Saturday, October 25, 2008

Brother, can you spare $3 million?

Six years ago, Republican Elizabeth Dole reacted with alarm when Democratic Senate opponent Erskine Bowles, a wealthy former investment banker, dug deep into his own pocket.

"TAKE A LOOK AT THIS," she wrote in an e-mail to thousands of supporters in October 2002. "My opponent loaned nearly $3 million of his personal wealth to his own campaign We expect him to use even more of his personal wealth to finance his negative television and radio ads."

"I do not have that kind of personal wealth," Dole wrote. "So, to continue setting the record straight I must be able to count on the generous support of friends like you."

Dole's electronic plea raised thousands of dollars for her campaign.

Now Dole, running for a second term against Democrat Kay Hagan, has loaned her own campaign $3 million.

According to an analysis of disclosure forms by the Center for Responsive Politics, only six senators are wealthier than Dole. She had holdings valued at between $18.5 million and $69.2 million.

In 2002, she reported family assets of up to $23 million.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Gas wars in the 8th District

One brochure shows gas pumps covered with red bags that say "Sorry, Out of Service." Another shows long lines at a station where regular sells for $4.59 and high-test has run out.

One message. Two candidates.

The first is a mailer from 8th District Democrat Larry Kissell attacking Republican Rep. Robin Hayes. It accuses him of voting for tax breaks for oil companies and owning millions of dollars in oil company stocks.

The second mailer is from Hayes. Over the photo of gas lines, it says, "Larry Kissell's extreme liberal energy policies get us nowhere."

Kissell, it says, opposes expanded off-shore oil drilling. But Kissell's brochure says he believes in drilling too, though not necessarily off the N.C. coast.

"Drill on American soil and in the Gulf first," it says, "selling American oil to American consumers."

As my colleague Lisa Zagaroli reported last month, Kissell's position is "drill here, drill now." But by "here" he means the U.S., not North Carolina. And he wants oil companies to use leases they already have in the Gulf.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Outside groups pour more money into N.C. Senate race

Two groups are pouring big money into North Carolina’s U.S. Senate race with new ads attacking Democrat Kay Hagan and Republican Sen. Elizabeth Dole.

The Employee Freedom Action Committee, an anti-union group, is spending $1 million on online ads and mailings that criticize Hagan, according to spokesman Tim Miller.

The group is attacking her support for legislation that would make it easier for unions to organize. It’s also spending $2 million for a TV ad featuring former
Democratic presidential candidate George McGovern criticizing the legislation. The ad is running in North Carolina and a half-dozen other states.

The committee is affiliated with The Center for Union Facts. It opposes the legislation, which would allow workers to unionize by signing cards instead of through a secret-ballot election.

“Kay supports it as a way to level the playing field for working families,” said Hagan spokeswoman Colleen Flanagan. “This bill simply allows the workers, not the employers, to decide which method to use, and stiffens penalties for intimidation.”

Meanwhile, a veterans’ group is spending $200,000 on TV ads saying Dole voted against body armor for troops.

The ad by features a man identified as an Iraq war veteran firing shots from an AK-47 through a flak jacket given out early in the war. He also fires into more modern body armor, which stops the shots. It claims Dole twice voted against the more modern armor.

The ad appears to be the same one used in 2006 in a Virginia Senate race.

According to the watchdog site, the votes came on a 2003 amendment that would have appropriated just over $1 billion for unspecified “National Guard and Reserve Equipment” but made no mention of body armor. The amendment lost on a generally party-line vote.

The group called the ad false.

“America’s active duty personnel and veterans have no greater friend than Elizabeth Dole,” said campaign spokesman Dan McLagan. “To accuse her of causing them harm is the lowest form of sleazeball politics.”

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Rock Hill author watches Ayers' interview go viral

Much of the recent commentary on 1960s radical William Ayers has included a quote from a 1994 book.

"I'm a radical, Leftist, small 'c' communist," Ayers said at the time.

It was quoted in a Wall Street Journal piece last month by Stanley Kurtz of the National Review and picked up by conservative bloggers as Republicans try to tie Ayers with Democrat Barack Obama. Vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin has accused Obama of "palling around with terrorists."

The quote about Ayers came from the book "Sixties Radicals" by Rock Hill writer Ron Chepesiuk, a former Fulbright Fellow and Winthrop University faculty member.

Chepesiuk devoted a chapter to the one-time member of the Weather Underground. Its title was "Radical Educator." It talked about how Ayers had gone on to be a prominent educational adviser. He's taken part in programs at the University of South Carolina College of Education.

Chepesiuk, who interviewed Ayers at his home near the University of Chicago, doesn't defend Ayers' violent past, but believes the comments in his book have been taken out of context.

“It sounds like he’s an unrepentant domestic terrorist, that he’s still living the philosophy and mode of action of the '60s," he told me. "He’s left that all behind. He’s still a social radical. But it’s not a question of trying to violently overthrow the system. He’s trying to change the system from within."

Obama and Ayers were both involved in a 1990s education project called the Chicago Annenberg Challenge. Obama has denied any close association. Critics say he should not have associated at all with the former radical whose group took credit for several bombings.

"We're not talking about him running around with a domestic terrorist," Chepesiuk says. "We're talking about a respectable educator.”

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Mike Easley as Jerry Seinfeld

It was admittedly a tough act to follow.

Barack Obama had brought the wildly partisan crowd of Democrats to their feet Saturday night with a surprise appearance at their annual dinner at the Grove Park Inn. But when his turn came, N.C. Gov. Mike Easley was in rare form.

-- He said Obama, who was raised in Hawaii and went to Harvard Law, is a good fit for Southern Democrats.

"Barack," he said, "is Hawaiian for Bubba."

-- Riffing off Sarah Palin's line at the GOP convention, he described Democratic Senate candidate Kay Hagan.

"You know the difference between Kay Hagan and a pit bull?" he asked. "Nothin'."

-- Looking down the dais at Rep. Heath Shuler from nearby Waynesville, he took note of the congressman's Republican opponent, Asheville psychologist Carl Mumpower.

"I'm asking you," Easley said, "who needs the therapy?"