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How deeply is ‘pay to play’ ingrained in the culture of the Democratic Party?

Let’s take a look at the upcoming Democrat race for Governor in 2008. Three candidates are already raising war chests and State Treasurer Richard Moore leads the pack.

The News and Observer reports Moore has raised over 42% of his money from out-of-state and a “large part of it” came from companies hired by Moore to help invest the slate’s $65 billion pension fund.

For instance, Moore raised $108,000 from financial companies on Wall Street that do business with his office. He received donations from executives in Boston, Chicago, SeattleTampa, Florida whose companies have a role in managing the pension fund.

Robert Johnson, founder of Black Entertainment Television and owner of the NBA Charlotte Bobcats, hosted a fundraiser for Moore and raised $23,000 last fall. Six months earlier, Johnson’s company was hired last year to manage $325 million in state pension funds.

A San Francisco developer was hired to manage $260 million in pension funds. Executives in his company raised $18,000 for Moore.

Moore says, in his defense, “It would be incredibly shortsighted of me to make investment decisions based on political favoritism…”

But his political consultant, Jay Reiff, was more blunt. Reiff said Moore is doing nothing other candidates are not doing. “Every serious candidate for state office, including Gov. Easley, Lt. Gov. Perdue and Attorney General Cooper, has received contributions from individuals that do business with the state.”

He added that Dave Horne, one of Governor Easley’s fundraisers and his campaign treasurer was a lobbyist for EDS, a major state contractor. And that one of Attorney General Ray Cooper’s fundraisers is Brad Wilson of Blue Cross & Blue Shield.

It sounds like to Mr. Moore’s political advisor there’s not one thing wrong with ‘pay to play.’ It’s a fact of life. Everyone does it.

He may well be right as far as the other Democratic candidates for Governor go.

Lt. Gov. Beverly Perdue, the head of the State Senate, has her own collection of lobbyists to give and raise money for her, including Zeb Alley and former John Edwards’ manager Ed Turlington.

So, is it likely any of the Democrat candidates for Governor will put an end to ‘pay to play?”

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The USA Today/Gallup poll now shows George Bush at a 31 percent approval rating. Nearly two-thirds of Americans – 65 percent – approve of the job he’s doing.

I think he is basically down now to the total viewership of Fox News.

According to USA Today:

Only four presidents have scored lower approval ratings since the Gallup Poll began regularly measuring it in the mid-1940s: Harry Truman, Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter and the first George Bush. When Nixon, Carter and the elder Bush sank below 35%, they never again registered above 40%.

Truman twice sank into the low 30s and then rose into the 60s, but the third time his rating fell, it stayed below 40% as well.

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When the state had to bid an $18 million contract to purchase office supplies, it hired the consulting company Accenture and paid them $300,000 to evaluate the bids.

However, according to the News and Observer, Accenture, the state’s consultant, has also been paid millions of dollars by Office Depot (for work unrelated to North Carolina).

Want to guess who ended up with the North Carolina contract Accenture evaluated? Office Depot.

Accenture was also the state’s consultant when it awarded the multi-billion dollar State Health Care Plan’s Pharmacy Benefits Management Contract. At that time, Accenture had been criticized – in other states – for doing exactly what has happened here on the contract awarded to Office Depot. For advising state agencies to award contracts to corporations that were Accenture’s clients.

Now, the News and Observer reports, a state judge has ruled the Office Depot contract was awarded improperly. Judge Beecher Gray said, “What I see here is an appearance of impropriety.”

Why would the state hire a company which had Office Depot as a client – to help evaluate an $18 million contract Office Depot was bidding on? Perhaps what the newspapers have discovered is another new version of ‘pay to play.’

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Posted in: General
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Has there ever been a worse idea than the Senate Republicans’ proposal for a $100 tax rebate to help Americans buy more $3 gas?

Has there ever been more convincing proof that Senator Bill Frist belongs in an operating room, not the White House?

In fairness, Washington Democrats aren’t much better.

Since I whacked Bill Graham for proposing to cut North Carolina’s gas tax, I owe the Democrats in Washington a whack for proposing the same thing nationally.

Two reasons:

  • How are they going up to pay for building and maintaining highways?

  • Why on earth do Democrats want to encourage people to use more gas and give more power to oil-producing countries?
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A good way for Republicans to get a head start on the next Mayor’s race is to start making Mayor Charles Meeker’s runaway spending an issue. Now.

On top of proposing to raise taxes on new homes, and raising property taxes to pay for a school bonds and raising property taxes two years ago, the City Council now is talking about raising property taxes again to pay for more spending.

Right now, the City wants to spend $11 million more that it has, for items like:

  • Six new policemen for a downtown foot and bicycle patrol;
  • $150,000 for daily cleaning of Fayetteville Street, along with quarterly pressure washing;
  • And, $100,000 for an observation platform to monitor outdoor events downtown.

Republican Councilman Philip Isley has proposed shifting federal money from the regional lite-rail system to schools and roads as an alternative to more borrowing and higher taxes.

But lite-rail is one of Mayor Meeker’s pet projects. The Mayor has increased spending to pay for a downtown hotel, a five-star restaurant, an upscale supermarket and a $40 million dollar underground parking garage. Now he wants more spending and higher taxes to pay for it.

The City Council is spending money like a sailor on a spree. It’s time Republicans offered voters an alternative.

