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16
Republicans made great hay in 2010 and 2012 over then-ongoing investigations of Democratic politicians, like John Edwards, Mike Easley and appointees of Bev Perdue. Suddenly the shoe is on the other foot. Such are the perks of high office.
 
Now there are two investigations of possible illegal activity, one involving the coal ash spill and the other, political contributions by the video sweepstakes industry. Both will focus, quite naturally, on Republicans.
 
In fairness, Republicans have good reason to squawk about being tarred, shall we say, with the coal ash investigation. After all, Duke was dumping coal ash long before Governor McCrory took office.
 
But three unfortunate facts intrude. First, McCrory worked for Duke for nearly 30 years. Second, the spill happened on his watch. And, third, his administration has made a great show of relaxing environmental regulations. The result: They own whatever happens.
 
Now we learn there is an SBI investigation of political contributions from the video sweepstakes industry. This one will be hard to foist off on Democrats. After all, political money follows power, and Republicans have the power now.
 
How did a party that is famously anti-gambling end up caught in this mess? The same way the same party bet teacher pay raises on higher state lottery proceeds, immediately after holding their state convention at a casino.
 
Gambling apparently is addictive. The GOP seemed to get a contact high.
 
The investigation comes just as Republicans conveniently conspire to move the SBI from the Department of Justice (run by a Democrat) to the Governor’s Cabinet.
 
Democrats, of course, should raise hell about this. Maybe they should propose appointment of a special prosecutor, a Kenneth Starr to get to the bottom (so to speak) of everything.
 
Or maybe the U.S. Attorney should look into this one, too.
 
Rest assured: Tales of corruption will be on the campaign agenda again this year and in 2016.

 

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13
When it comes to avoiding another coal ash spill, the problem may not be (as the environmentalists believe) the villainy of Governor McCrory.  The problem may be more subtle. 
 
Going back decades, the career state employees over at the Department of Environment and Natural Resources have told Duke Energy it was handling coal ash just fine.   
 
That seems odd now.  But it really wasn’t all that unusual then.
 
Back in 1917, before Duke Energy ever built the first coal ash pond, Alcoa Corporation was smelting aluminum down on the Yadkin River and in those days – since the EPA didn’t even exist – it simply loaded the waste (which is more toxic than coal ash) onto trucks and dumped it in the woods around Badin. Later, after the EPA came along, Alcoa began dumping the waste in unlined landfills and, over the years, regular as clockwork, state bureaucrats would write Alcoa and ask, Send us a report about your pollution. 
 
And Alcoa would send a long report back which basically said, As you know, there’s been pollution (in the past) but none of it is an immediate threat to anyone so rather than cleaning it up we propose to leave it as is and go on monitoring.  
 
Then the state bureaucrats would write back, Fine, and stamp the report and file it in a warehouse full of other state documents.
 
 Apparently no one stopped to wonder if it made sense to ask the folks who’d have to clean up the pollution whether it was a problem.
 
Then Duke’s coal ash pond ruptured and Governor Pat McCrory found himself face to face with another unusual fact: The folks he had to put to work (at DENR) cleaning up the mess were the same folks who’d been telling Duke Energy – for years – it was doing just fine.
 
Now the environmentalists aren’t fond of the Governor and they’ve got their reasons but maybe, this once, the Governor’s not the villain.

 

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12
The unexpected almost always happens – but who’d have expected this: Down in Mississippi the Tea Party has been battling it out with the Republican Establishment, trying to whip Senator Thad Cochran and when all the votes were counted the Tea Party candidate led Cochrane by an eyelash 49.6% to 49%. 
 
The surprise?
 
On Election Day African-American Democrats ‘crossed over’ to vote in the Republican Primary – for Thad Cochran.  Helping him make the runoff.
 
Which is about as unexpected as it gets.

 

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12
Everybody has a theory about why Eric Cantor lost, one that usually reflects their overall theory about politics: It was about immigration. Cantor was aloof and arrogant. The Tea Party is still a force in the GOP. Voters lie to pollsters. Pollsters are stupid.

Let’s consider another possible factor, one that echoes last month’s primaries in North Carolina: Are voters growing more resistant to traditional paid media?
 
Cantor spent $5.4 million. David Brat spent $200,000. That’s 27-to-1. The usual rules say that if you outspend your opponent 27-to-1, you can relax and drink a latte with lobbyists Election Day (which Cantor did).
 
Another number: Cantor’s pollster reportedly had him winning 62-28. He lost by 11 points.
 
Last numbers: About 65,000 people voted. One analyst said the turnout was 14 percent.
 
Again, I invoke the Thomas Mills Primary Poll Rule: primary polls are unreliable because it’s hard to predict who will vote. Especially with a low turnout.
 
But there’s something more. Cantor dominated the traditional paid media – TV ads and direct mail. He drowned Brat (what a name!) there.
 
