republican corruption

Makers vs. sellers: Craft brewers thrown under the bus by NC GOP

If you don't pay, you don't play:

Charlotte’s two biggest craft brewers appear headed to court after a campaign to raise their production limit collapsed in the face of opposition from North Carolina’s influential beer wholesalers. Olde Mecklenburg and NoDa breweries have spearheaded the so-called Craft Freedom fight, a bid to raise the 25,000-barrel cap on production before craft brewers must enter a distribution contract with a wholesaler. But House Bill 500, which would have raised the cap to 200,000 barrels, was gutted Wednesday, barely three weeks after it was introduced amid fanfare and support from the state’s more than 200 craft brewers.

“I’d say it’s disappointing, but disappointing doesn’t do it justice,” said John Marrino, owner of Olde Mecklenburg. “It’s outrageous. It’s backroom politics. … I’m not sure the General Assembly is the best avenue to ensure the success of the micro-brewery industry in North Carolina.”

Welcome to the cesspool that is Republican policy-making. They'll spout rhetoric all day long about the glory of the Free Market, but when it comes down to the wire, they will support monopolies every single time. Money = Freedom, and a lack of money equals subservience.

NC GOP pay-to-play politics at its very worst

And not one tiny drop of shame:

One of the nominees hoping the state House will award him another term on the UNC Board of Governors emphasized his fundraising efforts on behalf of conservative legislative campaigns in an email to top lawmakers earlier this week.

“I would challenge you to find anyone who has worked harder than myself to get conservatives elected and keep them there,” Hinton wrote in the email obtained by the N.C. Insider. “In fact I have been leading an effort for a new PAC to raise $250,000 to help with the 2018 elections. We have had two organizational meetings and are planning a kickoff on April 26th with an invitation list of over 200 people.”

This article is one of Mark Binker's first contributions to NC Insider, and a prime example of why they hired him away from WRAL. Hopefully the N&O sharing this at their main site (NC Insider is a paywalled subsidiary) is not just a teaser, but will be done on a regular basis. At least until after I get my daughter married off in June, because my budget belt is so tight I feel like one of those balloon animals. ;)

Nunes cancels Monday open hearing on Trump/Russia

The cover-up is not going very well:

Nunes explained that the hearing would be postponed, so as to allow FBI director James Comey and NSA director Mike Rogers to address the committee in closed session. Schiff believes Nunes’s true motive is to spare the president a bad news cycle. And he isn’t afraid to say so.

“I think that there must have been a very strong pushback from the White House about the nature of Monday’s hearing,” Schiff said. “It’s hard for me to come to any other conclusion about why an agreed-upon hearing would be suddenly canceled.”

This is turning into a big, hot mess for the Trump administration. I've seen a few reports from dubious news sites that Nunes has a great deal (if not all) of his personal finances tied up in Russian ventures, but I'll wait for that to pan out in the mainstream news media before linking. There are also rumors that Michael Flynn has decided to snitch in order to save his skin, but Congressional interest in his previous behavior is not a rumor:

Tillis stages a love-in for Goldman Sachs

Yeah, sure, just a bunch of little guys helping out:

"I feel like sometimes I'm living a reality TV version of Atlas Shrugged," Tillis quipped during the confirmation hearing for Jay Clayton, Trump’s nominee for chairing the Securities and Exchange Commission. "There are a lot of people in this Congress that want to beat down job creators and employers. People want to demonize Goldman Sachs. That’s an easy thing to do, right? Just beat up on a financial services institution. An institution that’s committed to, let me look at the general numbers here ― they have 36,500 employees. There’s probably a lot of little guys in there. They’ve contributed billions of dollars to nonprofits.”

In order to understand why Tillis would put on such a show, you need to understand the man himself. He didn't dream of becoming a powerful elected official, that's just one of the steps in his Plan B. He really wanted (and still wants) to become a high-roller in the investment, banking, and finance realm. When he tried it before he realized he just didn't have the money or fame to pull it off. You need one or the other to sucker people into giving you their accumulated wealth to play with, and Tillis is almost there right now. And I doubt he has the patience to wait another six years to cash in, so 2020 is the launch date. Take a look at the dude he's cheering on for SEC Chairman:

Bill Rabon plays the privatization game, and wins big-time

Pay-to-play politics at its absolute worst:

State Senator Bill Rabon (R-Brunswick) said it was a pretty easy decision to start outsourcing some services at NCDOT when he and other Republicans took the majority in the state legislature in 2011. “One of the things that I think all of the Republicans wanted to do when they came here was downsize government, become more efficient,” Rabon said.