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Posted in: General, Raleigh
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The usual way to eliminate an opponent, politically, is to defeat him in an election. A simpler way – when the legislature redraws its districts – is to put him in someone else’s district.

After he was elected Co-Speaker, Richard Morgan took Leo Daughtry out of his district and put him in a district with Republican Representative Billy Creech. He did the same thing with three other Republicans who had opposed him. And he moved four other Republicans into districts that favored Democrats (where they were later defeated).

Then Morgan announced he was targeting several additional Republicans who had opposed him in their primaries.

As Co-Speaker, Morgan was, politically, in a much stronger position than his opponents. He could raise the money to fund campaigns to defeat his opponents – and no individual legislator could match him. One major reason he failed was former State Representative Art Pope.

Before the 2004 primaries, Pope endorsed the legislators Morgan targeted for defeat. Then he – and members of his family – contributed to their campaigns. Then, along with several other Daughtry supporters, Pope set up a ‘527’ group – an ‘issues advocacy group – and helped fund it with $400,000 of his own money. Then the group began running ads criticizing Morgan’s supporters – and Morgan – in their districts. Subsequently, four of Morgan’s allies were defeated in the primaries – and Morgan only won reelection by 250 votes.

In 2004, Richard Morgan did not question Art Pope’s use of a ‘527’ group to debate issues during the election. In fact, Richard set up his own ‘527’ group, funded it with corporate money and ran ads of his own.

But that was about to change.

In the fall of 2004, the Democrats retook control of the State House, and, with a Democratic majority, Jim Black no longer needed Republican votes to be elected Speaker. But Morgan decided to continue his ‘alliance’ with Black by running for – with the support of House Democrats – Speaker Pro Tem, the number two position in the House.

The office is largely ceremonial, and powerless, but Morgan’s decision sent a clear message to other Republicans; he was continuing his ‘alliance’ with Jim Black and even if Republicans elected a majority in 2006 to retake control of the House – Morgan could again form a coalition with Black to return to power.

So, in primaries this year, Art Pope again targeted Richard Morgan and his allies for defeat.

To be continued tomorrow…Chapter 5 – “The 2006 Republican Primaries”

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With Mayor Meeker talking about raising taxes again, and the City Council talking about spending $11 million more than it has, Republicans should be recommending ways to trim the budget.

Here’s a small idea.

The City publishes a newsletter, “Liveable Streets Update: Downtown Raleigh.” The newsletter seems to exist for only one reason – to be a public relations vehicle to promote Mayor Meeker’s pet downtown projects. Like his convention center. And hotel. And five-star restaurant. And up-scale supermarket. (All funded with tax dollars.)

The April issue of the newsletter opens with a paean praising the Mayor for his role in bringing Spanish artist Juame Pensa to Raleigh and leading the effort to get a $2.5 million for Pensa to build a “grassy plaza” in the middle of Fayetteville Street – which according to Mr. Pensa will resemble a silicon chip.

Defunding the Mayor’s PR vehicle isn’t going to balance the budget. But every penny helps. And it beats raising property taxes, again.

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Posted in: Raleigh
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Brad Miller is an ideal Congressman: serious, sincere and hard-working.

Here is how decent a guy Brad is: He chaired the Senate committee that drew up his Congressional district, but his friends say he didn’t make the district nearly Democratic enough.

No good deed goes unpunished. Brad now has Vernon Robinson as an opponent.

Robinson is the wild man of North Carolina politics. As you might expect that from a man who calls himself “the black Jesse Helms.”

Robinson will say and do anything. He’s already running an ad attacking Miller that somehow combines gay marriage and immigration.

Brad may not get a good night’s sleep from now until November.

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The day before the election, when defense attorneys asked a Durham judge to remove DA Mike Nifong from the Duke University lacrosse rape case, charging his “zeal to win votes trumped his duty to see justice,” Nifong responded (News and Observer, 5/2/06):

“Some people try cases in the media by filing motions that contain outrageous false statements in the hopes that the media will report on those statements as if they were true. If I were him, I wouldn’t want to be trying this case against me either.”

Nifong won his primary.

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Posted in: General
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Art Pope is now Pope of the North Carolina Republican Party.

By engineering the defeats of Reps. Richard Morgan and Rick Eddins, Pope made himself Supreme Pontiff, Enforcer of Orthodoxy and All-Powerful Exorcist of Heretics.

I believe that bodes ill for Democrats this November.

Pope showed that he has the money – and can buy the skill – to overwhelm election opponents. And he is willing to spend the money.

Some of my Republican friends didn’t think Pope could get away with calling Eddins a Democrat. Ridiculous, they scoffed.

But it worked.

Pope’s strategy was to tie his rivals to scandal-plagued Speaker Jim Black. Look for the same line of attack against Democrats this fall.

For months now, Democrats have been enjoying the split among Republicans. It’s time to stop enjoying and start figuring out how to fight back.

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Carter & Gary
Carter Wrenn
Gary Pearce
The Charlotte Observer says: “Carter Wrenn and Gary Pearce don’t see eye-to-eye on many issues. But they both love North Carolina and know its politics inside and out.”
Carter is a Republican. 
Gary is a Democrat.
They met in 1984, during the epic U.S. Senate battle between Jesse Helms and Jim Hunt. Carter worked for Helms and Gary, for Hunt.
Years later, they became friends. They even worked together on some nonpolitical clients.
They enjoy talking about politics. So they started this blog in 2005. 
They’re still talking. And they invite you to join the conversation.
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