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Well, there’s good news on corruption – sort of. The folks over at the Civitas Institute have taken a statewide poll and asked voters which party is more corrupt – Democrats or Republicans.

So, who wins?

Well, when it comes to corruption right here in North Carolina:

25% say Republicans are more corrupt (which puzzling because Republicans haven’t had the power to be corrupt in years).

And 22% say Democrats.

Now the good news: 37% say both.

And what about Washington?

21% said Democrats in Washington are more corrupt (they must remember Clinton selling sleepovers in the Lincoln bedroom).

And 27% said Republicans.

More good news: 40% said both.

So, we’ve got 84% of the voters saying ‘someone’ is corrupt in Raleigh? And, even more, 88% saying ‘someone’ is corrupt in Washington. And there’s an election in ten months.

Posted in: General
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Bush/Rove think they’ve turned some good political judo on the Democrats over the eavesdropping battle.

(Political judo is when you turn your opponent’s strength into his weakness.)

Washington Dems thought they had Bush on the run when the New York Times revealed the eavesdropping program.

Now Bush/Rove have gladly taken up the fight. They’ve served notice they’re going to repeat what they did to Kerry in ’04: Turn the debate into whether you’re for or against the terrorists.

Maybe it’s time for some Demo judo.

My old boss Jim Hunt was a master at it. When Republicans took over the state House in 1994, they thought they had him trapped politically because they wanted to cut taxes. What did Hunt do? He proposed a bigger tax cut than the Republicans did.

And he agreed with one of their proposals: veto power for the Governor. So they had to give it to him – something the Democrats never would do.

Here’s what the Washington Dems should say:

• The problem isn’t that Bush is going too far in the fight against terrorism. He’s never gone far enough.

• He wouldn’t need to spy on Americans if he’d caught Osama and crushed al-Qaeda in the first place.

• Before 9/11, he was too busy clearing brush on his ranch to take seriously the warnings against Osama.

• After freezing like a deer in the headlights and flying all over the country looking for a safe place to land, he started right: He attacked Osama and the Taliban where they lived in Afghanistan.

• But he let them get away. And he started a war far away in a country that had nothing to do with Osama.

• It’s time to get smart, get tough and get serious about this war. And Bush has shown time and again he can’t.

Posted in: General
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Voters are hearing a lot of talk from politicians these days in Washington about lobbying reform. Both parties have presented packages to ‘clean up the mess’ and though the Democrats say they’re going a little further than Republicans, basically, both parties are saying the same thing, they want to curtail gifts and travel paid for by lobbyists – and other perks.

But all this is lip-service. Neither party has proposed to do the one thing that would make the most difference: prohibit lobbyists from raising money for politicians and giving money to politicians.

Why not? It’s hard to believe there’s any reason but that the politicians want to go on getting the money. Banning trips and lobbyist paid junkets and fine dining is fine but the real money – and the real corruption – is in the contributions lobbyists give to and raise for campaigns. If the politicians – in both parties – really want to drive a stake through corruption, that’s the place to start.

The problem is giving up a few dinners and junkets are one thing, giving up a hundred thousand or a million dollars for your reelection campaign is something else.

Posted in: General
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Here’s a strange twist. The Morrisville City Council seems about to give Chinese computer giant Lenova $1 million in tax breaks – to relocate there.

Giving tax breaks – even to a Chinese conglomerate – is not strange. But what’s unusual is that the federal government told Lenovo it had to leave the Research Triangle Park Campus (after Lenovo purchased IBM’s computer division) – because federal officials were worried about spying by the Chinese company (News and Observer 1-23-06). So, Morrisville is planning to give a tax subsidy to a Chinese company the federal government thinks may be spying. And, Governor Easley, has chipped in $14 million more in tax breaks from the state.

Now, why would we subsidize a Chinese conglomerate the federal government feels may be spying? And if the federal government doesn’t want Lenova in the Research Triangle Park – because, I guess, of the secrets there – how does it feel about having them a few miles down the road in Morrisville?

Posted in: General
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Gary, I expect – whether Osama bin Laden carries out his threats or not – the 2006 elections are going to be about terrorism. We’re in a war, they’re people running around out there who chop people’s heads off with swords, take twenty-eight-year-old girls hostage, hate Americans and threaten to blow up or cities. What should the election be about if not that?

Bush may be – as some say – blundering as he fights the war on terrorism, but at least he’s got the one key fact down – we’re in a war, we have to fight, and we have to win. I couldn’t tell you – or guess – what John Kerry or Hillary Clinton or John Edwards want to do to win that war.

The Democrats have a lot going for them in the next election. Scandals. Gas prices. Growing discontent with the war in Iraq. But they’re not going to be able to dodge telling us how they would win the war on terrorism. John Kerry already tried that and it didn’t work.

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Friday, January 20, was the 25th anniversary of a dramatic example of events in the Middle East driving American politics: 25 years ago, Ronald Reagan was sworn in as President and Iran released the hostages.

Same day, 2006, our news is dominated by Osama bin Laden’s latest threat against the U.S.

Last time we heard from Osama was just before the 2004 election. That didn’t help John Kerry at all.

What happens next – or doesn’t happen – could have more to do with the 2006 election than Jack Abramoff, the Medicare drug debacle and anything else.

If Osama makes good on his threat – and America, God forbid, gets hit again – one of two things will happen:

• Americans will rally around the President – again.

• Or, Americans will conclude that Bush really did go after the wrong enemy when he invaded Iraq instead of finishing off Osama.