Campaign finance records show Rabon has collected campaign money from employees of private engineering firms and other companies involved in building roads and bridges, their political action committees and industry-related special interest groups. Records show Rabon’s campaign has taken more than $124,000 since 2012, the first year in which NCDOT was required to hit a specific outsourcing target.

If this was a fictional narrative, these revelations would trigger an inquiry, there would be scenes of Rabon running away from questioning reporters, and soon he would be announcing his early retirement, citing the need to "spend more time with family" or something similar. But as we've learned (the hard way) with GOP domination of the Legislature, the truth is stranger than fiction, and outcomes are simply not predictable. As far as that "more efficient" claim, it appears Rabon and his colleagues really don't care if it's true:

Before the cock crows: Senate holds DeVos vote at 6:30 a.m.

Pre-coffee decisions are not wise:

The Senate voted early Friday to advance President Donald Trump's education secretary nominee Betsy DeVos to a final confirmation vote, which is expected Monday. The vote was 52 to 48 along party lines.

Senators convened at the unusual, early hour -- 6:30 a.m. ET -- because of Democratic stalling tactics that reflect their unhappiness with Trump's cabinet picks and the overall confirmation process.

Of course Burr and Tillis voted for her, and they will do so again on Monday. And although two other Republican Senators have promised to oppose her, Pence will merely slide in and cast the tie-breaking vote. Classic bait-and-switch, and you have to wonder if this is merely a distraction. A distraction that could be concealing the preparations for war:

Race for DNC Chair heats up

And brings out the inner stupid in some people:

“His being a Muslim is precisely why DNC voters should not vote for him,” Tolliver wrote. “Muslims discriminate against gays. Islamic law is clear on the subject, and being gay is a direct violation of it. In some Muslim countries, being gay is a crime punishable by death.”

“Clearly, Mr. Ellison is not the person to lead the DNC or any other organization committed to not discriminating based on gender identity or sexual orientation,” Tolliver continued. “I'm shocked [the Human Rights Campaign] has been silent on the issue. A vote for Representative Ellison by any member of the DNC would be divisive and unconscionable, not to mention counterproductive to the immediate and necessary steps of rebuilding the Democratic Party.”

And before you ask, Mr. Tolliver is no longer on the list of approved candidates for DNC Chair, and rightly so. Do I need to list all of the reasons attacking someone's religious affiliation is wrong and inherently un-American? Or that it is a quintessential ad hominem attack, not worthy of even being debated? I didn't think so. But this idiocy is bleeding into NC political circles, so be very careful which groups you associate with and/or encourage friends to associate with:

Dallas rides the dark-money gravy train

He may not be driving, but he's riding shotgun:

Good work if you can get it:

Behind closed doors: No press allowed at Michelle Rhee's education gathering

Get ready for more charter/private school legislation this session:

Some North Carolina public education activists are crying foul over a private legislative meet state lawmakers are scheduled to attend with controversial school reformer Michelle Rhee next month.

This week, Policy Watch requested access to next month’s event, but BEST N.C. President & CEO Brenda Berg said no members of the media will be granted access. Berg said such a rule will allow “candid” conversations between participants, which includes an unspecified number of state lawmakers and school stakeholders.

Stating the obvious: If such conversations can only be "candid" if the public is kept in the dark, then maybe those conversations *are* the problem, not the solution these people are looking for. And if you want to see what can happen when those lines are blurred, let's travel to the West Coast and take a look at Sacramento:

Excellent primer on Russian hacking and Trump/Putin involvement

I have to give McClatchy two blue stars for this intel brief:

The informal, inter-agency working group began to explore possible Russian interference last spring, long before the FBI received information from a former British spy hired to develop politically damaging and unverified research about Trump, according to the sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the inquiry.

Steele’s reports also alleged that Russian consulates in New York, Washington and Miami were used to deliver “tens of thousands of dollars” to Kremlin-hired operatives using fictitious names as if they were legitimate Russian-American pensioners. That “ruse” was designed to give Russia “plausible deniability,” Steele’s reports suggested. However, Russia does not operate a consulate in Miami.

The quality of Steele's intelligence-gathering efforts should be suspect, to a certain degree. When you're paid (originally by a Republican, and later by a Democrat) to find damaging information, you will find damaging information, even if it doesn't exist or is created by somebody else for you to find. But Steele isn't an amateur. He worked for 6 long enough to spot bullshit a mile away. So, there are probably some kernels of truth in his report, but verifying them will be difficult, at best. What we should be concerned about (as of tomorrow, or Monday, if Dingus does take the weekend off) is the likelihood the incoming President will quash any ongoing investigations being pursued by Executive Branch agencies. Which covers all six agencies in this working group. And it's a good bet Putin wants them to stop ASAP:

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