Blog Articles
06
A reader notes the irony of Republicans rejecting Common Core because it’s from Washington, or “Big Government” or President Obama. The implication is that state- and local-level thinking is by definition better.
 
He points out: “The irony is that the GOP resists Washington’s direction while its leaders in North Carolina warmly embrace the political guidance and inspiration of a talking head like Sean Hannity (a New York entertainer, for goodness sakes) and happily introduce legislation conceived and drafted elsewhere by the infamous ALEC.”
 
Then this morning’s N&O points out that the bill to let students attend any public school in the state “has similar language to one proposed by the American Legislative Exchange Council, a largely private conservative group backed by major corporations.”

 

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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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05
Selling the state helicopter may make dollars and sense, but Governor McCrory is totally missing the Helicopter Coolness Factor.
 
Nothing says cool like that sleek bird swooping down from the sky someplace far from Raleigh. Crowds gawk, school kids go gaga and cameras go click. When the copter comes, Big News is happening.
 
Nobody gets excited watching the state plane land. Even a convoy of State Troopers and black Suburbans wheeling in pales beside the chopper landing.
 
Especially in a natural disaster. The Governor gets to hop out, wearing khakis, boots and a work shirt. The rotor wash musses his hair, he squints through the blowing dust and grass and you know he’s there on the scene to see first-hand what’s happening so he can whip back to Raleigh, summon the awesome resources of the state and Take Action for the Victims. Being escorted by serious-looking guys in starched uniforms makes it even cooler.
 
Lyndon B. Johnson got Copter Cool. Robert Caro tells the story in Means of Ascent, where he recounts LBJ’s 1948 race for the U.S. Senate. Lyndon hired a helicopter to haul him around the state, knowing it would draw crowds everywhere.
 
Plus, there’s this. Flying in the helicopter gives a Governor a different view of the state. You’re above ground, but not so high you can’t see trees, people, cars and communities. Every flight reminds you: This is a great, beautiful and busy place. It’s my job to keep it that way.
 

 

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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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02
Paul Tine is a rare and endangered species: a centrist Democrat who represents a Republican-leaning district in the N.C. House. The Democratic Party needs him – and more like him.
 
I met Paul for the first time at a fundraiser this week. He’s young, smart and candid. I know his district, House 6, which covers Dare, Hyde, Washington, and parts of Beaufort County. It has some of the poorest parts of the state, along with the beach, resort and retirement areas of Dare.
 
He was straightforward in telling his liberal-leaning audience that the issues important to them aren’t always what his constituents care about. They’re worried about just getting from Point A to Point B in places that depend on ferries that get delayed, bridges that get shut down and roads that get washed out.
 
Listening to him, it struck me that if he were in politics for personal ambition alone, he’d probably be a Republican. They’d love to have an articulate, attractive businessman with his record and family – his wife Whitney, who may be a better politician than he is, and their two sons.
 
So he’s got guts and principles, and I like that.
 
And I liked the karma. The reception was at the home of Joyce Fitzpatrick and Jay Stewart. Joyce and Jay bought the house from Al Adams, the former state representative from Raleigh. Al was Terry Sanford’s law partner and protégé. I suspect Terry had been in the house talking politics more than a few times.
 
To channel my inner Lloyd Bentsen: I knew Terry Sanford. Terry Sanford was a friend of mine. I worked with Terry Sanford. And I know what Terry would have said if he’d been there: “We need Paul Tine. And you need to help him.”
 
Listen to Terry. Help Paul. Click here.

 

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01
I received a response from Art Pope to my blog yesterday (“Rich and Ruthless”). He said: “Feel free to post this to your web site.” I am happy to reprint it in full below, and I thank Art for responding – and for reading:
 
It is a rough game, but it has not cost me millions.
 
Gary,
 
In some ways I get your post Rich and Ruthless, which included the statement "Art Pope learned that lesson. For 20 years, he pumped millions into the John Locke Foundation. He got nowhere. Starting in 2010, he pumped millions into independent campaigns, and he started winning."
 
But apparently even your normally clear vision gets blurred by the being exposed to others' kool-aid.
 
The simple fact is that I have never, in my entire life, cumulatively, even including donations from my company, donated a total of a single million, much less millions plural, into independent campaigns or candidate campaigns. 
 
You will have to look to the NC Democratic Party candidates and donors, such as Erskine Bowles and John Edwards, to find someone in North Carolina who literally spent millions plural on campaigns.
 
And I have not contributed a dime or otherwise been involved at all in the NC Supreme Court primary, much less with the "blistering attack" on Justice Robin Hudson.
 
