Daily dose: NC #1 in outside influence edition

At $55.7 million, N.C. Senate race now No. 1 all-time in outside spending (Center for Responsive Politics) -- Thursday evening, the Koch-affiliated Freedom Partners Action Fund reported making a seven-figure ad buy attacking Sen. Kay Hagan (D-N.C.). With that buy, the North Carolina race passed 2012′s Virginia Senate election to claim the dubious honor of attracting the most-ever outside spending. The $55.7 million spent on the showdown between Hagan and Republican Thom Tillis is even more remarkable in context. By this date in 2012, the Virginia race between now-Sen. Tim Kaine and former Sen. George Allen had seen just $30.4 million of its eventual $52.4 million in outside spending. If the North Carolina election follows the same path, it would top $90 million by Election Day. The Senate contests in Colorado and Iowa are also on pace to handily surpass the Kaine-Allen race. Tillis likely knows all too well how thoroughly super PACs have blanketed North Carolina with advertising this year: Outside groups have spent more money ($17.6 million) attacking him this cycle than any other candidate. Only $7.5 million has been spent opposing Hagan, but that excludes spending that isn’t reported to the FEC — such as the barrage of ads earlier in the cycle by Americans for Prosperity, another Koch-funded group, attacking her for supporting “Obamacare” without explicitly saying to vote against her.

North Carolina's Senate race just broke the record (The Week) -- The close North Carolina Senate race between incumbent Kay Hagan (D) and Thom Tillis (R) has attracted a flood of spending from groups outside the state. And this week, with an ad purchase from the Koch-backed Freedom Partners Action Fund, it broke the record for the most outside spending in a Senate race ever, according to OpenSecrets.org. A mind-blowing $55.7 million in outside money has been spent on the race, surpassing the $52.4 million that flowed into the 2012 Senate contest in Virginia between Democrat Tim Kaine and Republican George Allen. It's not only the Kochs; Hagan has been receiving plenty of help from super PACS aligned with the Democratic Party. Indeed, "outside groups have spent more money ($17.6 million) attacking [Tillis] this cycle than any other candidate," says OpenSecrets.org. Hagan has a 77 percent chance of winning the race, according to FiveThirtyEight's election forecaster.

NC appeals court delays Watauga early vote ruling (AP) — A North Carolina appeals court has put on hold for now a trial judge's ruling that Watauga County must open a voting station on the Appalachian State University campus when in-person early voting begins next Thursday.

State sues to block App State early-voting site (WRAL-TV) -- Attorneys for the state have asked the North Carolina Supreme Court to block an early-voting site on the campus of Appalachian State University in Watauga County. It's the latest step in a long-running battle over early voting for college students in Boone.

Voting site at Appalachian State blocked ... for now (Winston-Salem Journal) -- The prospect of establishing a polling place on the campus of Appalachian State University for the general election’s early-voting period remains uncertain.

U.S. Supreme Court says Texas can use controversial new voter ID law (Washington Post) -- The court ruled that Texas could proceed, despite a lower court’s view the law was unconstitutional.

Senate candidates politicking on Saturday in NC (AP) — The two major-party U.S. Senate candidates in North Carolina are kicking off the weekend by trying to energize their allies with speeches and visits from out-of-state politicians.

Hagan calls for travel restrictions to stem Ebola (AP) -- North Carolina U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan is joining the call on the Obama administration to establish a temporary travel ban on travel from nations affected by Ebola. In a statement released Friday, Hagan said a travel restriction should be part of a broad strategy to prevent Ebola from spreading in the U.S. and to help battle the virus in west Africa. She said stopping the spread of Ebola will require a large, coordinated effort with the international community.

Effectiveness of Ebola travel ban questioned (AP) — A ban on travel from West Africa might seem like a simple and smart response to the frightening Ebola outbreak there. It's become a central demand of Republicans on Capitol Hill and some Democrats, and is popular with the public. But health experts are nearly unanimous in saying it's a bad idea that could backfire. The experts' key objection is that a travel ban could prevent needed medical supplies, food and health care workers from reaching Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, the nations where the epidemic is at its worst. Without that aid, the deadly virus might spread to wider areas of Africa, making it even more of a threat to the U.S. and the world, experts say. In addition, preventing people from the affected countries from traveling to the U.S. could be difficult to enforce and might generate counterproductive results, such as people lying about their travel history or attempting to evade screening.

DENR: Nothing improper with handling of Chip Hagan’s stimulus grant (Raleigh News & Observer) -- A company co-owned by US Sen. Kay Hagan’s husband that has been criticized by her opponent, Thom Tillis, and his supporters for how it handled a federal economic stimulus grant in 2010, did nothing improper or out of the ordinary, according to state officials and records.

