Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Spend 'An Evening with Sarah Palin" -- in Charlotte

Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin will make her first Charlotte appearance June 4 with a red, white and blue dinner with a main-course theme of "America the Greatest Nation."

Organizers say the $300-a-plate dinner, billed as "An Evening with Sarah Palin," could bring 5,000 people to the Charlotte Convention Center.

"It's going to be a night about America," says Eric Jones, director of the Blue Ridge Educational Resource Group. "We're going to talk about what makes America great, our Constitution, our Bill of Rights. She seems to have the heartbeat of a lot of people in our nation right now. We're not seeking to make this a political event. It's just about America."

The next day, Palin -- along with former First Lady Laura Bush -- is scheduled to headline a Blue Ridge-sponsored Women's Expo at Wilkes Community College in Wilkesboro. About 2,500 women from as far as Michigan and New Jersey are expected for the free event.

Blue Ridge is a year-old non-profit that works to fight drug abuse and teen pregnancy in the Wilkes County area. Jone says the group hopes to build a residential drug rehab center and a home for pregnant teens.

He declined to say how much his group is paying Palin or Bush. "There's nothing free," he says.

A portion of dinner proceeds go to Victory Junction camp in Randleman.

UPDATE 3:18 p.m. The June appearance will actually be Palin's SECOND visit to Charlotte. She's also scheduled to address the NRA annual meeting at the convention center on May 14.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

A first: Every eligible N.C. judicial candidate opts for public funding

For the first time, every candidate for North Carolina's appellate courts have filed their intent to use public money for their campaigns.

Participating candidates for the Supreme Court and Court of Appeals can qualify for grants from the Public Campaign Fund. They have to agree to spending limits and raise a specified number of small donations from N.C. voters.

"It shows the success of the program it means that the courts are more accountable to the public than the system of private donors," says Bob Hall, director of Democracy North Carolina and an advocate of publicly financed elections.

Since the program started in 2004, Hall says 31 of 40 candidates in contested general election races have taken part. The Public Campaign Fund has been funded by voluntary tax checkoffs and a $50 annual fee from attorneys.

Proponents say the law prevents conflicts that might arise from donors or groups with interests before the court gaining undue influence.

In West Virginia, for example, the chief executive of a large coal company spent $3 million to help elect a judge in 2004. This year the state legislature has approved legislation modeled on North Carolina's that will create a pilot public financing program for Supreme Court races in 2012.

"North Carolina is rightly setting a national standard that other states are following and looking to," says Hall. "And I think it's a lesson in success in addressing a perceived problem of special interest money in elections that can be adopted for other offices in North Carolina.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

SarahPAC targets South Carolina's Spratt

John Spratt is in Sarah Palin's cross-hairs.

The S.C. Democrat is one of 20 congressmen -- and the only one from the Carolinas -- whose seats Palin's SarahPAC is targeting after Sunday's health care vote.

Spratt, of York, has survived 14 terms in a district that's consistently gone Republican in presidential races. Two years ago he got 62 percent of the vote while John McCain was getting 53 percent.

"We’re paying particular attention to those House members who voted in favor of Obamacare and represent districts that Senator John McCain and I carried during the 2008 election," Palin wrote on a Facebook page with the 20 seats literally targeted on a U.S. map.

SarahPAC could mean an infusion of money to the campaign of Spratt's only declared GOP challenger, state Rep. Mick Mulvaney. Spratt had a 6-1 financial advantage over Mulvaney at the end of December.

In Sunday's health care vote, Spratt found himself in the spotlight and at the microphone as he managed speaking time for Democrats, and introduced Sspeaker Nancy Pelosi.

According to Rock Hill's Herald newspaper, Mulvaney began circulating an e-mail petition minutes after the House approved the health care bill. He asked 5th District voters to "formally reprimand" Spratt by voting against him in November.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Huddleston to D'Annunzio: Time to bow out

Republican Lou Huddleston today called on 8th Congressional District rival Tim D'Annunzio to leave the race, saying "he hasn't shown the disposition and the temperament that I believe voters would expect from someone who wants to be their congressman."

"If Tim can't change the way he is he ought to bow out of the race," Huddleston told the Observer.

D'Annunzio spokeswoman Lauren Slepian says her candidate has no intention of doing so.

"Americans are looking for a representative who will fight for them in Washington," she said, "and Tim's not going to back down."

Huddleston's comments were the most pointed public criticism yet by any of the six Republicans in the May 4 primary. It comes on the heels of a flap at a weekend candidate forum in Fayetteville.

Candidates drew cards with random questions. When Huddleston of Fayetteville was asked if he supports eliminating several federal agencies (as D'Annunzio does), he replied without mentioning D'Annunzio. When D'Annunzio tried to respond, organizers told him that according to their ground rules, he couldn't. The party chair grabbed his microphone. He walked off the stage.
"When you walk off of a stage because you're not happy about something ... you're walking away from voters, you're disrespecting voters," Huddleston said.

Slepian pointed to a D'Annunzio campaign poll that shows Huddleston's support in the low single digits.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Rivals blast McHenry in flap over census

As ranking Republican on the House subcommittee that oversees the census, U.S. Rep. Patrick McHenry of Cherryville hasn't missed many opportunities to encourage people to take part. But two GOP rivals are crying foul over his latest attempt.

McHenry sent a letter to 100,000 district households urging them to fill out census questionnaires that start arriving next week.

Republican candidate Vance Patterson of Morganton called the mailer "outrageous and inexcusable" and called for McHenry to resign his committee position.