Either way, this year’s elections would suddenly become about fighting terrorists rather than lobbyists.

Posted in: General
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The News & Observer headline Thursday (January 19) said “Wake school officials fear sticker shock.” I believe Raleigh Democrats are in for voter shock if they don’t wise up.

This month, Democrats on the City Council refused to even talk about using city revenues to meet school construction needs.

Fortunately, two Council Democrats – Jessie Taliaferro and Joyce Kekas – supported the idea. As did two Council Republicans.

The idea, predictably, has been ridiculed by “progressive” Democrats.

“Progressives” is what we liberals are supposed to call ourselves these days. I’m still a liberal. Which my dictionary defines as “generous…broad-minded.” That’s why I want the City Council – and especially the Democrats – to broaden their thinking.

Here is how this school-bond movie will go, in case you haven’t seen it before:

The County Commissioners, inevitably, will propose a big bond issue – accompanied by a big tax increase.

Opponents – led by opportunistic, irresponsible and public school-averse Republicans – will claim it’s all not necessary. They’ll say there’s too much waste in the schools. They’ll point to the transportation fraud criminals. They’ll find plenty of examples.

“Progressive” Democrats – who love taxes, unlike us Jeffersonian liberals – will be on the defensive. Unless they’re lucky, they’ll get crushed at the polls.

And it will be more than a bond referendum. An anti-tax and anti-spending tide will wash over into the City Council and Mayor’s races.

Just as Tom Fetzer did a decade ago, a smart Republican candidate (probably one listening to my sparring partner, Carter Wrenn) will hammer on the city spending money on hotels and convention centers downtown – instead of roads and schools. And get elected.

This train is coming. It’s time for smart Democrats to get in front of it. And not by tying themselves to the tracks.

Posted in: General, Raleigh
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One of the School Board Financial Advisory Board members has come out for something called an Adequate Public Facilities ordinance (ADF) – which sounds like a good-old-fashioned impact fee.

Now that’s wrong with that?

First, it’s a hidden tax. The county slaps a big fee on developers – but whoever buys what the developer sells – like a house – ultimately pays the tax. But they never see that they pay it – because the government technically charges the fee to the developer.

In other words APF’s are a sneaky way to tax a lot of people – without them ever seeing the tax come out of their paycheck. Taxes ought to be billed to the people who really pay them so they know what government is costing them. That’s the best way to hold taxes down.

Second, APF’s can be implemented and raised by local governments at will. They don’t need the legislature’s approval like many other local tax increases. They don’t need voter approval like a bond.

Can you imagine Mayor Meeker with that kind of taxing power in his hands? Lord knows what he’d try to build downtown to go with the Convention Center, hotel, supermarket and restaurant he’s already building with tax funds.

It may sound good – and in the short term some politicians will make hay – by saying let’s sock it to the developers. But if the politicians really want to raise taxes what they ought to do is say, ‘Let’s raise taxes,’ and tell us how much rather than sneaking in the back door with hidden fees.

Posted in: General, Raleigh
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It seems like there’s a new scandal erupting in Washington about every day.

The News and Observer reports (January 12, 2006) court documents filed last Wednesday show Louisiana Congressman William Jefferson demanded bribes “in exchange for his help in promoting a pair of business deals in Africa.” Jefferson’s former legislative director already pleaded guilty.

All this on top of the Abramoff scandal.

I read the other day where the former head of one of the government ethic departments in Washington said the system we have today amounts to ‘legalized bribery.’

And we’ve got our problems right here in North Carolina, too.

Representative Deborah Ross has introduced a bill to prohibit politicians from putting campaign funds in their pockets. That’s fine. But it’s not enough.

There’s a great story about Sir Lancelot. Sir Lancelot was captured by these four beautiful sorceresses. They told him he had to marry one of them. Then each of them set out to entice him into picking her.

One offered him wealth.

Another sex.

Another love.

The fourth offered him power and said if he had power he could get the other three for himself.

I don’t think a whole lot of politicians are actually taking outright bribes. They like a few perks – like trips to five star resorts and dinners at five star restaurants. But what they really want is power and what usually happens is they trade something they can do for someone for the cash to get reelected and keep that power.

It may be perfectly legal but it reeks to high heaven because what it amounts to is the same as bribery – government is for sale.

What the legislators need to do to pass real ethics reform is simple. No corporation, no lobbyist, no one wanting a government contract, no one wanting a government subsidy or special tax break to enrich themselves should be able to contribute to a politician who has the power to help them.

That will be a big step toward ending legal bribery.

Posted in: General
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That doesn’t sound too bad. People have a right to sincerely change opinions. But in this case I feel there’s another tried and true political tradition at work here. Mr. Gurley has not become a moderate so much as he’s become an insider.

Like a lot of people who get elected he’s heard the siren-call of sweet government and switched sides. For instance, Mr. Gurley says “he has come to understand that it is more effective to work behind the scenes.” That’s political double speak. It translates like this: Let’s make deals behind the scenes and the less the public knows the better.

That doesn’t sound particularly moderate.

Mr. Gurley also switched sides of funding the downtown Convention Center (he was against it before the election, he’s come to see it’s a wonderful thing now) and that’s one of the problems with ‘insiders’ – what they usually do best is give other people’s money away.

Mayor Meeker is a big insider. He’s using tax money to fund or pay for a hotel, a supermarket and a restaurant.

Let’s hope Mr. Gurley doesn’t get that carried away.

Posted in: General, Raleigh
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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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