Tillis seeks to tie Hagan to stimulus funds (AP) — Republican Thom Tillis and his allies on Friday began running TV ads zeroing in on allegations rival North Carolina U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan benefited from federal stimulus dollars awarded to a company that her husband co-owns. Tillis and the group Freedom Partners Action Fund unveiled separate commercials in the close U.S. Senate race highlighting $390,000 in grants and tax credits the company called JDC Manufacturing received for energy efficiency upgrades to a building. donors included Henderson-based Variety Stores, which gave $400,000. Variety Stores is led by Art Pope, former state budget director and conservative philanthropist. In addition, the Pope-funded John Locke Foundation has used a staffer to investigate the grant.

GOP ads hit Kay Hagan on stimulus grant (Politico) -- North Carolina Republican Senate candidate Thom Tillis is launching a new television ad Friday suggesting his opponent personally profited from the 2009 stimulus law. The 30-second spot notes that Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan’s husband co-owns a company that received nearly $390,000 in federal grants for energy projects and tax credits created by the stimulus.

Tillis, Hagan TV spots seize on ethics questions (AP) -- Republican Thom Tillis and his allies began running TV ads on Friday zeroing in on allegations rival, Democratic U.S. Sen. Kay Haganm benefited from federal stimulus money awarded to a company that her husband co-owns

Tillis to campaign with Priebus in Greensboro (Winston-Salem Journal) -- State House Speaker Thom Tillis, the Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate, will visit his Greensboro campaign office Saturday with Reince Priebus, the chairman of the Republican National Committee, and U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., Tillis’ campaign said Friday.

Tillis: Spread the message (Greenville Daily Reflector) -- The Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate thanked Pitt County Republicans for their support and urged them to continue spreading the message as the Nov. 4 mid-term election approaches.

NC GOP dispatches duck mascot to attack Hagan (Raleigh News & Observer) -- The N.C. Republican Party rolled out a new tool in the fight against Sen. Kay Hagan this week: a duck mascot.

Hagan the pick in pivotal Senate race (Asheville Citizen-Times editorial) -- North Carolina’s U.S. Senate race is shaping up as the most expensive in history. Ads have been flooding the airwaves for months and there is no sign of any let-up. Republicans are convinced they can unseat Democrat Kay Hagan en-route to control of the Senate. We feel Hagan has served capably and the Citizen-Times recommends she be re-elected. … Although Tillis has met with our editorial board in the past, attempts to schedule an interview for the 2014 Senate election were unsuccessful. That, however, is not why we recommend Hagan. Our views are based on her record. And his.

Jones, Butterfield endorsed (Greenville Daily Reflector) -- On Nov. 4, Pitt County voters will cast ballots in the General Election.

Up voter turnout (Wilson Times) -- With early voting less than a week away, Congressman G.K. Butterfield held a brunch at Wards Steak and Cheese where he met with candidates and local clergy to talk about getting out the vote

Three candidates vie for 7th Congressional District seat (WRAL-TV) -- Democrat Jonathan Barfield, Libertarian Wesley Casteen and Republican David Rouzer outlined their differences on immigration, health care and the economy Thursday night.

Tillman, Davis Compete for Senate District 29 (Southern Pines Pilot) -- The 29th District race for state Senate pits a veteran incumbent who says his clout benefits constituents against a challenger who says the current Republican-controlled General Assembly is moving the state in the wrong direction.

A whopping 19 candidates vying for one NC Court of Appeals seat (Raleigh News & Observer) -- The ballot to fill the appellate seat of Chief Judge John C. Martin just might be the most crowded ever in North Carolina.

Butterfield, Rich call for bipartisan approach (New Bern Sun Journal) -- The race for the N.C. District 1 seat in the U.S. House of Representatives pits incumbent Rep. G.K. Butterfield, D-Wilson, against Republican challenger Arthur Rich of Garland in Sampson County.

Republican Pollster Takes Lessons Learned in 2012 to Senate Races (New York Times) -- Neil Newhouse, whose polls had pointed toward a Mitt Romney victory over President Obama in 2012, has altered the way he gathers and interprets data.

How Billionaire Oligarchs Are Becoming Their Own Political Parties (New York Times) -- Is the Florida governor’s race a campaign between a Democrat and a Republican or a battle between Tom Steyer and the Koch brothers?

