Saturday, April 12, 2014

Malcolm Graham campaign HQ gets 'Happy'

U.S. Rep and Civil Rights veteran John Lewis got happy. So did Malcolm Graham.

Graham, a Charlotte Democrat running for Congress in the 12th District, released a video Friday grooving along with his staff and Johnson C. Smith volunteers to "Happy," an infectious tune by Pharrell Williams.

The video shows Graham and the rest of his crew dancing around his campaign headquarters on a "stress-free Friday."

"This is serious stuff," he said of the race. "You've got to have fun."

The song has inspired a lot of videos, including one that showed the 74-year-old Lewis dancing to the tune.

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Congressional games: Varsity vs JV?

Tuesday's 12th District congressional forum was already about an hour old when two candidates started with the metaphors.

"We're not giving out a lifetime achievement award," George Battle III told the audience at the Tuesday Morning Forum.

Battle, a first-time candidate, was talking about state Sen. Malcolm Graham, who had touted his experience in the legislature, the community and on Charlotte City Council.

"I don't want a lifetime achievement award," Graham shot back. "If we want to send experience (to Washington) now is not the time to send the junior varsity." After all, he said, experience counts.

Then it was Battle's turn.

"Sen. Graham has talked about experience," he said. "He's right. I don't have any experience compiling one of the Senate's worst attendance records over the last 10 years (and) one of the worst effectiveness rankings.

"It's always been my philosophy that I'd rather be a starter on the junior varsity than on the bench on the varsity."

New rankings by the N.C. Center for Public Policy Research show Graham ranked 42nd of 50 senators in attendance last session, missing 10 of the 106 legislative days. The same survey ranked him 44th in effectiveness.

(Graham pointed to an NAACP scorecard, which gave him a grade of 96 for the last session.)

Graham and Battle were the only ones of seven Democratic candidates to show up at the forum. Among the missing" James "Smuggie" Mitchell. The forum came a day after he lost a bid to be appointed mayor, a job that went instead to Sen. Dan Clodfelter.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Tillis holds another D.C. fundraiser

N.C. House Speaker Thom Tillis, attacked by some GOP rivals for his ties to the party establishment, heads to Washington again next week for a Capitol Hill fundraiser.

Tillis will be the guest at a fundraiser at the National Republican Senatorial Committee. The Monday afternoon event will be headlined by Sens. Richard Burr of North Carolina and Sens. John Barrasso and Mike Enzi of Wyoming, Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, John Thune of South Dakota and Johnny Isakson of Georgia.

The event will help fill Tillis's coffers, at $2,500 per political action committee and $1,000 per person.

It's not Tillis' first D.C. fundraiser. In December Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky helped host an event at the home of Geoffrey Gray, a lobbyist who, according to The Examiner, has represented Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Republican strategist Karl Rove, hardly a favorite of tea party conservatives, also has headlined Tillis fundraisers.

Greg Brannon, one of Tillis's seven GOP primary opponents, has sought to make an issue of Tillis's establishment ties. Brannon has been backed by tea party favorites, Sens. Rand Paul of Kentucky and Mike Lee of Utah.

Another Republican candidate, Mark Harris, has his own fundraiser coming up Saturday. Former Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee will headline a Raleigh fundraiser for the Charlotte pastor.

Update: Kevin McLaughlin of the NRSC says the group does not endorse in primaries, and its Capitol Hill building is open to any GOP candidate.

Monday, March 17, 2014

'Bunny Money' heiress dies at 103

Rachel "Bunny" Mellon was American royalty. The heiress to two family fortunes, she helped Jackie Kennedy design the White House Rose Garden and even entertained the Queen of England at her Virginia farm.

Mellon, who died Monday at 103, also had a cameo role in one of North Carolina's biggest scandals.

She was the source of more than $750,000 funneled to former Sen. John Edwards for his unsuccessful presidential campaign. The fund, dubbed "Bunny Money" by the Edwards' campaign, became part of the testimony at Edwards' 2011 trial for alleged federal campaign law violations. He was acquitted on one charge, a mistriail was declared on five others.

Mellon sent the money through Bryan Huffman, an interior designer from Monroe who had befriended the heiress a decade earlier. The money was eventually used to cover up Edwards' affair with Rielle Hunter.

"She didn't particularly condemn people for having affairs," Huffman testified during the trial. "But she thought maybe you should pay your girlfriend yourself."

Huffman, 50, saw Mellon on Saturday when her family members called and invited him up to her northern Virginia farm to say goodbye.

He says Mellon bore Edwards no hard feelings.

"She had a good time with the notoriety, I think and she forgives people everything," he said. "She was magnanimous toward him. People that took advantage of her have to live with themselves.”

Thursday, February 27, 2014

'Machine-Gun Social' candidate is back

It was four years ago that then-Republican Tim D'Annunzio first ran for office with a  controversial, if memorable, run for Congress in the 8th District.

