Wednesday, February 27, 2013

For ex-lawmakers, retirement pays

It pays to be a legislative leader --- even when you're gone.

Or out of prison.

Former leaders head the list of those receiving pensions under North Carolina's Legislative Retirement System.

At the top of the list: former Democratic House Speaker Jim Black of Matthews, who served time in prison for corruption. He gets $3,607 a month, according to the state Treasurer's office.

His predecessor, Republican Harold Brubaker of Asheboro, gets $3,444 a month to supplement his income as a lobbyist representing more than a dozen clients including Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina and GlaxoSmithKline.

Among 260 former lawmakers getting pensions, former Democratic speakers Joe Hackney and Joe Mavretic are also in the Top 10. So is former Senate Democratic leader Marc Basnight.

At least three North Carolina congressmen, all Republicans, are getting legislative pensions. U.S. Reps. Virginia Foxx ($686/month); Robert Pittenger ($324) and Walter Jones Jr. ($276.)

Not all pensions are as generous. Former Gov. Jim Holshouser and Irwin Belk of Charlotte, an heir to the department store fortune, served in the General Assembly. Each gets $100 a month.

Here are the top 20 recipients of legislative pensions:

JAMES B BLACK $3,607.30


JOE HACKNEY $2,828.02



MARIE W COLTON $2,281.60


STEPHEN W WOOD $2,047.10



JOHN J HUNT $1,924.89



JOHN R GAMBLE JR $1,615.75



DAN R SIMPSON $1,483.64


AARON W PLYLER $1,474.00

UPDATE: Pittenger donates his monthly state pension to a Charlotte charity, an aide said Wednesday.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Former McCrory aide starts lobbying firm

From 2008 to 2012, through two gubernatorial campaigns and in between, Chris Emanuel traveled the state with with Pat McCrory as the former Charlotte mayor's senior political director. Now, with McCrory in the governor's mansion, Emanuel is starting his own lobbying firm.

The former USAirways pilot is starting the CG Emanuel Group. He hopes to represent clients in Raleigh.

"My experience is over the past five years working with campaigns," he says."I've gotten to know many of the legislators."

Emanuel says he hopes to lobby on issues including education, construction and energy.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Memo-gate update

Blueprint North Carolina continues to catch heat for a series of memos leaked last week to the Observer and WRAL. The memos outlined strategies and talking points for progressives to attack state Republican leaders.

The most incendiary memo called for liberals to weaken the GOP's ability to govern by "crippling their leaders" and to "eviscerate their leadership," even by hiring private investigators.

The story on the memos has gotten a lot of play on conservative blogs and web sites, including the Drudge Report. Monday the N.C. Republican Party filed complaints with the the state board of elections and the IRS, claiming that the group violated its nonprofit status by wading into partisan politics.

Blueprint is a nonprofit that offers what executive director Sean Kosofsky calls "back office" services to other progressive advocacy groups. Kosofsky, who first confirmed his group emailed the memos, later distanced it from the "crippling" memo, saying his group didn't send it out and suggesting that somebody had done a memo mash-up to make his group look bad. 

He did acknowledge having seen the controversial memo at a December meeting of progressive groups. WRAL reporter Mark Binker picked up the story from there.

"Asked it was appropriate for his organization to participate in meetings where such memos are distributed and whether he endorsed all the ideas in the memo," Binker wrote, "Kosofsky replied via email:

"Darn right. C3 nonprofits should absolutely try to stop bad policies that hurt the poor and hurt the environment, women and the middle class. If they need to exploit weaknesses of lawmakers, they should. I stand by that.

"The meeting in December was of over 50 organizations. People bring their own idea. I am not going to claim or distance myself from things without greater context. The only thing that matters to Blueprint is what Blueprint does. I cannot speak for others. We cannot be held to what others do at meetings we are at. that is completely unfair.

"I am not going to cherry pick ideas from that draft plan and say which ones we approve of or disapprove of. I will say this...The stakes are high for the people of NC. This governor and legislature are approving raises for their cabinet while gutting benefits for folks already injured by unemployment. Blueprint and our partners are passionate advocates for policy passed in the public interest, not passed for special interests. Our partners can educate the public, educate lawmakers and absolutely hold them accountable when they vote against the interests of the people of NC. the public should know that charitable groups can and do advocate strongly. they should. Blueprint doesn't lobby or do any public advocacy. This isn't about us at all."

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

McCrory's unannounced visit

After giving his first State of the State address to a packed General Assembly Monday night, Gov. Pat McCrory took a detour on his way back to the governor's mansion.

McCrory went to Duke University Hospital in Durham and visited Highway Patrol officer Michael Potts, an 11-year veteran who'd been shot during a routine traffic stop Monday, just an hour before McCrory delivered his speech. He spent time with the officer's family while Potts underwent surgery.

Potts was listed in fair condition Tuesday. Police later charged a prison parolee from Vermont with his shooting.

