republican corruption

NC GOP funding effort to collect signatures for unaffiliated House candidate

Alternate title for this diary: Desperately Seeking Dallas:

The North Carolina Republican Party distributed a mailer to 6,000 Wilson County homes this week and state Rep. Susan Martin, R-Wilson, has recorded a robocall urging voters to sign Fontenot’s ballot access petition. “A lot of people are aware of what’s going on, but the mailers are very good because it brings the opportunity directly to their door,” Fontenot said.

As an unaffiliated candidate, Fontenot must gather about 2,200 signatures — representing 4 percent of registered Wilson County voters — in order to be listed as a challenger to eight-term state Rep. Jean Farmer-Butterfield, a Wilson Democrat. There is no Republican candidate in the race.

Before we talk about the ethics of this, I just wanted to point out how this story exposes another Dallas Woodhouse lie, when he bragged the GOP had achieved the same thing the NCDP had by having a candidate in all 170 NCGA races. But these lies are so ubiquitous now, as they are with his role model Donald Trump, it's doubtful any mainstream media will even ask him about it. Back to the ethics, and one glaring, gaping hole in the integrity of this gambit:

Art Pope is worried about Dems taking over Congress

Your tears of frustration brighten my day:

According to over a half dozen top GOP donors who spoke with The Hill, conservative funders are getting nervous about the momentum Democratic candidates have been experiencing in congressional races and suggested that they might have to give up on trying to win the House to focus on keeping the Senate.

“Myself and many others are very concerned that this could be a wave year for the Democratic Party and for their candidates,” said Art Pope, a top Republican donor from North Carolina.

Okay, first of all, your grammar sucks. The use of the reflexive pronoun "myself" is out of place, which simply temporarily removing "and many others" would reveal to a 3rd grader. You wouldn't say "myself am very concerned," you would say "I am very concerned." Now that the really important stuff is out of the way: Art Pope isn't even close to being a top GOP donor, bless his cold, dark heart. He might be able to scrape up a couple hundred thousand, but compared to the Koch Brothers who are gearing up to spend some $400 million this year, that's not even peanuts. It's like...peanut shells. I don't know, I don't even have a good analogy of what it is. But I really like what this guy from Texas had to say:

Tillis campaign had several foreign advisors, including former Soviet bloc

The Cambridge Analytica scandal is more pervasive than we thought:

"We weren't just working on messaging. We were instructing campaigns on which messages go where and to who." Wylie said that his largely foreign team instructed the Tillis campaign "on the messaging. We crafted his messaging, we targeted his messaging."

He said he couldn't recall any American Cambridge employees working on the Tillis campaign. "There were three or four full-time CA staffers embedded in Tillis's campaign on the ground in Raleigh. All of them were foreign nationals." A second former senior Cambridge staffer also said that most of the messaging team in 2014 was composed of foreign nationals. The staffer confirmed that there were foreign embeds in Raleigh on the Tillis campaign.

This story gets uglier by the minute. A foreign firm unethically (if not illegally) harvests Facebook user information, in order to form "psychographic" profiles, and then deploys foreign nationals to use that data to swing U.S. elections. And they knew it was not only wrong but legally questionable before they even did it:

Craft breweries file lawsuit over forced distribution regulations

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There really is no sound justification for this:

Two growing craft breweries are suing after failing to get North Carolina legislators to overturn a decades-old law on beer sales. Lawyers for Olde Mecklenburg Brewery and Noda Brewing Co. were in court Tuesday to challenge the law, which forces them to hand over to private companies the distribution of their own beer once they sell 25,000 barrels or about the volume of an Olympic-sized swimming pool in a year.

The Charlotte breweries say the state’s beer distribution law is unconstitutional. They argue they’re forced to give up control to politically influential middlemen where their products are sold for virtually as long as they stay in business. A state attorney says a three-judge panel should examine the beer distribution law overall, not just how it applies to those two breweries.

NC's beer & wine wholesalers may never hit the #1 spot for lobbying and campaign donations, but they perpetually funnel tens of thousands into the system each year. Which answers the question many had when attempts to rewrite that law failed last year, when the issue seemed to have much support. It will be interesting to see how those lobbyists react to a court case, where their little backroom deals no longer work.

NC Legislature fails the Sunshine test

Kirk Ross drops a whole salvo of truth bombs:

Communications between legislators and also between legislators and staff in the crafting of laws are among the few documents exempt from the state’s public records laws. The legislature’s requirements for county and municipal government agendas, meeting materials to be available well ahead of time does not apply to its own meetings.

The argument for legislative confidentiality, derived from English common law, is that the legislative process requires this privilege in order for agreements to be worked out. It’s a perfectly valid sounding rationale, but so unlimited and unchecked that it has long been intensely abused. It’s used to hide favors, fund pet projects and anonymously insert language into legislation.

I'm not even sure it sounds valid. Think about it: If lawmakers must have secrecy to agree to something, it naturally follows they're concerned about negative consequences if those communications came to light. Whether it's a strategic thing, where they don't want to give potential opponents to the measure a fair warning, or a personal concern, where they don't want to be associated with a controversial and maybe even unconstitutional act, it almost doesn't matter. They know they're on the wrong side of something, and they're trying to conceal it. Not just from other lawmakers, but from the general public. Which brings us back (once again) to the area of ethics, which should be just as important in holding lawmakers accountable as punishable crimes are. Back to the article, and what Kirk describes as the "black box":

Ethics complaint filed against Tim Moore related to lucrative property deal

Bending two branches of the government to the breaking point:

Internal emails that the group says it obtained from the NC Department of Environmental Quality show the company being granted a waiver of thousands of dollars in fees, and being given multiple extensions to address pollution on the site. DEQ officials could not immediately be reached to confirm that the emails are authentic.