Now the Hoke County businessman is back -- as a Libertarian candidate for U.S. Senate. He faces a rare Libertarian primary with longtime activist Sean Haugh.

In 2008 D'Annunzio ran for the Republican nomination to take on then-Democratic Rep. Larry Kissell. He first made headlines with a "Machine-Gun Social" fundraiser, with a raffle that offered as a prize an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle.

D'Annunzio, a self-made millionaire, spent over a half-million dollars on the race. At one point only four Congressional candidates in the country had spent more.

He was far out of the GOP mainstream. On his blog, he called President Barack Obama, Sen. Kay Hagan and other top Democrats "liberal leftist God haters." Strongly anti-abortion, he invoked Hitler in once attacking the president's support of abortion rights. "Obama," he wrote, "will be responsible for killing many more people before he is finished."

He had little love for reporters, whom he described as "demon beasts." During an interview on WBT radio, he told host Keith Larson that "there's a special place in hell for people like you." Larson called D'Annunzio "a delusional, deranged human being," and still the interview continued.

At one point then-GOP chairman Tom Fetzer took the unheard of step of calling D'Annunzio "unfit for public office at any level." He lost to Republican Harold Johnson in a runoff.

In 2011 D'Annunzio led a tea party insurgency against former U.S. Rep. Robin Hayes' bid for state GOP chairman. In 2012, he lost soundly to Democratic Rep. David Price as the GOP nominee in the 4th District.

A former Army paratrooper, D'Annunzio made a fortune making body armor for U.S. troops. In 2010 he was given to marshal language in the campaign and in a blog he called "Christ's War."

That could offer a contrast to Haugh, his Libertarian opponent.

Haugh said he plans to use his campaign "to urge people to turn away from violence as a solution for political or social problems.... So I'll be talking about ending wars both real and metaphorical."

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

New ad by outside group slams Tillis

A liberal PAC is the latest outside group to weigh into North Carolina's U.S. Senate race.

The Patriot Majority USA PAC is spending $500,000 on an ad that accuses Senate candidate Thom Tillis, the state House speaker, of siding with health insurance companies and special interest groups.

The PAC is the second outside group to air ads against Tillis in the race. On the other side, Americans for Prosperity, supported by the conservative Koch brothers, has spent more than $6.5 million on ads attacking Democratic incumbent Sen. Kay Hagan.

Hagan has criticized the Koch brothers and unidentified special interests for running such ads. Patriot Majority, like AFP, doesn't disclose its donors.

Tillis spokesman Jordan Shaw called out Hagan.

"While Kay Hagan denounces the use of outside funds against her, liberals in DC are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars falsely attacking Thom Tillis," he said. "Where is Kay Hagan's statement condemning these ads? Liberals in DC know that Thom Tillis is the candidate to beat Hagan."

Hagan spokeswoman Sadie Weiner said Hagan has criticized not only the AFP ads but what she calls the Koch brothers' conservative agenda. Hagan supports the Democratic-sponsored DISCLOSE act that would require more transparency from political groups.

"Kay was named the most moderate Senator (by the National Journal) because she always puts North Carolina first unlike Thom Tillis who has pushed an outside, special interest agenda that cut education spending and lowered taxes for the wealthy," Weiner said.

Weiner said has "no control over outside groups."

The Patriot ad is the latest to attack Tillis, who faces a handful of other Republicans in the May 6 primary. Tillis has out-raised his rivals with the support of GOP leaders in Washington.


Read more here:

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Brannon ad depends on 'money bomb'

Republican Greg Brannon hopes to run the first TV ad of his U.S. Senate campaign, one that hits rival Thom Tillis while establishing his own credentials as "a tea party leader."

The 1-minute ad, shared with reporters, is part bio of the Cary obstetrician and part tea party manifesto in which he pledges to join Senate conservatives like Sens. Rand Paul of Kentucky, Mike Lee of Utah and Ted Cruz of Texas.

To pay for the ad, he's running a "money bomb" through Feb. 17 to raise money to place the ad. He outlined his strategy in an email to supporters.

"As I told you," he wrote, "I can't compete dollar-for-dollar with my opponent on TV ads. After all, he's got D.C. insiders bankrolling his campaign. But if I can go ahead and purchase TV air time right now, I can run my ads on shows like The O'Reilly Factor and Hannity where I can best reach  Republican voters before the May 6 primary. That's why I hope you'll make a contribution to my "Ad Blitz" Money Bomb immediately.

"Our goal is to raise $150,000 by midnight on President's Day, Feb. 17 to help purchase the air time."

That would be more than Brannon's campaign had in the bank at the end of December and less than either Tillis or Charlotte pastor Mark Harris reported.

Brannon, meanwhile, is off the campaign trail this week and in a Raleigh courtroom. He's one of two defendants in a civil case where he's accused of misleading investors.