Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Sanders may offer choice for Democrats in 2016

Four years ago, Sen. Bernie Sanders made headlines with a passionate, 8-hour speech on the Senate floor lambasting the Bush-era tax cuts and bemoaning the growing gap between rich and poor.

Now Sanders, one of the Senate's two Independents, is taking that message on the road. On his itinerary:  The early presidential primary states of Iowa and South Carolina.

On Wednesday Sanders was in Charlotte to accept an award from the American Legion during its national convention. Sanders, who chairs the Senate's Veterans Affairs Committee, was honored with the Legion's Patriot Award.

"The cost of war doesn't end when the last shots are fired or the last missiles are launched," he told the Legion audience. "The cost of war continues until the vet receives all of the benefits that he or she has earned."

But when Sanders' met with me, it wasn't veterans that he wanted to talk about. It was the same subject he talked about four years ago and one he's cared about for a long time.

"The main issue that I have is that in America today the middle-class is disappearing while the gap between rich and poor is growing wider," he said. "...We need more people in politics working for ordinary people and not just the top 1 percent."

Sanders, who turns 73 in two weeks, says he hasn't made up his mond about 2016. And he's under no illusions about the prospect for a Democratic Socialist from Vermont getting the nomination, particularly in a field that could include a well-funded Hillary Clinton.

"I realize I'm not a household name," says Sanders, who refuses corporate donations though he has taken money from organized labor.

But he thinks there might be an opening for somebody with the right message. And he's going around the country seeing if audiences agree.

"I think the average American is a lot more frustrated with the establishment than a lot of people perceive," he says. "I think there's receptivity for voices that are going to speak for a working class that is being battered."

Monday, August 11, 2014

Will financial anxiety among older voters swing election?

A new poll by the AARP shows a lot of financial anxiety among North Carolina voters who are retired or planning to be.

And that anxiety could have implications for the U.S. Senate race between Democrat Kay Hagan and Republican Thom Tillis. Exit polls in 2010, the last off-year election, showed more than a quarter of N.C. voters were seniors.

How bad is the anxiety? According to the survey of voters 50 and over:

-- 68 percent worry that their income falls behind the cost of living.

-- 67 percent of non-retirees  -- and 55 percent of retirees -- are 'more worried and concerned' than hopeful about meeting their financial goals.

-- 60 percent worry about paying too much in taxes.

-- 79 percent of those over 50 worry about saving enough for retirement.

Pollsters, a b-partisan team from North Star Opinion Research and Hart Research, found voters split evenly between Hagan and Tillis.

But they also found only 39 percent like the job being done by President Barack Obama. that's still nearly five times the 8 percent approval of Congress.

The poll reflects something else. It's why voters can expect to hear each candidate claim the other is a bigger threat to Social Security or Medicare.

Monday, July 14, 2014

No joke: Did Pat McCrory give Jon Stewart too much credit?

When Pat McCrory was the guest on Charlotte Talks with Mike Collins Monday morning, a caller asked him if there was any progress on the film credit issue.

Film credits are under fire by lawmakers who want to change the system, which now give production companies a 25 percent credit up to $20 million on qualifying expenses.

A Senate proposal would award grants totaling $20 million, a third of the total of $61 million that the incentive program paid out last year. The House budget contains a similar provision but leaves final amounts to be negotiated with the Senate.

McCrory wants a system of tax breaks more closely tied to film-related jobs and specific expenses. On Monday he said the Daily Show had received $400,000 in credits when it filmed in Charlotte during the 2012 Democratic National Convention.
But the state Film Office lists a different amount. Citing a report from the Department of Revenue, it shows that the Daily Show got a credit of $273,346.
The governor's office could not be reached.
Supporters say the industry provides 4,200 full-time and over 15,000 part-time jobs, with economic benefits in the millions.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Hagan and Tillis dine together in Charlotte -- sort of

Attorney Steve Hockfield had just arrived at the Charlotte City Club Friday for a fundraiser for Democratic U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan. When he got off the elevator, he was surprised to see people wearing name tags with the logo of her Republican opponent, Thom Tillis.

Turns out both candidates were there for simultaneous fundraising luncheons.

Separated only by a floor, they greeted supporters and introduced special guests. Sen. Debbie Stabenow of Michigan was there for Hagan. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush stumped for Tillis.

Neither of the candidates met in the hallway or the elevator.

Said Tillis: "She apparently booked her fundraiser there after we did."

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Debates are hot topic in Senate debate

Debates over debates are a ritual in political campaigns. Who asks the questions? How long for rebuttals? How high the podium?