But Brat had his own channels of communication: Talk radio (Glenn Beck, Rush and Laura Ingraham), social media and the beehive-like Tea Party grassroots network.
 
The reason big money always beat less money is that money got information to voters. In today’s world, voters – especially interested, involved voters – have lots of ways to get information on their own. And they seem to have less trust in the old ways, like TV ads and direct mail. Especially negative messages.
 
You saw that in North Carolina’s primaries: Robin Hudson’s ability to survive a negative TV assault and Clay Aiken’s victory despite being outspent 2-1.
 
We’ve got smart phones and smart cars. Why not smart voters? 

 

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11
I’m very, very nervous… Democratic State Representative Marcus Brandon said.
 
Disagreeing, Republican Representative Michael Specialecountered, What’s the price of selling our souls?
 
When it comes to keeping ‘Common Core’ the politicians in Raleigh have divided into two armed camps.
 
Rep. Michael Speciale is dead-set against it. Rep. Marcus Brandon is for it.
 
Thom Tillis is against it. Kay Hagan is for it. 
 
Governor McCrory is for it (with reservations). Lt. Governor Dan Forest is against it without reservations.
 
In the News and Observer one Common Core opponent declared it ‘violates the Constitution’ – while the Chamber of Commerce declared it’s great and killing it will kill jobs.
 
A lady from New Bern declared, Common Core is anti-American. The readings teach kids to hate America – and I stopped reading right there, thinking, Governor McCrory anti-American?
 
Curious, I went online to find out exactly what about Common Core was un-American but finding an answer wasn’t as easy as it sounded. A search turned up hundreds of muddled rants scattered across websites from Raleigh to Timbuktu, none clearly explaining how Common Core was ‘anti-American.’ I was about to give up, thinking, This is just another political howl – when I spotted a nugget.
 
According to The Daily Caller, the experts at Common Core have perfected a sophisticated formula to rate the complexity of books so they can assign each book to the appropriate grade level – using the formula they rated The Sun Also Rises too simple for 4th graders and assigned it to third graders to read along with Curious George Gets a Medal
 
Which settles it. 
 
They ought to shut the whole thing down

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11
"This is a miracle from God that just happened." - David Brat, who rocked the political world Tuesday by upsetting Eric Cantor in a Virginia Republican primary.
 
Well, that’s certainly one explanation. A more earthly one came from former Representative Thomas M. Davis III, another Virginia Republican: “There are some very angry people upset with the status quo, and Eric became part of that.”
 
Washington will bloviate all day today about what happened, why and what it means. But let’s look at what it means right here in our backyard, namely for Rep. (Just Walk Away) Renee Ellmers. She’s one Republican incumbent in North Carolina who faces just the kind of outsider challenge that toppled Cantor.
 
Yes, hers is in a general election, from special ed teacher/singer/foundation founder/UNICEF ambassador Clay Aiken. But the lesson holds.
 
This is a classic case of an outsider challenging the status quo. You’ll remember, a few years back, when Ellmers won election as an outsider. Then she crawled inside the Washington woodwork and made herself quite comfortable, standing by John (of Orange) Boehner on camera and voting to shut down the government and cut veterans’ health care, while complaining she needed her paycheck.
 
So when you hear the Political Wise Men and Women intoning that Ellmers is safe in a Republican-drawn, Republican-leaning district, remember how sure that crowd was that Cantor would win big.
 
A side note here: Uber-blogger Thomas Mills told me not long ago that he is skeptical of primary polls. It’s hard to predict who will vote, he said. The same thing could be true in this year’s off-year elections, especially considering the conflicting currents of public anger from right, left and middle.
 
Bottom line: Expect the unexpected. And as I’ve said before, don’t underestimate Clay Aiken. 

 

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11
Everybody knows Republicans, and especially conservative Republicans, don’t like government subsidies. They’re corporate welfare. They’re government picking winners and losers.  And interfering with the free marketplace. 
 
That’s why Republicans opposed Obama’s solar energy subsidies like Solyandro – a solar business ought to be able to stand on its own two feet and if it can’t government handing it cash is bad false economics.
 
That’s logical.
 
But even if you’re a saint it’s a struggle to avoid temptation – and politicians have the added burden of being able to use other people’s money to help their friends.
 
Bottom line: Just a few days ago, in Raleigh, Republican State Senators voted to give fracking companies a million dollar subsidy.

 

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09
Governor McCrory is starting to look like Bev Perdue without the dress.
 
He started out this legislature saying he’d be more assertive. Then Senator Berger released his budget and showed everybody who’s the Real Boss in Raleigh.
 
McCrory clearly doesn’t like Berger’s budget. But it’s not clear what he’s going to do about it. He also says he doesn’t like repealing Common Core. But it’s not clear what he’s going to do about it.
 
He’s looking more like a rubber stamp. Or, as in Dwane Powell’s cartoon, an automated bill-signing pen.
 
