “must see” video, Read More