Emails reveal McCrory less than forthright when first asked about poet laureate appointment (AP) — The botched selection of North Carolina's poet laureate could have been avoided if Gov. Pat McCrory's staff had paid attention to the criteria that was provided to them two days before her appointment, newly released emails show. … On July 9, two days before naming Macon, the governor's board and commission staff sought information about the position from the state Department of Cultural Resources. In response, someone in the department provided details about the requirements. A press assistant in McCrory's office acknowledged getting the email. McCrory spokesman Josh Ellis said Friday that staff overlooked the criteria. "It has been addressed moving forward," he said in an email. Macon had already been chosen by the time that Beth Strandberg, in McCrory's office, asked Jennifer Fontes of Cultural Resources for details about the position for a news release. Strandberg forwarded those qualifications to Jennifer Johnson, a McCrory press assistant who acknowledged receipt and said a press release was forthcoming on Macon's appointment.

McCrory received talking points on poet laureate controversy (Raleigh News & Observer) -- Back on July 15, North Carolina’s poet laureate controversy was at full boil. The previous week, Gov. Pat McCrory had filled the prestigious position with the appointment of Valerie Macon – a state employee whose only public writings were two self-published books – and the state’s poetry community had exploded in protest over her thin resume and the fact that McCrory did not consult the state arts council.

NC GOP Leaders Will Appeal Same-Sex Marriage Ruling (WUNC-FM) -- North Carolina's Republican legislative leaders plan to appeal a ruling that struck down the state's gay marriage ban. Legal experts, though, say any appeal would face an uphill battle.

Ban lifted: First steps down a new path (Greensboro News & Record) — Following a long family tradition, William Early typed up his wedding announcement and submitted it to the local newspaper:

Traditional marriage backers urge registers of deeds to follow their conscience (WRAL-TV) --- The North Carolina Values Coalition is circulating a memo to registers of deeds saying they cannot be forced to issue marriage licenses "contrary to their conscience." Same-sex marriage advocates say that's "ludicrous and dangerous" misinformation.

Business incentives bring GE Aviation to N.C. (Asheville Citizen-Times) -- In today’s competitive marketplace, the cost of doing business often means the cost of obtaining the business. To lure GE Aviation’s industry-transforming jet-engine component operation to Asheville and three other North Carolina locations, state and local officials offered the company a package worth in excess of $11.2 million in cash incentives. And that doesn’t include the roughly $18-$20 million, 172,000-square-foot facility that Buncombe County built for GE Aviation at 401 Sweeten Creek Industrial Park Road. David Gantt, Buncombe County Commission chair, emphasized that the Evendale, Ohio-based company would reimburse taxpayers for that outlay through annual lease payments.

BCBS: No mass exodus from employer-based insurance (Triangle Business Journal) -- ​Four years into the Affordable Care Act, the insurance market has not seen a major shift away from employer-based coverage as some had imagined.

NC cities start to feel loss of privilege tax (Raleigh News & Observer) -- When the legislature voted last session to take away municipalities’ ability to charge a privilege license tax starting in July 2015, city leaders across the state warned about loss of revenue. What wasn’t obvious was how soon those losses would be felt. Legislative leaders learned this week that at least 52 cities and towns in the state will lose out on several million dollars in their current fiscal year because of their billing cycles.

After 38 years, judges exonerate Durham murder convict (Raleigh News & Observer) -- A three-judge panel in Granville County on Friday vacated the life sentence of a man who has spent nearly four decades in prison after he was wrongfully convicted of first-degree murder.

Panel: Man wrongfully convicted in 1975 killing (AP) — A Durham man who spent nearly 40 years in prison for a murder conviction is innocent, a special three-judge panel decided Friday.

NC health officials set up Ebola info website (AP) — North Carolina health officials have launched a website with information about Ebola.

NC DHHS Makes Strides to Prepare in Case of Ebola Outbreak (TWCN-TV) -- The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services unveils a revamped Ebola prevention web page as a preparation measure.

UNC doctor: Focus on solutions, not blame for Ebola (WRAL-TV) -- "The most important aspect of infection control is the identification and rapid isolation of a suspect patient," Dr. Billy Fischer said.

Moffitt says APD has 'cancer of corruption' (Asheville Citizen-Times) -- Republican state Rep. Tim Moffitt is asking North Carolina's top prosecutor to investigate the Asheville Police Department for corruption. And, he said in a letter on Friday to Attorney General Roy Cooper, his failure to do so would be considered obstruction of justice. Cooper's office said the request is misplaced because the Republican-controlled legislature took away his investigative branch.

NC State fairgoers can sample and buy beer for first time (Raleigh News & Observer) -- NC craft breweries and winemakers are serving samples and selling bottles at the Hunt Horse Complex, across from Gate 8 at the state fairgrounds in Raleigh.