And GOP rival Scott Keadle of Mooresville said McHenry used the mailing "for political purposes." In today's Morganton News Herald, he calls the mailings "an abuse of the franking privilege" that will "add to the mountain of bills that McHenry and the Washington politicians have piled on the struggling taxpayers in this district."

Parker Poling, McHenry's chief of staff, called the charges "ridiculous." She said her office sent them to district voters regardless of party affiliation.

"Our office sent a reminder to our constituents to participate in the constitutionally-mandated census," she says. "Each person who responds to the census by mail saves the government hundreds of dollars in follow-up costs. We're going to continue to communicate with citizens of the 10th District, regardless of political games by others."

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Burr's vote on unemployment draws fire

Republican Sen. Jim Bunning of Kentucky set off a firestorm this week when he single-handedly blocked a vote to extend unemployment benefits. His filibuster also led to the furloughs of 2,000 federal transportation workers and cut Medicare payments to doctors.

When Bunning finally relented after five days, the Senate passed the $10 billion extension Tuesday night by a vote of 78-19.

Among those voting 'No' with Bunning: Republican Richard Burr of North Carolina.

Extension affected many of the 250,000 North Carolinians collecting unemployment, according to the state Employment Security Commission.

Burr spokesman David Ward said the senator objected to passing the spending bill without including a way to pay for it. He voted for Bunning's amendment that would have paid for the bill by closing a tax loophole. It was shot down.

“Sen. Burr supports extending unemployment insurance, COBRA, and other important programs, but he believes we ought to pay for these spending increases rather than just add them to the debt," Ward said. Burr "opposed final passage because this spending was not offset by cuts elsewhere in the budget. After all the hype about PAY-GO, the Democrats cannot live up to even their own standards.”

But Burr's vote gave ammunition to Democratic rivals.

“For many of these people and their families, the extension was a lifeline," Secretary of State Elaine Marshall said in a statement. "Sen. Burr has shown a disturbing lack of compassion for his fellow citizens. He is clearly out of touch with the people he represents.”

Chapel Hill attorney Ken Lewis said "Richard Burr showed once again that he is alarmingly out of touch with the interests of the people."

UPDATE: 1:53.... A spokesman for the N.C. Employment Security Commission said 6,500 of the 250,000 people collecting unemployment in the state would have seen their benefits expire without the extension.

UPDATE: 4:47... Cal Cunningham, the third major Democratic Senate candidate, also weighed in on Burr's vote. He said the vote "hurts North Carolinians who need emergency support in the toughest economy in generations. "

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Ulysses S. Grant: A 10th District issue?

Even Ronald Reagan is controversial in the 10th District Republican primary.

U.S. Rep. Patrick McHenry proposed putting the former president's picture on the $50 bill, bumping that of Ullyses S. Grant after more than 80 years.

“President Reagan was a modern day statesman, whose presidency transformed our nation’s political and economic thinking,” McHenry said in a statement. "In polls of presidential scholars, President Reagan consistently outranks President Grant.... one such poll of bipartisan scholars which ranked President Reagan 6th and President Grant 29th."

McHenry's idea got some media attention. But at least one of his opponents doesn't think much of it.

“As much as we all admire President Reagan, I seriously question why Mr. McHenry thinks this is a priority when nearly one in five people are out of work,” says Mooresville Republican Scott Keadle. “... McHenry should focus on the economy and the unemployment rate instead of pandering to voters.”

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Wrangling over Rangel's money

Add Democratic Rep. Larry Kissell to the list of Democratic congressmen unloading campaign donations from fellow Democrat Charlie Rangel.

Last week the House ethics committee admonished Rangel for violating gift rules by accepting reimbursement for trips to the Caribbean in 2007 and 2008. Since then Republicans across the country have called on Democratic lawmakers to return any money they got from Rangel.

Republican Tim D'Annunzio was apparently the first 8th District GOP challenger to ask Kissell to do the same. He says that since 2006, Kissell has accepted $8,000 from Rangel.

"Other Members of Congress that accepted contributions from Charlie Rangel are quickly distancing themselves from him, and returning the money or donating it to charity," D'Annunzio said in a release. "Why isn't Larry Kissell following their lead?"

According to a spokeswoman, Kissell already had.

Haven Kerchner said Kissell decided Friday to give to charity $4,000 he got from Rangel and $10,000 he got from Rangel's political action committee.

Records also show that Rangel's PAC -- The National leadership PAC -- gave Kissell's 2006 campaign committee another $5,000. Kerchner said because that committee is closed, "those funds are no longer available."

Monday, March 01, 2010

D'Annunzio: Abolish much of the government

Republican Tim D'Annunzio, whose own poll shows him leading the GOP race in the 8th Congressional District, has laid out a platform that calls for abolishing much of the federal government.

D'Annunzio outlined his plan in a posting today on his personal blog called "Christ's War." It's headlined "The Shaking, continued (Isaiah 9:5)." He calls it a "four year plan for the revitalization" of the federal government.

"Abolish the Departments of Education, Health and Human Services,
Agriculture, Energy, Labor, Housing and Urban Development, Interior,
Transportation, Treasury, and Home Land Security. Any duties remaining that are Constitutional should be rolled into other Departments.

"Social Security and Medicare should be cut into fifty proportionate parts and given to the control of the states. All promises should be kept at a percentage proportionate to the individual’s age compared to the retirement age. The new System should be based on individuals preparing for and providing for their own retirement and health care.

"A private safety net system should be encouraged for those
who fall through any possible cracks in this system. (Church)Implement the FairTax, repeal the Sixteenth Amendment and abolish the IRS. The original rate to be revenue neutral is 23% but the goal should be to reach a limit of 10% within ten years. Any future revisions that result in tax increases must be passed with a super Majority in both the House and Senate."