Reform? What reform?

This month’s Exile on Jones Street column in the Indy is the result of a long slog through the campaign finance reports of various players in the General Assembly by Democracy North Carolina, myself and others.

During the 2010 election, Tillis and other Republicans used the Jim Black and Meg Scott Phipps scandals to illustrate the need for a clean break from Democratic rule, vowing that once in the majority they would clean up Raleigh. But recently released campaign finance reports paint a much different picture of what happened once the gavel changed hands.

The reports came out in the last week of January and sifting through them was not an easy chore. Not many of the records are in electronic form and there are obvious bits of missing information and, in some cases, misleading information about who is giving.
On the flip side is the legislation that comes either before or after the contributions. The cases cited in the article are just a small sample, but that doesn’t mean they’re not insignificant in themselves. In each case the business interests got law written to accomplish their aims and in each case – consumer loans, municipal wifi, bail bond rules – the people of North Carolina got the short end of the stick.
The system is in dire need of fixing. There were several reforms passed during the last decade that allowed a little clearer view of the world where money and public policy mix. But there seems to be little interest in taking up any further reforms despite promises to the contrary. We are left with an opaque reporting system that stifles feedback. The time that lapses between when money is contributed and when it shows up in a public document is far too long. We shouldn’t have to wait for the finance reports to come in to fully understand why something became law.

Links, reports and more on campaign money and its influence on public policy in North Carolina to follow.

Morning Post: Spotlight on the NC

Politics in North Carolina is drawing quite a bit of interest this morning thanks to several pages of daylight in the New Yorker. Reporter at Large Jane Mayer laid out the influence and operation of Art Pope and Co. in this week’s Money issue.

Art Pope Citizens United and North Carolina Politics

Yet Pope’s triumph in 2010 was sweeping. According to an analysis by the Institute for Southern Studies, of the twenty-two legislative races targeted by him, his family, and their organizations, the Republicans won eighteen, placing both chambers of the General Assembly firmly under Republican majorities for the first time since 1870. North Carolina’s Democrats in Congress hung on to power, but those in the state legislature, where Pope had focused his spending, were routed.

This is not big news among progressives. Pope’s effort to shape the GOP and the state has been pretty obvious and was spelled out in great detail by the Institute for Southern Studies and the Indy earlier this year. But Mayer uses Citizen United to spell out the consequences of the very wealthy unchecked and unfettered in the political arena and how politics and as we have most recently seen public policy now has a price.

The article, which opens with a very perceptive look at the losses by Democrats Margaret Dickson and John Snow in 2010, is a cautionary tale for every state in the country. Each one has its own Art Pope or two or three and each one is vulnerable to what has happened here in the Old North State.

Go read it.

Organizing the place

The new majority get’s organized. Via LL on Roger Ailes’ favorite radio network:

North Carolina Republicans have had plenty of time to think about how they would run the state Senate — they haven’t controlled it since just after the Civil War. So perhaps it’s not surprising that Senate Republicans had their leadership plans pretty much ironed out before the official meeting. It took less than 90 minutes to finalize the details.

Let’s see, seating charts, meetings, press conferences and electing the leadership. No sense in measuring the drapes for the new office, ’cause the state can’t afford no new drapes.

The House, as noted is in more flux as to its leadership structure. Stam or Tillis?

Shuler falls a few votes short

Depending on how your politics run, Shuler’s attempt to unseat Nancy Pelosi was either a principled stand, an attempt to send a message or a vainglorious waste of time. Either way, it failed.
In the aftermath Steny says nice things about Shuler and the incoming Minority Leader sets the record straight on what the election was about. Via The Hill:

After her victory, Pelosi forcefully shot down the notion that, by remaining leader, she was ignoring a message for change from the voters.

“The message we received from the American people was that they want a job – they want jobs,” the Speaker said. “Nine-and-a-half percent unemployment is a very tough screen to get through with any other message.”

Marshall says Simpson should go

Breaking: Democrat acts like Democrat.

Charlotte, NC — In a speech Thursday marking the 90th anniversary of women being granted the right to vote, U.S. Senate candidate Elaine Marshall called on Alan Simpson to resign as co-chair of President Obama’s fiscal commission following derisive comments the former Wyoming Senator made about Social Security recipients.
“Alan Simpson’s remarks were disrespectful to women and to social security recipients. He should resign or the President should fire him,” Marshall said, speaking at the Levine Museum of the New South in Charlotte.
“The fact that he thinks this way shows that he can’t do his job with an open mind. We should be doing everything in our power to strengthen and protect Social Security, not attacking the recipients who depend on it.”

Wednesday Morning Post: Dead Heat edition

New PPP poll has the Senate race in a dead heat.

“The North Carolina Senate race continues to look very competitive, with Richard Burr’s approval numbers hitting a record low and Elaine Marshall pulling within 2 points. Burr’s at 39% to 37% for Marshall and 7% for Libertarian Michael Beitler.

The main thing that’s changed since the last poll, when Burr led by 5, is that Marshall is shoring up her support from within the party. 65% of Democrats say they’ll vote for her, up from 57% a month ago. Burr continues to lead because of a 44-25 advantage with independents and because with 73% Republican support his party is more unified around him than Marshall’s is around her.”

Marshall posts something on Kos about it.

Sorry doods

For all those folks trying to repackage all those Bush policies, like, say privatizing Social Security: it’s not going to make them any more appealing.
And adding “Now with Crazy!” to an already rejected product is not going to sell it any faster, either.