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Entries for 2009

21
With the State Board of Elections and a Federal Grand Jury investigating Mike Easley, and the FBI and Securities and Exchange Commission asking questions about Tony Rand manipulating penny stocks Democrats can’t catch a break -- and now a state Grand Jury has found probable cause Senator R.C. Soles, one of the Democratic old bulls in the State Senate, committed a felony assault by shooting a former law client.
 
Senator Soles has always been a colorful character – years and years ago a story made the rounds about a surprised highway patrolman who stopped Soles one night, only to find him wearing a dress, driving home from a masquerade party – the story’s probably a complete fiction but it’s made its way into North Carolina political folklore nonetheless.
 
There’s also a pretty good – though less colorful – story about Soles and Tony Rand in Richard Morgan’s memoir, The Fourth Witch.
 
With Easley spending $10,000 in campaign money to fix his house, Rand’s penny stocks, Soles shooting his clients and Governor Perdue issuing edicts to clean up corruption while her administration gives her son’s client tax incentives it just seems politics gets stranger every day. It almost makes you wistful for the good old days when the most exciting thing in North Carolina politics was the Secretary of Agriculture hosting ‘Mule Day.’
 

 

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21
Secretary Lanier Cansler’s gone and landed Governor Perdue in the soup again with one of his no bid contracts.
 
This time Cansler got caught by WRAL giving a $30 million contract to a company that’s only been in existence two months and whose owners – Ramzi Abulhaj and Rich Admani – got sued in Florida for stealing another company’s patent, then got threatened with jail because they ignored a judge’s order to stop selling products they shouldn’t, then went bankrupt and finally were sued by the bankruptcy trustee for transferring millions of dollars out of the bankrupt company to hide their assets from creditors.
 
When he interviewed Cansler WRAL’s Cullen Browder got right to the point when he asked Cansler if he’d stopped to check out Prodigy Incorporated before awarding them a contract to sell diabetes testing equipment and supplies to every Medicaid patient in North Carolina – Cansler, dapper as always, turned a little ‘green around the gills’ then in effect said, Er, yes, sort of. Then Browder asked, well, had Cansler checked out Prodigy’s owners? A little more of the starch went out of Cansler and he mumbled, “That’s not something we usually do.”
 
Cansler has a legion of employees – anyone could find the information with a mouse-click and a ten-minute Internet search.
 
Last January when Governor Perdue appointed Lanier Cansler a lot of folks said it wasn’t such a good idea to put a lobbyist in charge of the Department of Health and Human Services but she told them not to worry, saying, ‘Whoever he [Cansler] worked for in the past, he is 100% owned by the people of North Carolina now.’
 
Back then that sort of sounded like faint praise and reminded me of the old hard-bitten pol’ who once told me, Sure I know how to buy a politician – what I don’t know is how to keep him bought.
 
Anyway – when it comes to hiring lobbyists – maybe it’s time the Governor rethought her position.
 
 

 

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21
The cat is out of the bag – Bernie Reeves may run for Congress against Brad Miller.
 
Bernie, who publishes Metro Magazine, is a sort of irrepressible force of nature – brash, charming, outspoken and not at all impressed with a single politician walking around on two feet. I’d buy a ticket to watch a debate between him and Brad Miller. If he announces throw out the rule book and forget everything you’ve ever learned about campaigns – Bernie’s an original and his race would be too and he’s sure to put the fun back in politics.
 
Bernie’s also got one trait in common with Jesse Helms – he’s fearless. He’s not afraid of a fight. Or to take a stand that’ll hurt him politically. And that’s about the hardest trait to find in anyone in public office.
 
I can’t think of anyone who’s ever thrown his hat into the political ring who’s less likely to turn into a Washington politician if he’s elected.
 
 

 

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21
Editorial writers, defense lawyers and letter-writers claimed that Governor Perdue was defying the courts and the “rule of law” in the life-doesn’t-mean-life brouhaha.
 
But now one judge has agreed with her – and the Supreme Court has decided to review the matter.
 
In truth, her critics’ rhetoric was just as overheated as the Governor’s.
 
She had the right instinct on this issue. And the public agrees with her. But she overreached at first, especially when she vowed to stand in the jailhouse door.
 
Sometimes in politics it pays to underreact.
 
The Governor can dial it back now. If the (Republican majority) Supreme Court rules against her, she can disagree and vow to do whatever she can to keep people safe.
 
Let the critics rage, Bev. They’re helping you.

 

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21
The Washington Post had a story Sunday about how Larry Kissell’s vote against health care reform – and President Obama – has angered passionate Democrats who elected Obama and Kissell.
 
The story concludes with a quote from me about Kissell:  "That's why they call them freshmen -- because they make freshman mistakes. That's why a lot of them don't become sophomores."

 

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18
It looks like – from the newspaper – Democratic Senate Leader Tony Rand had a scheme to turn 140,000 shares of ‘penny stock’ he owned in Law Enforcement Associates (where Rand serves as Chairman of the Board) into a windfall.
 
