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This morning’s edition of the Greenville Daily Reflector included this excellent editorial:

“The men and women arrested each week during the “Moral Monday” protests at the Legislative Building know they will face charges of trespassing, disorderly conduct and failure to disperse. Until recently, however, they could not expect that their name to land in an online database compiled by a right-wing advocacy group once funded by the state budget director.

The Civitas Institute, which maintains the listing on its website, is violating no law in compiling this public information and claims to be merely fighting back against the protesters’ message. But the organization’s connection to Art Pope, the conservative financier who Gov. Pat McCrory tapped to write the state budget, gives the database a more sinister overtone and makes the practice highly questionable.

As is now typical in Raleigh, a large crowd gathered on Monday night to decry the work of the Republican-led General Assembly. North Carolina Democrats and their supporters cannot halt legislation and therefore seek to offer a rhetorical counterpoint through protest and civil disobedience.

This week marked the 10th event, dubbed by the organizing NAACP as “Moral Mondays.” What began in small numbers now draws thousands to the Legislative Building, and more than 600 have submitted to arrest as a result of their deliberate action. Though the courts will determine the legal ramifications, peaceable assembly and the right to petition one’s government are both protected by the First Amendment.

The Civitas Institute, a nonprofit organization backing conservative policies, has a vested interest in seeing these protests fail….”

Read the rest by clicking here.

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Sue Sturgis over at the Institute for Southern Studies has a new story out about the Pope-Civitas Institute’s latest intimidation tactic toward legislative protesters.

“The John W. Pope Civitas Institute, a conservative think tank based in Raleigh, N.C., has launched a database targeting people who’ve been arrested as part of the Moral Monday nonviolent protests at the state legislature.

The Civitas Institute was founded by conservative mega-donor and discount-retail mogul Art Pope, now the North Carolina budget director under Republican Gov. Pat McCrory, and it was named for Pope’s father. The nonprofit gets about 94 percent of its funding from the family foundation Pope chairs. That raises questions about the ethics of a public official who’s been a target of the protests being involved in an apparent effort to target the protesters for harassment — or worse.”

No word yet on whether the effort is being coordinated with the group’s chief funder (i.e. the state budget ), legislative leaders or other far right groups, but as Sturgis reports, the tactic is reminiscent of the one’s used by the reactionary opponents of the Civil Rights movement, so nothing would come as a surprise.

Read the entire story by clicking here.

 

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Confused about the state of tax “reform” in the 2013 General Assembly? Check out these two very useful and user-friendly tools from the N.C. Budget and Tax Center:

This one-page chart gives you the facts you need on all of the major tax proposals introduced thus far in 2013.

This very brief (back and front) document tells you how to assess proposals by yourself.

And don’t forget Financing the Future: Debating State State Tax Reform for North Carolina – a special debate a debate on tax reform in North Carolina, featuring Jared Bernstein of the Center on Budget & Policy Priorities and Elizabeth Malm of The Tax Foundation, two national experts on the subject of taxation and finance. The event is co-sponsored by the BTC, the Pope-Civitas Institute and the Institute for Emerging Issues at NC State University next Tuesday May 7 at 11:45 a.m. 

Click here for more information.

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Student PowerWith chants of “student power!” and “hey, hey, ho, ho, Art Pope has got to go!” 250+ college students and supporters descended on Raleigh this afternoon for a May Day demonstration against the right-wing takeover of North Carolina state government. 

Backed by drums and megaphones and sporting banners and signs decrying cuts to education and other regressive policies, the students followed a cordial police escort in a circuitous march around downtown that featured stops at the Pope-Civitas Institute offices (pictured at left), Moore Square Park, the U.S. Post Office, Raleigh City Hall and the General Assembly.     

At last check, the event was slated to wrap up with a series of talks by progressive leaders on Halifax Mall behind the General Assembly. It is scheduled to conclude at 8:00 p.m.

In a somewhat amusing side note, the Pope-Civitas Institute distributed a fundraising email just hours afte the protesters visited their offices featuring pictures of some of the young people. No word yet on whether that email was sent directly to State Budget Director Pope, who has long provided the vast majority of the organization’s funding.

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Art popeToday, Governor, er ah, State Budget Director Art Pope told reporters at an event in Chapel Hill that eliminating the state personal and corporate income taxes is “a bad idea.” Earlier this morning, in concert with scores of other reports and blog posts it has distributed in recent years, the Pope-Civitas Institute (which Pope funds almost exclusively) distributed an article entitled: “Why All U.S. States Should Eliminate The Income Tax.”

Any more questions as to why so many are so concerned about Pat McCrory’s decision to invest such power in this individual? How do we (and the members of the General Assembly — many of whom he helped put in office with campaign contributions and personal, direct participation in drawing the electoral maps under which they were elected) know what his real position is? And how will those lawmakers hold the Budget Director’s feet to the fire (as is their job) under such circumstances? 

One final word: This is not a “personal attack” as Pope keeps labeling the criticisms that Policy Watch and others have directed his way. I’m sure Pope loves his family and is sincere in his beliefs. There is no evidence that he is trying to enrich himself directly with public dollars.

This is an attack on the destructive ideology to which he gives voice and power and the unprecedented position he has assumed in our state as both a powerful state official and the chief funder of a movement, a party, and an array of far right nonprofits.