Former Charlotte Mayor Adds To NC's White Collar Crime Reputation (TWCN-TV) -- Add former Charlotte Mayor Patrick Cannon to a list of corrupt politicians from North Carolina. While the city continues to dust off its tarnished reputation, the list of convicted politicians grows in our state. North Carolina isn't in the top 10 most corrupt states in the country, according to a ranking from the Center for Public Integrity. But it's getting closer. Former Charlotte Mayor Patrick Cannon was sentenced Tuesday, adding one more political figure to the list.

SBI charges inmate in assault on administrator (AP) — An inmate at a prison in Polkton is facing multiple charges after authorities say he assaulted an administrator.

Ex-New Bern Mayor Gets 90 Days for DWI with Kids in Car (TWCN-TV) -- Former New Bern Mayor Lee Bettis, once a rising star in the GOP, will spend 90 days in jail for driving while impaired with his stepchildren in his car in Havelock last year.

Dunn woman wins $200,000 Break the Bank scratch-off game (Fayetteville Observer) -- Lavonne Burnett of Dunn won the $200,000 top prize in the N.C. Education Lottery's Break the Bank instant scratch-off game, lottery officials said.

Chimerix gets FDA OK to test drug for Ebola (AP) — A North Carolina drugmaker plans to test its experimental antiviral drug in patients who have Ebola, after getting authorization from regulators at the Food and Drug Administration.

Holly Springs plant on short-list to produce anti-Ebola drug (Raleigh News & Observer) -- Federal officials have requested three super labs, including a Novartis vaccine facility in Holly Springs, to submit plans for producing an anti-Ebola drug as the United States scrambles to develop vaccines and treatment candidates

Ashley Furniture celebrates new manufacturing, distribution center (Winston-Salem Journal) — More than four years after identifying a spot on Baltimore Road to build a furniture factory, executives with Ashley Furniture Industries unveiled its new 2.8 million-square-foot manufacturing and distribution center Friday. Sen. Richard Burr, Gov. Pat McCrory and Rep. Virginia Foxx were among the area dignitaries attending the ceremony, which attracted several hundred state and local leaders and people in the furniture industry.

Confederate pomp amid burial of slave's daughter (AP) — When the ashes of Mattie Clyburn Rice, the daughter of a slave, are buried Saturday in her father's grave in the North Carolina piedmont, a color guard of Confederate re-enactors will be in attendance.

Clemmons cleans up site of 'satanic rituals' (WRAL-TV) -- Neighbors on Knob Hill Drive gawked Friday as truckload after truckload of trash was hauled away from a home where, according to documents filed in the Forysth County courthouse, "satanic rituals" and "animal sacrifices" took place dating to 2010.

Affordability and Attainment: Student Success at UNC From Acceptance to Graduation (Huffington Post column) -- With more than $1 trillion in national student debt and tuition rising at many schools, it's not surprising that economic diversity at most top universities remains low. But the conversation on this issue is often one-sided, focused narrowly on why there aren't more low- and middle-income students enrolled. Equally troubling is what happens to these students when they manage to get in the door. Without targeted support and resources, they face a significant uphill battle. The lack of economic diversity in top-tier higher education is real. A May 17 New York Times column cites figures that show "roughly 75 percent of the students at the 200 most highly rated colleges came from families in the top quartile of income," while "only 5 percent came from families in the bottom quartile." The financial impediments to attending a top university are significant, even for many in the middle class. That's why investing in financial aid, at levels great enough to support success through graduation, is imperative. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is bucking these trends. Despite losing more than 30 percent of our recurring state appropriations between 2008 and 2013, at UNC-Chapel Hill we have maintained our commitment to affordability and attainment. Nearly half of Carolina's 18,000 undergraduates receive aid, and we are one of the few public universities that is both need-blind and covers full financial need. As a result, The New York Times recently ranked Carolina the third most economically diverse "top" university in the country. And 13 times, Kiplinger has named us the best value in American public universities.

Elon kicks off $15M capital campaign for School of Communications expansion (Triad Business Journal) -- More than $8 million has already been raised for the project, which includes a new two-story, 45,000-square-foot building to include a media innovation lab, classrooms, student engagement spaces and a 250-seat theater.

Why Terri Lomax is leaving NCSU for RTI - in her own words (WRAL-TV) -- Dr. Terri Lomax of N.C. State, explains why she is joining the management team at RTI International. But she will remain involved with "InnovateRaleigh."