 
Yours truly,
 
Art Pope

 

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30
Democrats contemplating a comeback need to contemplate this. The Republican Party is spending at least $650,000 on “a blistering attack” against Justice Robin Hudson of the state Supreme Court.
 
Democrats need to face a sobering reality: They are up against a rich and ruthless opponent, one who will spend any amount and say anything to seize and hold power.
 
You can whine about it, you can complain about money in politics or you can hope that nobody believes an ad that accuses Hudson “of siding with child molesters.”
 
None of that does any good. There is only one solution, one antidote to the Pope-Koch Axis of Evil. Some rich, hard-headed individual who cares about North Carolina needs to step up, see what works and put up the seed money.
 
What works are independent-expenditure ads that destroy the opponent. That’s what politics has come to, like it or not.
 
Art Pope learned that lesson. For 20 years, he pumped millions into the John Locke Foundation. He got nowhere. Starting in 2010, he pumped millions into independent campaigns, and he started winning.
 
This is not rocket science. But it’s expensive, and it’s a rough game.

 

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29
The ice melting under Republicans’ feet isn’t climate change, it’s Obamacare. The issue on which they bet the house this year may be disappearing.
 
A poll this month in North Carolina, Louisiana and Kentucky found that, while people don’t like Obamacare, they want Congress to improve it, instead of repealing and replacing it.
 
Republicans running against the Affordable Care Act now have the same problem the President and Democrats had in passing it: Nobody knows what it is or what it does. It’s complicated, and the public is confused. So it’s hard to pin down – and separate out from health care’s other problems – what the Act does, good or bad.
 
It also may be that people are just tired of hearing about the whole thing.
 
Now, there is still strong antipathy to President Obama and anything he does, has done or ever will do. That is set in stone, and it won’t go away.
 
But Republicans may find that the gift that kept on giving has stopped giving. Maybe they can start running against climate change – or the theory of evolution. They don’t believe in those either, according to a new PPP poll.
 

 

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28
This is a story guaranteed to go on a reporter’s wall – and to set teeth gnashing again in Chapel Hill.
 
The New York Times reported on the long-running battle between UNC-Chapel Hill and The News & Observer – and, specifically, investigative reporter Dan Kane. Kane comes off best, as in this passage:
 
“…Kane is a polarizing figure, even outside the bloviating world of online outrage, as much as it is possible for someone as seemingly mild mannered as he is to rouse strong opinions. Some Chapel Hill alumni, faculty members and readers say that his paper, known locally as the N&O (and sometimes as the Nuisance and Disturber), has done a great public service in forcing the university to investigate and confront its past mistakes….
 
“Others more or less wish Kane would just go away. This category includes Tar Heels fans and alumni outraged at what they say are his wrongheaded efforts to link the academic scandal to the sports program; North Carolina administrators who, he says, no longer take his calls; and faculty members who believe Kane is looking for Watergate-style sports-related conspiracies that simply do not exist.”
 
But the last three paragraphs of the story illustrate both UNC’s problem – and the possible solution:
 
“’We admire the News & Observer’s long tradition of fair-minded journalism; we just wish they would practice it more often,’ the university’s newly appointed vice chancellor for communications, Joel Curran, said in a statement. ‘In our case, the paper seems more content to rehash old news rather than report new solutions.’

“Not surprisingly, Kane sees it differently.

“’They have done all kinds of things,’ he said. ‘But what’s left unanswered is how this all happened, and what actually happened. That’s where the battle forms. It’s like that old saying about history — if you don’t understand it, you’re doomed to repeat it’.”
 
UNC’s statement was needlessly antagonistic. Kane’s comment suggests that the university gets credit for what it has done, but it needs to simply come clean about what happened in the first place – who, what, where, when, etc. – and then say what the university did or didn’t do about it.
 
With all its problems today – a hostile state government, deep budget cuts and the Gene Nichol affair – can’t UNC simply let the facts come out and the chips fall where they may? Nothing can be worse than this constant warfare.

 

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25
Will Governor McCrory stand up to the rising Republican revolt against Common Core (they call it “Obamacore”)?
 
Rushing to pander to the Tea Party, Republican legislators who once embraced the standards now denounce them. The philosophy seems to be: “Everybody should be as dumb as us.”
 
Chris Fitzsimon at NC Policy Watch summed up the Governor’s dilemma in a tweet: “Governor McCrory supports Common Core; so does his SBOE Chair Bill Cobey; Would McCrory veto bill ending Common Core?”
 
If McCrory stands firm, instead of folding, will he face a primary challenge in 2016 from Lt. Gov. Dan Forrest?
 
Grab a seat and some popcorn. This will be interesting.

 

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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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