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E-cigYou’ve got to hand it to the tobacco corporations and their high-priced lobbyists; when it comes to deceptive messaging and tactics, no one does it better than the merchants of death.  Apparently, nearly a century of practice really does make perfect in developing lies and half-truths and massaging them into feel-good media messages and legislation.

Consider the latest case in point in North Carolina. Big tobacco is currently ramming through legislation in both houses of the General Assembly that sounds as if it is all about motherhood and apple pie. The bill (which as been introduced and advanced in both the Senate and the House at the behest of the industry) operates under the title: “Prohibit E-Cigarette Sales to Minors.” 

“Electronic cigarettes” of “E-Cigarettes,”  as you probably have heard, are just the latest  tool for delivering life-threatening poison (i.e. addictive nicotine) to humans. E-cigs are already being advertised throughout the country as a hip and semi-safe alternative to traditional cigarettes. They’re already finding their way into schools and other places young people look for ways to be cool.   

Prohibiting their sale to kids sounds like a good idea, huh?

Unfortunately, Read More

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In a big win for consumers, Alabama-based Regions Bank has shelved its practice of making predatory, high-cost “payday” loans in North Carolina. This is from a statement released today by my colleague Jeff Shaw at the Justice Center:

MEDIA RELEASE: Regions Bank Halts Illegal Payday Lending in North Carolina

RALEIGH (January 16, 2013) – After a campaign by consumer advocates and state leaders, a bank dropped its harmful payday lending program in North Carolina.

Payday loans have been illegal in North Carolina for more than a decade, but that hasn’t stopped all payday lending.  For the past year, Regions Bank has used federal banking law to offer payday loans that are illegal for any other lender to make in our state.  These loans carried, on average, an annual percentage rate (APR) of 365%.  Now, after significant pressure from consumer advocates and the state Attorney General’s office, Regions has quietly dropped its payday lending program for North Carolina customers. Read More

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Tom FetzerUPDATE: After this post first appeared on Tuesday afternoon, Susan Fetzer Vick sent me an email informing me that Fetzer’s wife Kathrine is currently in the hospital struggling with  pregnancy-related health issues and that this post had been sent to her by friends and had caused her great distress. Obviously, I had no idea that this was the case, am very sorry for her and wish her a speedy recovery. The purpose of this post was and is merely to call attention to the work of Fetzer Strategic Partners and, in particualar, its representation of the especially predatory corporate actor, Advance America. By way of further update, it also appears that the website for the firm — which was obviously incomplete — has been taken down.  

Hey folks, have you ever wanted to launch a career as a high-powered and well-compensated lobbyist of North Carolina state government? Have you maybe even thought about making it a career that wouldn’t place too many demands on your time and family responsibilities (and maybe even about turning it into a family business)? If so, you’ve probably wondered about how to get started what it might really take to establish yourself in this potentially lucrative and prominent career.

Well, if this sounds like you, look no further! We’ve found the person who can show you how to do it: former Raleigh mayor, U.S. Tennis Association official and state Republican Party chair Tom Fetzer.

Fetzer, as you recall, resigned from his leadership position in the state GOP a few years back citing family and financial responsibilities. Today, it looks like he’s figured out a way to solve both of those problems. Read More

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Could it be that the very idea of a super PAC supporting the election of a state Supreme Court justice has scared away donors?

The much-hyped NC Judicial Coalition — formed back in April to support the re-election of Justice Paul Newby, according to one of its founders, conservative businessman Bob Luddy — filed its initial campaign reports with the state board of elections on Oct. 5 and Oct. 9.  According to those reports, the committee has received no contributions and spent nothing  through June 30, 2012.

That’s somewhat  surprising, given that former GOP chair and now lobbyist Tom Fetzer told the Charlotte Observer in June that the committee had already received “support”  from large and small donors across the state.

But the filed reports only cover a short period of time since the super PAC’s organization. More telling perhaps will be the campaign finance report due for filing on Oct. 29, just days before the election, which should detail contributions and expenditures from July 1 through Oct. 20.

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It’s been months since the North Carolina Judicial Coalition sprang on to the election scene as an upstart in the otherwise sleepy world of judicial elections.

State and national media portrayed the super PAC—formed by former state Republican Party chair Tom Fetzer, conservative businessman Bob Luddy (founder of the private Thales Academy schools) and others to help finance the re-election of sitting Supreme Court Justice Paul Newby—as an example of the unlimited campaign spending that could be unleashed by the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, and a particularly dangerous one, given that judges were involved.

Unlike Newby and his Democratic challenger Court of Appeals Judge Sam Ervin IV, who’ve both accepted public financing, PACs like the Judicial Coalition have no limits on how much they collect and spend, other than they can’t contribute directly to a candidate committee. They are otherwise free to support or oppose candidates as they see fit.

So what’s the Judicial Coalition been up to since June?

Tough to tell, since it has yet to tell the state board of elections how much money it’s raised and how it’s spent that money. Read More