(A side note: When McCrory put on a big photo op to sign the fracking bill, one person of interest wasn’t in the picture: Thom Tillis. Somebody has done some polling.)
 
June is Test Month for McCrory. Once the session is over, the media and the political world will assess whether he met his own goal. Did he stand up, or did he get rolled?

 

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09

 

Horrified by the vision of legions of fired Democratic state employees, back when Jim Martin was elected Governor, Democrats changed the law so Martin couldn’t fire much of anyone – then announced (with a show of virtue) they’d gotten nasty old politics out of the state government.
 
But the best laid plans of mice and men often go astray: One day the typical state employee had a boss and the next he didn’t, then he figured out in place of a boss he had not a person but a set of rules (called the ‘Personnel Act’): He didn’t have quite the same job security as a tenured professor but he wasn’t far from it as long as he didn’t do anything egregious like larceny. 
 
Which turned out to be a temptation no self-respecting man should have to bear. 
 
The typical state employee’s day subtly changed.  He fell into a rhythm, eating, sleeping, tending to his wants and needs, and placidly spending eight hours in his office receiving and filing reports on, say, coal ash ponds.  Then, as the years rolled by, placidness compounded and compounded again and deepened into somnambulance until, one fine day, reality reared its head: A coal ash pond ruptured.
 
Pat McCrory had run for governor in 2008 and lost, toiled three years preparing to run again, built a new and stronger campaign, whipped Walter Dalton, and arrived in Raleigh full of new ideas but, when that coal ash pond ruptured, found himself face to face with an unforgiving fact: He had no one to clean up the mess except the same bureaucrats who’d spent decades blissfully asleep at the switch ignoring what had turned out to be a ticking time bomb.
 
Worse, wherever he looked he had the same problem. Over in the Department of Health and Human Services, they’d spent eight years and $500 million working on a new computer program but the minute the Governor pressed the go button there was a meltdown.
 
The program sputtered then settled into a smoking heap and the only people he had to fix it were the people who’d told him to press the button.
 
It seemed the Governor could set policy (and had plenty of well-meaning people like State Senators telling him what his policy ought to be) but what he really needed were people who could do things – who could fix problems.  Like coal ash ponds. 
 
So he tried a logical step: He asked the legislature to give him not the kind of unlimited power Jim Hunt had during his first two terms but a bit more power so he could replace somnambulant bureaucrats but as soon as the words were out of his mouth the State Employees Association and Democratic Legislators started hollering, accusing him of putting nasty old politics back into state government.

 

 

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08

 

Everyday emails float in out of the ether about miracle cures and hot stocks and how to meet the woman of my dreams in Moscow – it’s like having a swamp on my doorstep.  
 
But even in swamps virtue has a way of showing up now and then and the email below (part of a chain of emails that flew across the country) landed in my friend Richard’s inbox, who sent it along to me with a two-word note: Good quotes.
 
Email
Subject: About Government
In my many years I have come to a conclusion that one useless man is a shame, two is a law firm and three or more is a government. – John Adams

If you don't read the newspaper you are uninformed, if you do read the newspaper you are misinformed. – Mark Twain

Suppose you were an idiot.  And suppose you were a member of government. But then I repeat myself. – Mark Twain

I contend that for a nation to try to tax itself into prosperity is like a man standing in a bucket and trying to lift himself up by the handle. – Winston Churchill

A government which robs Peter to pay Paul can always depend on the support of Paul. – George Bernard Shaw

Foreign aid might be defined as a transfer of money from poor people in rich countries to rich people in poor countries. – Douglas Casey, Classmate of Bill Clinton at Georgetown University

Giving money and power to government is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys. - P.J. O'Rourke, Author

Government is the great fiction, through which everybody endeavors to live at the expense of everybody else. – Frederic Bastia, French economist (1801-1850)

I don't make jokes. I just watch the government and report the facts. – Will Rogers

If you think health care is expensive now, wait until you see what it costs when it's free! – P.J. O'Rourke

In general, the art of government consists of taking as much money as possible from one party of the citizens to give to the other. – Voltaire (1764)

Just because you do not take an interest in politics doesn't mean politics won't take an interest in you! – Pericles (430 B.C.)

No man's life, liberty, or property is safe while the legislature is in session. – Mark Twain (1866)

Talk is cheap...except when government does  it. – Anonymous

The government is like a baby's alimentary canal, with a happy appetite at one end and no responsibility at the other. – Ronald Reagan

The only difference between a tax man and a taxidermist is that the taxidermist leaves the skin. – Mark Twain

There is no distinctly Native American criminal class...save government. – Mark Twain

What this country needs are more unemployed politicians. – Edward Langley, Artist (1928-1995)

A government big enough to give you everything you want, is strong enough to take everything you have. – Thomas Jefferson

We hang the petty thieves and appoint the great ones to public office. – Aesop


 

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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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