Chinese language classroom opens at Wake Tech (Raleigh News & Observer) -- Wake Tech held a grand opening Friday for its new Confucius Classroom, which will give students new options for the study of Chinese language.

Coal-campaign letter bewilders some businesses (Asheville Citizen-Times) -- The owners of nine businesses listed as having signed a letter to Duke Energy demanding shutdown of the utility's Lake Julian plant said Friday they did not give permission to the Beyond Coal Campaign to have their company names used in that manner. That letter sent Thursday listed 80 area businesses as supporting "a call on Duke Energy to retire the Asheville coal plant," which serves about 300,000 customers. But entrepreneurs such as Gordon Kear, owner and founder of Altamont Brewing Company, said no representative of the Sierra Club and the Western North Carolina Alliance, the lead nonprofit organizations in the campaign, explained his company's name would be used in a letter urging that the plant be shuttered.

Solar farm project powers ahead in Tarboro (Rocky Mount Telegram) -- The Tarboro Town Council took the first steps this week toward the construction of a solar farm.

Piedmont Natural Gas proposes cutting residential rates 7 percent (Charlotte Business Journal) -- Piedmont Natural Gas plans to cut rates for residential customers about 7 percent next month if its request is approved by the N.C. Utilities Commission.

McCrory Pushes for Revenue Sharing (WHQR-FM) -- At the recent Coastal Energy Summit, experts and policy makers were looking offshore for future development. But whether it be wind, oil, or natural gas, those resources are located in federal waters, meaning the profits from the leases go to the national government. Gov. Pat McCrory is part of a coalition which aims to bring revenue from offshore energy to the state. Gov. Pat McCrory is the chair of the Outer Continental Shelf Governors Coalition, which aims to expand revenue sharing. The federal government already shares the profits from offshore energy with states like Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama. McCrory says revenue sharing could bring billions of dollars to the state over the next fifteen years

NC officials investigate red wolf gunshot death (AP) — An endangered red wolf in eastern North Carolina was apparently illegally shot to death, wildlife officials said Friday.

Syracuse University Bravely Saves Students From Exposure To Journalism (Washington Post column) -- Michel du Cille, a Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist, was recently in Liberia to cover the Ebola outbreak. He is back in the United States now, and he was supposed to go to Syracuse University — home to a very prestigious journalism school — to talk about what it was like covering this public-health crisis, documenting and illuminating a horrific epidemic that has killed more than 4,000 people. However, du Cille — a Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist, which I should really say three times, because he has won the award three times — was not able to speak to the students, because he was told not to come to the campus, because he was in a place where there is Ebola and that freaks some people out. … We here at Post Nation are not in the business of making judgments, nor are we in the business of saying that universities striving to teach journalism should probably not wilt in the face of the dangers that can be associated with practicing journalism. We are definitely not going to say that the school acquiesced to fear and panic rather than trusting in science and medicine. And we are certainly not going to say we feel sorry for the students shelling out thousands of dollars for an education in journalism at a school that is making it clear in action, if not word, that once they are out in the world, engaging in actual journalism (which can mean traveling to dangerous places and confronting deadly things), the lessons to be drawn from their work can be superseded by hysteria.

The White Teeth Monopoly (New York Times) -- Dentists don’t have the right to squelch competition from salons and spas when it is a matter of profit, not health risks.

Profit sharing (Greensboro News & Record) -- The N.C. Utilities Commission says power companies don’t have to share their tax break with customers. What a deal!

A charter school mixes public dollars and private profit (Raleigh News & Observer) -- Charter school owner Baker Mitchell and for-profit operators need more scrutiny.

Why North Carolina needs more psychologists (Raleigh News & Observer column) -- Gov. Pat McCrory’s recent misstep in stating NC has enough psychologists presents an opportunity for McCrory and North Carolina residents to “listen and learn” that there are not nearly enough behavioral health professionals to meet the demand for services in our state.

Welcome move for NC Supreme Court to decide school voucher issue (Raleigh News & Observer) -- The NC Supreme Court will decide sooner rather than later whether school vouchers violate the state constitution. The court announced it will hear an appeal of the August ruling by Judge Robert Hobgood that stopped payments under the Opportunity Scholarship program enacted by the General Assembly.

The uneasy choice between facts, fear (Charlotte Observer) -- Sometimes, there are only a few uncomfortable degrees between caution and panic.

Why N.C. needs more psychologists ( Raleigh News & Observer) -- Gov. Pat McCrory’s recent misstep in stating NC has enough psychologists presents an opportunity for McCrory and North Carolina residents to “listen and learn” that there are not nearly enough behavioral health professionals to meet the demand for services in our state.