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Entries for 'Carter Wrenn'

23

 

There are scads of Super PACs running around attacking Thom Tillis or Kay Hagan so one more came as no surprise except when Planned Parenthood said it was going to whack Tillis I thought, Whoever heard of a government-funded group spending $3.3 million on a Super PAC? It didn’t seem quite right. Planned Parenthood spending taxpayers’ money to elect Kay Hagan – so she’d give them more taxpayers’ money.
 
But then I thought that wasn’t fair – that, after all, the Chamber of Commerce has a Super PAC doing its best to elect Speaker Tillis and what its members get from the government makes Planned Parenthood look like a piker. 
 
For example, just last month, the local  Chamber spent a quarter million dollars to help Republicans defeat a Democratic Supreme Court judge then, at the Chamber’s behest, Republicans in the State Senate sponsored a law to give pharmaceutical companies (who’re members of the Chamber) a legal pass so they can’t be held responsible when they sell defective drugs.
 
Super PACs: A new wrinkle in a very old kind of politics.


 

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12
Years ago a Democratic gnome sitting in a cloister pouring over reams of polls and demographics had a profound revelation: Most of the people who didn’t vote were Democrats. The word spread from gnome to pollster to politicians where it led to scads of mischief (all dressed in the trappings of government) as Democrats passed laws like same day voting, early voting, and moter-voter registration – all to elect more Democrats.
 
Then the Republicans took power. And set about repealing the Democrats’ laws. And then, as sure as one bad deed leads to another, started passing new laws of their own (also in the name of good government) – the way the Republican politicians saw it a pandemic of voter fraud was loose in the country and the cure to kill that nasty germ was to inoculate everyone with massive doses of Voter IDs.  
 
By the time all the political machinations were done no one had clean hands but, of course, no Democrat fessed up to doing any conniving and no Republican questioned the Republicans’ counter-conniving.
 
Until Rand Paul (who must have known he was about to stick his head straight into the tiger’s mouth) said, Everybody’s gone completely crazy on the Voter ID thing.
 
That made Paul no friends in either camp. Republicans said he’d just proven he  wasn’t tough enough to be the conservatives’  candidate for President in 2016 and Democrats said they didn’t believe a word Rand Paul said because he’d once also said the 1964 Civil Rights Act wasn’t perfect.
 
Before sundown Paul was getting shot by politicians from both sides – which makes a pretty good case he may be exactly the man we need for President in 2016.

 

 

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06
A group of politicians called Justice for All North Carolinians have had an ad on TV slamming liberal Judge Robin Hudson for ‘siding with child molesters’ in a Supreme Court decision. 
 
Now if that sounds like a little political fact twisting – it is.
 
Here’s what happened: The state legislature passed new laws on child molesters, including new punishments like wearing electronic monitors – which was without a doubt a good idea.
 
Next there was a lawsuit – that landed in the Supreme Court – over whether to apply those new laws retroactively to varmints (child molesters) who’d been convicted before the laws passed.
 
Of course, it’s an old and cherished democratic principle politicians (and legislatures) ought not to have the power to pass a law one day then prosecute people who broke it the day before – it’d be like giving politicians the power to say, Sure, it was legal when you did it but it’s a crime now.
 
But in the hands of a group of politicos out to win a Supreme Court election standing up for an abstract democratic principle (which is what Hudson was doing) didn’t mean squat – in fact, it morphed into ‘Robin Hudson sides with child molesters.’
 
Judge Hudson’s not my cup of tea. But, now, there’s another abstract principle at play in her election that has to be weighed alongside her ideology: What is the consequence if Robin Hudson loses because a Super PAC told voters a lie?
 
And the answer is: More lies.
 
So here’s a perplexing dilemma: Which matters most? Defeating Robin Hudson and encouraging more lyin’ in politics?
 
Or electing a liberal Judge and demonstrating lying backfires?

 

 

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05
In the last week or so before the election, in the midst of conniving to win the Republican primary for Congress, young Phil Berger (and his Super PAC) whacked one opponent as a liberal, another as a wild-eyed big spender, and a third as a secret agent who’s too cozy with Chinese textile firms.
 
The ‘secret agent’ was Bruce VonCannon.
 
And Berger’s whack says a lot about Berger’s politics.
 
Bruce VonCannon was born and raised in Asheboro where his father worked for the Post Office and his mother worked for the Eveready Battery Company. In High School he won the state tennis championship then attended Princeton on a scholarship and, his senior year, was offered a scholarship to study abroad in Singapore.
 