First, it seems, Rand tipped (or otherwise persuaded) a few of his political friends like Governor Easley to buy the stock, then he set the wheels of political capitalism in motion. The headline in the News and Observer described what happened next pretty succinctly: State Spent Thousands on LEA Gear.
 
In other words politicians buy LEA stock, the state buys LEA’s products, LEA’s stock goes up and the politicians reap a windfall.
 
Except the plan hit a snag: A former LEA executive told the U.S. Attorney what was going on and the News and Observer showed up on Rand’s doorstep. Some politicians might have been nonplussed by a reporter asking him how his company sold hundreds of thousands of dollars in police equipment – like a jacket with cameras hidden in it – to state government but Rand hardly blinked.
 
“My God,” he exclaimed, “I don’t have anything to do with sales. I don’t have a clue about that.”
 
Next the reporter asked Rand if the Division of Motor Vehicles – which is headed by one of Rand’s cronies, who owns 30,000 shares of LEA stock – buying $64,000 in equipment from LEA wasn’t a conflict of interest.
 
Nope, Rand said, because he hadn’t even known his friend owned LEA stock.
 
The reporter doggedly plowed ahead asking about a no-bid state contract approved by another Rand ally, DOT Secretary Lyndo Tippett – who owns 36,000 shares – to purchase LEA equipment. Then, finally, he asked Rand about a report he’d called sheriffs and invited them to a luncheon – to sell them LEA equipment.
 
Now buying North Carolina’s sheriff’s lunch might not have sounded so bad except President Obama put $4 billion for law enforcement grants in the Stimulus Act – money to be passed out by Democrats in Washington and Raleigh. So it looks like Rand may have been urging sheriffs to buy equipment from a company, well, owned by some of the potential grant givers.
 
And here’s the oddest twist of all: When Rand announced it was time for him to hang up his spurs and resign from the State Senate – Governor Perdue promptly made him head of the Paroles Commission.
 

 

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18
Poor Cal Cunningham; the young man has had so much ‘humbling’ lately if he wasn’t a politician he might be facing the possibility of sainthood.
 
First, before he announced he was running for Senate, he said he’d been ‘humbled’ by how many folks wanted him to run. Then, after he declared he was running, he announced he was ‘humbled’ and ‘overwhelmed’ by how many people were celebrating (having the opportunity to vote for him).
 
He actually quoted four of them in his first post-announcement email: a veteran saying what a relief Cunningham’s running is to veterans, a fellow saying Cunningham’s North Carolina’s future and Erin from Chapel Hill – who must think politics is like football – saying, “Go, Cal, go.”
 
This is an example of a young politician pounding himself on the back then dressing all boasting up by saying how humbled he is to be anointed political savior – and, in the end, all it really accomplishes is leaving you wondering if young Mr. Cunningham thinks the average guy is a complete, gullible fool.
 

 

 

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18
These have been dark and stormy days for Democrats.
 
Every day, the headlines bring more gloom. Ruffin Poole takes the Fifth. Mike Easley hires Joe Cheshire. Tony Rand is accused of insider trading. Marc Basnight is forced to defend his political and physical health. Bev Perdue’s ratings are low. R.C. Soles faces trouble. David Hoyle is stepping down. Health care reform is in trouble. Obama’s polls are down.
 
John Edwards is rated a bigger disappointment than Tiger Woods, for Pete’s sake.
 
But now comes a bright sunbeam of hope and cheer.
 
Bernie Reeves may be the Republican candidate against Brad Miller!
 
Yes, there is a Santa Claus.
 
Run, Bernie, run. The comic relief will be welcome.
 

 

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17
My friend and New Media guru Matt Gross argues that President Obama is wrong to keep pushing health-care reform up the steep Senate hill.
 
Instead, Gross says, Obama should kill the bill, blame the Republicans and go to war over the public-option issue in the 2010 elections. 
 
The White House is hostage to the ghost of Bill Clinton. His reform failure led to the 1994 GOP sweep. Obama will do anything to pass a bill, any bill – so long as he can call it reform.
 
Stop pretending it’s reform, argue Gross and progressives like Howard Dean. Stop trying to appease Joe Lieberman with what liberals see as an insurance industry bailout.
 
In 2010, that strategy might turn out the Obama legions from 2008.

 

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17
There was a pretty glowing report in the paper Wednesday about the Copenhagen Summit, saying just about everyone’s agreed to compensate poor countries for preserving forests and swamps. (Just think, once, not too long ago draining a swamp was a virtue).
 
It seems the big hurdle standing in the way of an agreement was how to define a forest – but, somehow, the climate experts got that worked out and rolled on glowingly gushing how it’s a dead certain absolute fact exactly 20% of greenhouse gas emissions are due to folks chopping down forests and how this deal is a bonanza for everyone from poor countries to multi-national conglomerates – so just about everyone in Copenhagen is for it.
 
But the report never mentioned one thing.
 
Where does the ‘compensation’ – the cash going to the third world nations – come from?
 
The answer is from you – Mr. U.S. Taxpayer.
 
That’s right. The federal deficit is a trillion dollars, unemployment is 11%, and your money is going to Bangladesh – to pay them not to drain a swamp.
 

 

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