State Board of Elections delays Hise hearing, will hear other interesting cases

Wednesday’s meeting of the state Board of Elections & Ethics Enforcement won’t feature the hearing planned for Sen. Ralph Hise, whose campaign finance case has been in the investigation stage for nearly two years.

Policy Watch reported a back-and-forth over a proposed delay of the hearing last week. The Hise hearing was pulled from Wednesday’s agenda over the weekend as disagreements between the board and its staff over whether the investigation was complete enough for a hearing led to partisan bickering on the board and beyond.

Wednesday’s meeting will still feature several interesting cases, including  Rep. Rodney Moore’s (D-Mecklenberg) alleged $10,000 in  unreported campaign contributions . 

The board will also hold a hearing on the removal of Cornelia Cree, a Republican member of the Haywood County Board of Elections who made posts on social media accusing Democrats of  to legalizing pedophilia as part of a bizarre conspiracy theory about winning the Catholic vote.

The board will also discuss the settlement of one of the largest campaign donation forfeitures in state history, in which 48 improper donations from the Pfizer Inc. political action committee were forfeited by political campaigns and committees across the state.


Eastern North Carolina residents press for a just hurricane recovery

Sholanda Regan of South Lumberton tells the story of her family – and her community’s – struggle to recover from multiple storms.

As lawmakers gathered Monday to approve funding for Hurricane Florence relief, residents and community leaders from Eastern North Carolina came together outside the General Assembly.

They told their personal recovery stories and encouraged lawmakers to put recovery money – and their political power – where it’s most needed.

The Just Florence Recovery Collective represents more than 25 community organizations and dozens of impacted residents. Its goal: to shed a light on racial and class disparities that have made storm damage worse and recovery slower in North Carolina’s poorest and encourage those in power to reverse the trend and make those communities whole.

Bobby Jones of the Down East Coal Ash Coalition came from Goldsboro where, he said, “part of our community has been used as a dumping ground for Duke Energy’s 6 million tons of poisonous coal ash.”

For over 60 years unlined coal ash basins have harmed drinking water in and around his community and been released into the Neuse River, Jones said.

“And then the storm came,” Jones said. “When Hurricane Florence came through Wayne County, the water submerged these coal ash basins and the coal ash was washed into the river.”

The result, Jones said: levels of arsenic 18 times higher than safety standards for drinking water.

“We need to hold Duke Energy accountable,” Jones said.

“We need to hold the people who work over here accountable,” Jones said, pointing toward the legislature.

Addressing legislators, Jones said Eastern North Carolinians are making a simple request of legislators who have given tax breaks to and eased regulations on companies whose pollution has devastated the state and its residents.

“We are asking you extend to the citizens of North Carolina just a fraction of the favor that you extended to Duke Energy,” Jones said.

From coal ash contamination to millions of gallons of hog feces unleashed in flood waters and into waterways, La’Meshia W. Kaminski said the location of the damage is not a coincidence. Read more


Sen. Hise rebuffed in attempt to postpone campaign finance hearing

Sen. Ralph Hise (R-Mitchell)

Next week the North Carolina State Board of Elections & Ethics enforcement is set to hold a hearing on alleged campaign finance violations by N.C. Sen. Ralph Hise (R-Mitchell).

Though the case has been winding its way toward a hearing for nearly two years, Hise’s campaign last week wrote a letter looking to push it back further. In the letter to board chair Andy Penry, attorney Steven B. Long wrote that Hise’s mother – who was also his campaign treasurer from 2009 until last year – would not be able to attend the hearing due to her cancer treatment and recent hospitalization. Long argues that her testimony will be key to the hearing.

In his reply, Penry said the board will hear the request at its Oct. 17 meeting but that he is “not inclined to delay the entire matter to an unknown date.”

Further, Penry wrote:

“I have directed staff to place your clients’ request for delay on The Board’s agenda for October 17, 2018. The Board will hear the request on that day prior to any merits hearing. As you know, this matter, along with several of the other matters scheduled on October 17, have been pending for quite some time. Scheduling a hearing on this matter has been delayed on several occasions. And, as you know, our statutes contemplate that matters such as this be resolved expeditiously. See N.C. Gen. Stat. 163A – 1440 (7).

To assist you in preparing for the motion and the merits proceeding, please consider the following:

  • Provide the Board with evidence, including a verified statement from a treating physician, that Ms. Hise is unable to participate in the proceeding;
  • Provide evidence as to when Ms. Hise will reasonably be able to participate;
  • Provide evidence that all forms of participation, including written statements, telephonic or web participation, or depositions have been considered and are not possible;
  • Provide evidence that your clients will be unfairly prejudiced if Ms. Hise cannot participate;
  • Provide evidence that the information anticipated to be provided by Ms. Hise cannot be provided by others or by documentary evidence, including the affidavit previously submitted on August 21, 2018.

You should be prepared to proceed with all portions of your presentation other than the testimony of Ms. Hise, assuming she remains unavailable, on October 17, 2018.”





Expert on Confederate statues: It’s about rewriting history

Dr. Karen Cox

When Dr. Karen Cox heard that the North Carolina Historical Commission was seeking experts to advise them on the question of whether to removed Confederate monuments in downtown Raleigh, she suspected she’d be contacted.

After all, the UNC-Charlotte History professor literally wrote the book on the Daughters of the Confederacy – the group responsible for many Confederate statues erected in the Jim Crow era, including UNC’s recently toppled Silent Sam.

That book, “Dixie’s Daughters: The United Daughters of the Confederacy and the Preservation of Confederate Culture,” is set to be reissued in 2019. It will include a new preface that takes into account the deadly white supremacist violence in Charlottesville, Virginia that began with that city’s own Confederate statue controversy.