Though he didn’t know it at the time, he’d taken the first step down a road that would lead him to a 27 year career in overseas banking.
 
Last year, after working as CEO of the Swiss Rothschild Bank in Hong Kong, he retired and returned home and that, in Berger’s Super PAC’s eyes, was all the proof they needed to whack him with an ad for being too cozy with Chinese textile firms – which was news to VonCannon.
 
After I saw their ad, since I’ve been helping VonCannon, I asked to see their research which arrived in reams of Internet links and nebulous documents but, when you sorted it all out, their story went like this:
 
Berger’s Super PAC hadn’t found a shred of evidence Bruce VonCannon owned a single share of stock in a Chinese textile firm. Or that he’d ever ‘partnered’ with a Chinese textile firm.
 
His employer – the Swiss Rothschild Bank – didn’t own a single share of stock in a Chinese textile firm either.
 
And the Rothschild family Group – which owned the Swiss Rothschild Bank – didn’t own a single share of stock in a Chinese textile firm.
 
However it did own a French bank which owned stock in a Chinese Mutual Fund – but that Fund didn’t own a single share of Chinese textile stock either.
 
From there the trial twisted and turned through Chinese Funds until, at last, they found someone who owned stock in two Chinese textile firms – which irrefutably proved, according to Berger’s PAC, that Bruce VonCannon was partnered with people he didn’t know, and had never laid eyes on, in China.
 
What the Super PAC was doing is called guilt by association and they believed it down to their toenails.
 
I reckon, if someone wasn’t troubled by scruples, they could also use the Super PAC’s logic to blame young Phil Berger for all the sinning that went on in Babylon – after all, Berger descended from Adam and so did the Babylonians and, if you hold with guilt by association, that’s pretty solid proof Berger’s responsible for sinning that went on 4,000 years ago even though he wasn’t there and didn’t know one of the sinners.
 
Of course, that’s silly – it would be outrageous to blame someone for sinning someone else they didn’t even know did. Wouldn’t it?

 

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03

There’s been a lot of political foolishness going on over in Greensboro and I’ve been watching it pretty closely, working with one of Phil Berger Jr.’s opponents in the Republican Primary, Bruce VonCannon.

The other day Berger’s Super PAC broke bad and issued an edict: Voters, they said, ought not to trust Bruce VonCannon to oppose Obamacare.

Now, you might wonder, How can that be? A Republican candidate for Congress not opposing Obamacare?
 
Well, according to Berger’s Super PAC, the answer goes like this: Last December, Bruce VonCannon hired a prominent Republican lawyer with the Arent Fox Law Firm in Washington to handle his campaign’s financial reports with the Federal Elections Commission.
 
Now, in and of itself, that doesn’t sound too bad. But Berger’s Super PAC wasn’t done. It revealed another horrible fact: Arent Fox, it said, has a Democratic partner who’d lobbied for Obamacare.
 
And, to be frank, that’s true.
 
Just like it’s true Arent Fox represents Rand Paul and Ron Paul – which, of course, led Bruce VonCannon to ask Phil Berger, Jr. a simple question: Do you think Rand Paul can’t be trusted on Obamacare too?
 
Then, later on that same day, a friend called and pointed out an even odder fact. Phil Berger, he said, had hired Parker Poe (Terry Sanford’s old law firm) to be his attorney – which led to a final even simpler question for the folks at Berger’s Super PAC: Would you all say that proves Phil Berger, Jr. is for the Food Tax – or would you say there’s something wrong with that kind of thinking?

 

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17
Harry Reid’s new ad is hardball with a thud. Here’s Reid’s story in a nutshell: He says Thom Tillis shared an apartment with his Chief of Staff, who had an affair with a married lobbyist, and then resigned. And Tillis said he knew nothing. Then, a week later, another Tillis staffer resigned after having had an affair with a lobbyist. And Tillis gave both aides severance pay.
 
What could Tillis say? He couldn’t contest the facts. They’d been reported in the newspapers. And he couldn’t debate the policy. How could he defend giving severance pay to aides he, himself, said acted improperly.
 
He might have said, I made a mistake. But didn’t.
 
Instead he announced to the press, “Harry Reid hit the panic button.” And blasted Reid for meddling in the Republican Primary.
 
That’s called the old bait and switch. But it won’t cut the mustard.
 
This time, Harry Reid’s tackled Thom Tillis’ judgment head-on. And, unless Tillis comes up with an answer, that’s a game changer.