The debate in North Carolina's U.S. Senate race hasn't even gotten that far.

Negotiators for Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan and Republican House Speaker Thom Tillis have yet to get to the table themselves.

Hagan laid out her debate plan in a May 29 letter to Tillis. She proposed accepting a request for a televised debate from the N.C. Association of Broadcasters.

"Once this debate has been finalized," she wrote, "I look forward to setting a productive and mutually agreed upon public debate schedule with mainstream media and moderators with ties to North Carolina."

On Thursday Paul Shumaker, Tillis's debate point person, emailed his counterpart Jim Phillips proposing a meeting to establish a schedule of debates. At least a half dozen other groups have asked to host one.

"The Tillis Campaign sees this process as one that is much larger than just finalizing debate details with the N.C. Broadcasters Association," he wrote. "In fact I assumed that as a seasoned political veteran you would see the value of a planning process that finalized a complete debate schedule through an inclusive process with all the organizations rather than an exclusive process with just one."

Phillips responded Thursday afternoon.

"It's clear we all agree that we need a spirited and productive public debate schedule like we proposed in our initial letter... Based on my experience negotiating debates in the past, I believe we will have the most effective process if we sit down with the Broadcasters and come to an agreement on all the many details involved in setting and conducting a debate. The first step will make it easier to determine the rest of the public debate schedule."

Shumaker says voters deserve many chances to the differences between the candidates, especially in a pivotal election nationally. He thinks Hagan is trying to avoid that.

"It appears this is about her trying to avoid multiple debates," he says. "We don't want an exclusive process where we're showing favoritism to one group over another."

There's no debate-ducking, according to Hagan spokeswoman Sadie Weiner.

"We're open to as many as it takes to make sure voters have the opportunity to see the contrast between her record of putting North Carolina voters first and Speaker Tillis's record of putting special interests first."

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Airport bill creates turbulence between colleagues

It didn't take long for Mecklenburg County's newest senator to get into a virtual shouting match with its senior senator.

It started when Sen. Jeff Jackson, a Charlotte Democrat, publicly criticized a bill involving Charlotte's airport earlier this month. He called the bill, which came as a surprise to city officials as well as most lawmakers, a "sneak attack." That didn't sit well with Sen. Bob Rucho, a Matthews Republican and a chief sponsor of the bill.

Neither did Jackson's subsequent fundraising appeal.

"Moments ago, Senator Rucho and the Republican majority slammed a bill through session that could strip Charlotte of its airport," he wrote in an email to supporters. "Right now the court is settling the matter. Apparently Senator Rucho has run out of patience. We all know this isn't about policy -- it's about control."

That prompted the following exchange between the two senators.

-- "Senator Jackson, we need leaders to tell the truth," he emailed back. "The court and the FAA are at an impasse and need clarification of the law. Shame on you for politicizing this most important economic issue for our community. The people of Mecklenburg county deserve better."

-- "Sen. Rucho, Our concerns about this bill were completely appropriate. 1) There was zero consultation with any of the stakeholders. 2) The bill was plainly substantive and not technical. 
3) The whole thing just smelled awful. I’m genuinely ready to work with you on this and any piece of legislation that impacts our county.  I think you’d find that I’m a flexible and reasonable person.  If there’s ever anything you’d like to collaborate on, my door is always open."
-- "Your political exploitation of an important economic issue and your fund raising letter is what smells," Rucho responded this week. "You apparently speak before you know the facts especially since you were not engaged in the original debate. You can't ignore the pay to play actions of the former mayor and the on going investigation by the FBI. There is already a pay to play connection with the airport taxi service and there is no telling who else will be implicated.
"It is all about insulating the airport from pay to play politics and cronyism but maybe that does not concern you."

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Did Mayor Clodfelter part ways with law firm?

Dan Clodfelter has worked for Moore & Van Allen since 1978, long before he was elected to the Charlotte City Council, the state Senate and most recently as mayor.

But it now appears Clodfelter is no longer with the firm.

His name is not listed among the professionals on the firm's web site.

Google Clodfelter and the firm and one result that pops up is a Moore & Van Allen press release that touts his 2013 recognition by a legal magazine as a "Leader in Law." Click on the link and you get this: "The link you followed .... does not correspond to a valid address on this web site."

Through a spokeswoman, Clodfelter has repeatedly declined to talk about his relationship with the firm.

Ernie Reigel, chairman of the firm's management committee, did not return repeated calls.

As a lawyer with the firm, Clodfelter was scrupulous about avoiding potential conflicts involving his or his firm's clients.

Now, according to the city attorney, he doesn't have to disclose his employment until the next disclosure forms are due in January.