Southeast Land Holdings, the company co-owned by Moore, bought the plant for $85,000 in 2013 and sold it for $550,000 in 2016, according to the complaint. Moore’s financial disclosure forms required by the state show he owned 25 percent of the property.

Hoo boy, this stinks to high heaven. Not only does it expose serious ethical questions about Moore, but both McCrory and Van der Vaart along with him. And it also brings into play another questionable Republican action, that of combining the offices of the Ethics Commission and state Board of Elections, which has thrown both into chaos and confusion. Which very well could have been the goal in the first place. In other words, this complaint may be floating in limbo for quite some time. But somebody needs to move on it soon, because this corrupt scheme goes all the way down to the county government level. Some excerpts from the 42 page complaint:

Add "Insider Trading" to the list of Trump administration crimes

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It's all about the timing:

Between February 12 and February 22, three of Carl Icahn's companies happened to place four sell orders amounting to $31,277,063.43, according to a Securities and Exchange Commission filing. The filing was first reported by the liberal news site ThinkProgress. Trump didn't announce his plan to impose a 25 percent tariff on steel and 10 percent on aluminum products until Thursday, one week after Icahn's final transaction.

On February 23, a day after Icahn's final sales, Bloomberg reported the president had "told confidants" of his plan to impose steep steel tariffs. In an interview with CNBC on Thursday, Icahn said he hasn't "had much interaction with [Trump] at all in the last four or five months."

Trump can't even grasp the concept of ethics, much less how it applies to individual actions. It's amazing he hasn't been thrown in jail yet. Scratch that, it's not amazing, since he's a rich white man. But if you think this insider trading thing stinks, it's not nearly as rank as the Kushner family engineering a Persian Gulf crisis because Qatar refused to give them a big pile of money:

This lawsuit challenging 2016 "Special Session" may be the most important of all

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Because if you can fix the process, the product should also improve:

The laws approved by the GOP-controlled General Assembly during that three-day session tilted the balance of power toward the legislative branch and away from Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper just two weeks before he was sworn in. The approved legislation led to separate lawsuits by Cooper, who had just narrowly defeated GOP Gov. Pat McCrory. The lawsuit before the judges Wednesday takes a different approach by focusing on the legislative process that created the laws.

The session began the same day a separate "extra" session on Hurricane Matthew relief called by McCrory ended. The plaintiffs said GOP legislators deliberately hid their intentions by giving just two hours' notice before starting the session, even though requests seeking signatures necessary from House and Senate members to call the session were dated a day or two earlier.

In may not be applicable to use in the lawsuit, but an argument could be made the power-grab was the tail that wagged the hurricane relief dog. If you'll recall, that Hurricane Matthew Special Session was delayed for a few weeks, weeks where that relief was desperately needed. But those were also weeks the GOP may have needed to plan how to take advantage of that opportunity to reconvene. Whatever the case, making radical changes to the balance of powers in state government *should* require literally months of study and debate. Those who would circumvent that need to be labeled as what they are: Enemies of democracy. This guy may have said it better:

Bumpy road ahead for Robert Pittenger in NC9

Might be time to sell some of that property, dude:

In a much more expensive race in North Carolina’s 9th District, Republican incumbent Robert Pittenger is facing well-financed challengers in both the primary and the general. Pittenger is seen as vulnerable in the general election and has raised $780,000 compared to his Democratic challenger Dan McCready’s $1.2 million.

First, he needs to fend off his primary challenger — pastor and activist Mark Harris — who has raised more than twice as much money from individual donors as Pittenger. Harris also has nearly as much cash on hand as does Pittenger ($221,911 compared to Pittenger’s $286,607). Harris was narrowly defeated by Pittenger in 2016, so this race looks like a tight one for Pittenger both in May and November, if it makes it that far.

Just like last time around, I am torn on who to favor (or who to disfavor the most) in the GOP Primary. Pittenger has always been a greedy, opportunistic douchenozzle, but Mark Harris is a born-again, bigoted nut-job. He's guaranteed to be a champion of anti-choice legislation, and would likely take up the new approach of whittling down the number of weeks women have to legally terminate unwanted pregnancies. And of course he will oppose LGBT rights at every turn, just like he championed the ugliness of Amendment One here in NC. This article was found on his campaign page, and the recurring theme is obvious:

Patrick McHenry goes swimming with the loan sharks

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Proving that weasels can swim if the mood hits them:

If you ever harbor any questions as to what Trumpism looks like in all of its corrupt, dog-eat-dog, predatory splendor, there are two classic examples from our nation’s capital today to jog your memory.

Exhibit One is the laughably entitled “Protecting Consumers’ Access to Credit Act of 2017” — a bill on which the House of Representatives is scheduled to vote today at the behest of its chief sponsor, North Carolina congressman Patrick McHenry. As you probably surmised, the measure has nothing to do with protecting consumers and is instead a blatant attempt by the payday lending industry’s favorite congressman to revive the discredited and predatory practice nationwide.

Just to give you an idea of the level of corruption that creeps in with some of these "career" lawmakers, McHenry receives around $100,000 from the payday lending industry every election cycle. They may not always be his top contributors, but they are as reliable as the sun coming up every morning. This pay-to-play nonsense is so blatant it has sparked more than one formal complaint filed with the Office of Congressional Ethics:

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