But despite Cox’s national prominence on the issue – including her authoring pieces on it for the New York Times and Washington Post, Cox wasn’t contacted by the commission.

When she wrote to offer her expertise in October of last year, e-mails recently obtained by N.C. Policy Watch show that she was gently rebuffed.

Cox said she couldn’t understand the commission going to historians from Connecticut and Atlanta whose expertise is not specifically in the confederate statue movement when they had an acknowledged expert on the subject in their own state.

N.C. Policy Watch caught up with Cox last week to talk about the confederate statue issue, the Daughters of the Confederacy and why this is still such a fraught one in the American South.

Can you explain why understanding the Daughters of the Confederacy is so important in the current debate? I think many of us – even those of us born and raised in the South – had barely heard of them until the most recent statue controversies.

Even I didn’t hear about them growing up in Greensboro. I basically stumbled on them in 1989, when I was working at the Museum of the Cape Fear. That was where the Confederate Women’s Home was located.

I went to the local library and pulled up the paper and thought, “Who are these people?” It was like the entire front page of the paper and all these women were in it and men of influence in the state.

The organization no longer exerts the same power it did in the early 20th century. But it’s important to know that history and the context in which these monuments were put up. You have to know them and the political milieu in which these monuments went up.

This was going on all over the South and even outside of the South. There were chapters of the UDC all over the country – obviously the largest concentration was in the South. And you have to understand them in order to understand the monuments at all.

They were the driving force behind monuments from the time they were organized in 1894. Their group grew so rapidly – within a year they had 30 chapters and it just kept exponentially growing. Within 10 years they went from 30 to 30,000 – and 100,000 members by WWI.

Most men of their generation – they were employed, doing other things. And these were women who were wealthy, educated. These are not just old ladies. These are younger women who have grown up after the Civil War – women who were educated, a number of whom didn’t have children.

What was the driving force behind their formation and what they would come to do with the statues?

It was about vindication. The work that they did was about vindicating their ancestors. For that early generation of women that was their parents or their grandparents. They wanted to lift them out of the specter of defeat and portray them as heroes or heroines. They don’t want their names to be sullied or to think of them in terms of defeat, to be called traitors.

How did they seek to accomplish that?

They do it through several overriding ways – they cast a wide net.

They are focused on history is written in a pro-Confederate way, that their children grow up revering the confederacy, that the older generation gets pensions. There was hardly any stone left unturned in their quest to vindicate their ancestors. It was everywhere. It was everywhere around someone.

If you went to public schools you would read about Confederate heroes in your text book, they would make sure libraries carried books that “told the truth” as they would say. That’s why the subtitle of my book is about confederate culture, the memory of the confederacy.

And that meant separating the Confederacy from its connections to slavery and white supremacy?

People defending these monuments now never want to use that word “slavery” – they tried to distance themselves from it. But you can’t talk about the Confederacy without acknowledging they were trying to maintain slavery. It’s right there in Alexander Stephens’ “Corner Stone Speech.”

[Excerpt from Stephens’ speech:

“The constitution, it is true, secured every essential guarantee to the institution while it should last, and hence no argument can be justly urged against the constitutional guarantees thus secured, because of the common sentiment of the day. Those ideas, however, were fundamentally wrong. They rested upon the assumption of the equality of races. This was an error. It was a sandy foundation, and the government built upon it fell when the “storm came and the wind blew.”

Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its corner stone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery subordination to the superior race is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth.”]

So defending and trying to justify the Confederacy as a lost cause was about defending the institution of slavery and white supremacy.

It sounds as though there’s a direct through-line from the thinking of the Daughters of the Confederacy and the modern people you hear stand up at public hearings on this issue and say their ancestors weren’t racists, weren’t white supremacists, didn’t fight to maintain slavery.

There really is. It’s people still trying to vindicate their ancestors and to reinvent white Southerners, to reinvent the history of the South.

I have ancestors who fought on both sides. I’m from West Virginia. I don’t have any particular love for Confederate heritage. I think a lot of people don’t care one way or another. But there is a certain group of people who are planting their flag, so to speak, on this issue.

It’s interesting – it is a hot button issue and part of the culture war that exists out there. But in some ways it’s not about the monuments. It’s about white male patriarchy under threat. Moving a monument is just one part of that for them. They’re emboldened by the current political environment.

If you look at who shows up to defend these monuments, it’s not the UDC who put them up. It’s these men. And if you read these organizations’ information, you see language about reclaiming America, reclaiming history, protecting their heritage. They feel threatened. 




North Carolinians Against Gun Violence launches action fund

North Carolinians Against Gun Violence is launching a new action fund in the wake of several high profile mass shootings of the last few years and the political fight over gun regulation in the state.

“Fighting for good policy alone is no longer sufficient to keep us safe from gun violence,” said Wesley McMahon, the Action Fund chairman, in a statement Thursday. “We all know some politicians will never change their mind on this issue. They won’t even meet us halfway to take steps to reduce gun violence that the majority of people support.”

The action fund will be a 501 (c)(4) nonprofit its organizers says will seek to better inform voters on the gun violence related positions and votes of state and local politicians.  Its charter will allow it to “support candidates committed to enacting sensible gun-safety measures and fight against those who would strip North Carolina of strong, effective gun laws.”

“The voting public is looking for ways to hold their elected officials, and the General Assembly, accountable on this issue,” McMahon said in the statement. “The Action Fund will allow for more information to be clearly available so that voters can make choices that align with their values.”

The action fund specifically cites last year’s HB 746, a proposal that would have allowed 18-year olds with no training and no background checks to carry concealed weapons in public.

As Policy Watch reported then, law enforcement organizations, prominent sheriffs and police chiefs across the state came out against the legislation. Ultimately, it didn’t come up for a vote – but its supporters vowed it would be back in some form in future sessions.