Commentary

Thom Tillis’ disingenuous “opposition” to the obstruction of an Obama Supreme Court nominee

Thom_Tillis_official_portraitIt looks like the advice of political pros has begun to sink in with national GOP leaders and they’re starting to back off slightly from their absurd “no way, no how” stance when it comes to considering an Obama Supreme Court nominee in 2016. How else to explain the fact that they’ve allowed a junior, non-lawyer backbencher like North Carolina Senator Thom Tillis to publicly express the concern that his Republican colleagues shouldn’t go down the road of becoming “obstructionists” when it comes to a nomination?

Of course, as welcome as Tillis’ change of tone is, it still falls well short of being truthful and/or helpful for at least two big reasons.

Number One is that despite expressing concerns about not even considering an Obama nominee, Tillis went on to make clear that he still favors what can only be called obstruction. According to the senator, unless the President essentially nominates the second coming of Antonin Scalia, “we’ll use every device available to block that nomination.” In other words, Tillis’ isn’t really opposed to obstruction of a nominee — just the appearance of it.

Number Two is the blatant hypocrisy of Tillis’ stance. You see, despite his professed concerns about being an obstructionist, that is actually the only way one can fairly characterize what the senator has been ever since he arrived in Washington last January and somehow managed to wangle an appointment to the Judiciary Committee. As the good folks at People for the American Way, the Center for American Progress, Defenders of Wildlife and many other groups have been documenting for years, Senate Republicans have been obstructing Obama court appointees with such regularity that the whole thing has long since descended into farce.

Throughout the country, dozens of important federal judicial slots stand vacant — many for years — all because GOP senators won’t consider and confirm nominees at a reasonable pace. Heck, here in North Carolina, the vacancy in the Eastern District federal court is so old that the Obama administration has given up on even appointing someone. It’s so bad and so ridiculous that the delays of month and years have even occurred for nominees who have ended up getting confirmed unanimously. If Tillis is so concerned about being an obstructionist, why has it taken him 13 months to speak out — especially when he serves on the committee that does most of the obstructing?

The bottom line: Let’s hope Tillis’ statement heralds a real change in the senator’s behavior and that of his colleagues, but given his record and absent genuine action anytime soon, it’s safe to assume that the new stance is all for show.

 

Commentary

Day One of “Altered State: How 5 years of conservative rule have redefined North Carolina”

altered-state-bannerIn case you missed it, be sure to check out today’s introduction to our new special report: “Altered State: How 5 years of conservative rule have redefined North Carolina.” The intro is written by Chris Fitzsimon and it’s entitled “Wrecking Crew.”

Here’s the opening:

“In October 2011, just a few months after the end of the first General Assembly session controlled by Republicans in more than a hundred years, House Speaker Thom Tillis told a small group of GOP faithful in Mars Hill that one of his goals was to “divide and conquer” people on public assistance.

Tillis, now a U.S. senator, explained that he wanted to get people with disabilities to “look down” at others on public assistance, low-income families whom he deemed unworthy of public support.

It was a revealing moment for the new Republican majority in Raleigh, laying bare one of their goals, to unravel the social safety net in pursuit of their aim to shrink the government they disdain and slash taxes on corporations and the wealthy.

It is part of an agenda they have pursued without pause in the last five years, and the damage to North Carolina has been remarkable and stunning to behold….”

Click here to read Chris’ entire introduction. And be sure to check back at the Altered State website tomorrow morning and each day through December 21. We’ll be rolling out new stories over the next two and a half weeks on everything from taxes to public education to environmental protection.  It’s a mostly sobering tale, but one that is a “must read” for anyone who wants to understand the transition that’s taken place in North Carolina policy and politics over the last half decade.

Commentary

Editorial: Pro-Tillis group the embodiment of what’s wrong with U.S. campaign finance

Thom_Tillis_official_portrait

Senator Thom Tillis

One of the this morning’s “must read” editorials comes from the Fayetteville Observer. As the authors note, the recent news about Carolina Rising — the supposed charitable nonprofit that was in fact a thinly disguised front group for the Senate candidacy of Thom Tillis  — tells us much of what we need to know about the sorry state of U.S. campaign finance laws and their enforcement.

Here’s the Observer:

“Bad enough that the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision opened the door to unfettered purchasing of elections by wealthy donors. But so much worse when the few remaining restrictions on the buying of elections are ignored, as well.

North Carolina has a picture of how bad it can get. We see it in Carolina Rising, a 501(c)(4) social-welfare organization that apparently served the welfare of just one man: Thom Tillis, who now represents North Carolina in the U.S. Senate.