 

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13
Misery loves company and right here, in Raleigh, it’s led to a pretty strange alliance. Governor McCrory’s Department of Environment and Natural Resources and President Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency have joined arms.
 
To whip the ‘coal ash’ problem.
 
According to the newspaper reports the Governor is “pleased” but, so far, the EPA hasn’t had much kind to say about DENR. In fact, the other morning the newspapers reported the EPA was unhappy with DENR because of its too cushy settlement with Duke Energy a year ago.
 
Even worse for the DENR folks, disposing of a mountain of coal ash (that’s been building up for forty years) may not be their diciest problem. Not by a long shot.
 
Coal ash is a catastrophe. But Grand Jury Investigations and subpoenas flying through the air are an altogether more worrisome development. Dancing the ‘ole political two step’ with an FBI agent doesn’t work. And in Grand Jury investigations people testify under oath so fibbing is off the table. If you’re a DENR employee or a lobbyist who lobbied a DENR employee you’re face to face with a cold hard fact – the Grand Jury is looking for an answer to a simple question: Did someone in DENR cut Duke Power a break? And did he or she get anything in return?
 
This kind of investigation can be the deadliest calamity in politics. There’re no backroom fixes. No quarter is given. And the consequences can be a lot more unfortunate than losing an election.

 

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10
When it comes to straw polls, from cradle to grave, there’s a whiff of deception in the air. Hardly anything is what it seems.
 
For instance, political groups don’t take straw polls to measure voters’ opinions or candidates’ strengths – they take them to gin-up attendance for meetings. By telling a cash-strapped candidate, We’re taking a straw poll at our next meeting so you’d better turn out your supporters. Then the poor candidate starts scrambling, spending precious dollars to get people to go to the meeting to vote for him. To win a straw poll, candidates have been known to pay for supporters’ registration fees to conventions or tickets to dinners.
 
Last election when the Wake County Republican Party held a straw poll during the Republican Primary, my friend George Holding’s campaign didn’t spend a penny. George attended, spoke  and his campaign went right on spending its money on TV or radio ads to reach thousands of voters.
 
That night, after the convention, on his way home George called me and said, Well, I finished last.
 
How many votes did you get?
 
17%.
 
It wasn’t George’s happiest night of the campaign. But later, on Election Day, talking to voters rather than winning straw polls paid off.
 
The other night the Wake County Republican Party held another straw poll and, true to form, a candidate who hasn’t aired a single TV ad won. The next morning the News and Observer reported Greg Brannon had beaten Thom Tillis by 12 points and, naturally, anyone reading the story might think Brannon’s cruising to victory in the primary too. But that’s all smoke and mirrors. It’s just one more straw poll that isn’t what it seems.

 

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08
Long ago and far away, in bygone days, during Jim Hunt’s first incarnation as Governor, we (Jesse Helms’ political organization) lit on what we thought was a grand idea: We ’d do a TV ad attacking Governor Hunt for giving AFL-CIO boss Wilber Hobby government CETA grants.
 
We made the ad, tore into Wilbur Hobby, then polled. Wilbur was about as popular as a skunk. But we hadn’t laid a glove on Jim Hunt.
 
Chuckling at our chagrin our pollster explained, You guys may not like Jim Hunt much but that’s nothing compared to how much you dislike Wilbur Hobby. Then he added, That’s why you went for ‘the cape and not the bull.’
 
What he meant was we disliked Hobby so much we’d gotten carried away pummeling him and completely missed Hunt. As Tom Ellis said shaking his head, Well, boys, that was a complete waste of money.
 
Judging by their TV ads the Democrats like the Koch brothers even less than we liked Wilber Hobby. They’re spending $3 million to tell folks the Kochs are villains and varmints and they’ll probably blow the Kochs to kingdom come. But they’re going for the cape and not the bull.

 

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04
A year ago when my health insurance went up I grumbled and blamed Blue Cross. Then, this year, my new bill arrived and the premium went up again even more. But this time I didn’t blame Blue Cross. I laid the blame squarely on the shoulders of one man: Barack Obama.
 
In bygone days, when George Bush wanted to invade Iraq Colin Powell warned, Sure, you can whip Iraq, but that’s not the problem – the problem is after you whip Iraq you own it. What happens then?
 
Back in 2009, someone should have warned President Obama, Sure, you can pass Obamacare, but the problem is after you do you ‘own’ healthcare – every premium increase is going to be your premium increase.  
 
The President moved heaven and earth and won but now, five years later, it hasn’t turned out the way he expected: Every time a premium goes up he gets blamed. Which proves the old proverb, Be careful what you wish for…

 

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