According to Carolina Rising’s tax filings, the group spent $4.7 million in 2014 on advertising that extolled Tillis’ legislative virtues. He was speaker of the N.C. House at the time, running to unseat then-Sen. Kay Hagan.

Tillis won, in no small measure because of Carolina Rising’s efforts. Afterward, the nonprofit’s director, Dallas Woodhouse, rejoiced for a TV news camera: ‘$4.7 million. We did it.’ Woodhouse, who more recently became executive director of the state Republican Party, later walked that back, saying it was victory-party euphoria, and all of Carolina Rising’s spending was within the letter of the law.”

As the editorial also notes, as weak as the law is, there’s still reason for federal officials to investigate and hope that Carolina Rising will be called on the carpet:

“But where were the Internal Revenue Service and the Federal Election Commission, the agencies that are supposed to police nonprofits and political spending? Apparently, they were hearing no evil and seeing no evil – and they certainly haven’t been speaking up about it.

Like other such groups, Carolina Rising is allowed to keep its donors secret. But the group does have to partially disclose its funding sources, and nearly 99 percent of the money came from one donor.

It would be good to know just who bought the election for Thom Tillis. Even in an era of unrestrained political spending, we should know where the money’s coming from. But “dark money” is gaining a powerful grip on our electoral system.

If Carolina Rising gets away with what it did in 2014, that grip is likely to tighten, and voters will be as deeply in the dark as the money that’s being spent to buy elections.”

Click here to read the entire editorial, “A chance to shine light on ‘dark money’ politics.”

Commentary

Editorial blasts Burr, Tillis for “ridiculous” obstruction of AG nominee Lynch

#ConfirmLoretta2The Charlotte Observer is the latest large media outlet to speak out against the absurd and offensive blockade Attorney General nominee and North Carolina native Loretta Lynch by GOP senators.

The Observer rightfully terms the blockade — which is even opposed by notorious left-wingers like Orrin Hatch, Lindsay Graham and Rudolph Giuliani — a “ridiculous” exercise in toxic politics and political hostage taking.

As this morning’s editorial notes:

“Critics say she’s too much like Holder and the man who’s trying to hire her, Barack Obama, on major issues such as voting rights and immigration. It’s a ridiculous objection. What boss picks an employee to fight his or her goals?

What’s really holding her up is the kind of hyper-partisan D.C. food fight that’s destroying our country.”

Meanwhile, Burr and Tillis are their usual helpful selves:

“Lynch can’t even turn to her two home-state senators for help. A delegation of her N.C. supporters came away disappointed Tuesday after meetings with Richard Burr and Thom Tillis.

Burr has said he can’t support her because she seems too friendly to federal lawsuits like the one pending against North Carolina’s tough new voting requirements. Too much like Holder, Tillis has said, adding that he’d be shocked if her views on key issues differed from the president’s.”

Happily, the saving grace in all this is that Holder remains on the job. As Talking Points Memo reported yesterday:

Commentary

Editorials blast Tillis for misunderstanding his role in Lynch confirmation

Both the Greensboro News & Record and Raleigh’s News & Observer take Senator Thom Tillis to task this morning for his “‘no” vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday on the confirmation of Attorney General nominee (and North Carolina native) Loretta Lynch.

Lynch’s one-time hometown paper, the News & Record pus it this way:

tillis-newsandrecord“Thom Tillis said it was his most difficult decision in 45 days as a U.S. senator to oppose Greensboro native Loretta Lynch’s confirmation as attorney general.

It didn’t seem hard for him at all. While he made condescending comments about Lynch’s family ‘beaming with pride’ at her confirmation hearing last month, noting ‘she was raised right,’ he was clearly against her from the start….

Lynch was ‘raised right’ in Greensboro and Durham. She was raised in a family that participated in the civil rights movement in the 1950s and 1960s. It is disappointing but not surprising, given his record as a state legislator, that Tillis has little appreciation for those experiences and how they would shape Lynch’s views today.

Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Orrin Hatch of Utah and Jeff Flake of Arizona joined Judiciary Committee Democrats in voting for Lynch’s confirmation. The favorable vote of 12-8 will move the nomination to the Senate floor. It’s a shame that Tillis, Lynch’s home-state senator, couldn’t join those 12.”

And here’s the N&O – which blasted Richard Burr as well:

“Beyond being wrongheaded about the confirmation process, Tillis and Burr are simply classless in standing against Lynch. Read more