McCrory's visit was unannounced and unpublicized. A spokesman for the governor confirmed it to the Observer.

As mayor of Charlotte, McCrory prided himself on a close relationship with city police. He sometimes rode patrol with them. When he left office in 2009, he recalled a police shooting as his darkest hour. Two police officers, Sean Clark and Jeff Shelton, were shot and killed in 2006.

"That was a very emotional time . .. speaking at that funeral, both funerals," McCrory said at the time. "I didn't think I could make it."

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Power shift: Clout grows for Mecklenburg towns

Along with the growing power of Republicans in Raleigh has come another phenomenon: the growing clout of Mecklenburg County's towns and suburbs.

Democrats may still control the county delegation (albeit by one vote) but the real power is on the other side.

Thom Tillis of Cornelius is the House speaker. Rep. Bill Brawley of Matthews, in only his second term, has emerged as a player on big issues like the proposed airport authority and the bid for state money to upgrade Bank of America Stadium.

As co-chair of Senate Finance, Bob Rucho of Matthews is leading the effort to change the state's tax system. And Sen. Jeff Tarte of Cornelius, a freshman who represents five of the county's six small towns, has hit the ground running. He'll be the point man on an issue sure to affect a lot of country residents -- fixing the revaluation mess.

Meanwhile, Democrats from Charlotte are still figuring out how to navigate the legislature in a position still foreign to those who've been around a while, as the minority. Former Democratic House Speaker Jim Black was from Matthews, but was part of a delegation dominated by Charlotte Democrats.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Mecklenburg's bi-partisan delegation?

It's a Democratic-dominated delegation in a Republican-led General Assembly. If you wouldn't expect everything to go perfectly smoothly, you wouldn't be disappointed.

Mecklenburg County's 17-member strong delegation meets Wednesday morning to begin parceling out local bills and looking at local agendas. It will be under the chairmanship of Sen. Malcolm Graham, a Charlotte Democrat.

But some Republicans had hoped to share the leadership, even though Mecklenburg Democrats outnumber them 9-8.

"Ideally you want your delegation to act in a non-partisan manner for the benefit of Mecklenburg County," says Rep. Bill Brawley, a Matthews Republican. "So the reason you would have co-chairs .... from each party is you’d have non-partisan leadership."

Brawley and some other Republicans are still chafed that Democrats convened their first delegation meeting in early January, at a time most Republicans had a conflict.

Graham says the group has always worked together, even under one chairman.

"We've always tried to work as a non-partisan group," he says. "Most of the issues locally are non-controversial.... If Bill will just come and participate, he’ll find that his voice will be heard just like everybody else."

Monday, February 11, 2013

Charlotte lawmaker pushes legalized marijuana

Two sessions ago, Democratic Rep. Kelly Alexander co-sponsored a bill to legalize medical marijuana in the state. It never went anywhere. Now he's trying again.

Alexander and fellow Democrat Pricey Harrison of Greensboro have introduced H. 84, a bill to have North Carolina join 18 other states in allowing doctors to prescribe medical marijuana.

"Many seriously and chronically ill persons, including many disabled veterans, get relief from their suffering from marijuana," Alexander, of Charlotte, said in a statement. "I cannot understand why we would not give seriously ill patients and veterans anything and everything that gives them relief. Should seriously ill patients be arrested and sent to prison for using marijuana with their doctor's approval?"

Efforts to legalize marijuana for any reason have faced opposition.

The last time Alexander tried it, the head of the N.C. Association of Chiefs of Police said such a bill could make people more accepting of other drugs.

Thursday, February 07, 2013

UNCC dinner gets a surprise visitor

UNC Charlotte Chancellor Phil Dubois got a surprise visitor Wednesday night when he hosted a dinner in Raleigh for Mecklenburg County's legislative delegation.

Gov. Pat McCrory stopped by to say hello.

"It was really, really nice," said Betty Doster, a special assistant to Dubois. "He's got a great relationship with the chancellor."  

McCrory's visit brought two of the state's top officials to the meeting. House Speaker Thom Tillis, a Cornelius Republican, was there with 14 other county lawmakers.

Dubois was in town ahead of today's UNC Board of Governors meeting. The school is pushing for state help in promoting its data analytics program.

The growing university of 26,000 also has been promoting its regional ties. This week the six UNCC graduates in the state House posed together for a picture. The five men all wore their UNCC green ties.

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Jennifer Roberts starts PAC for 2014

Filing for the 2014 elections is year away. But Democrat Jennifer Roberts is getting ready.

The former chairman of the Mecklenburg County commissioners, and unsuccessful candidate for Congress last year, has started a new political action committee. Organizational papers for the "Flowering Dogwood" PAC were filed last month with the state elections board.

Roberts, who lost to Republican Robert Pittenger in the 9th District, won't say what office she has in mind for next year. That, she says, "is still somewhat in the planning stage."

She announced the PAC last week at a reception for around 200 supporters.

"My main message to the supporters is that I'm staying active politically," she says. "I'm really not leaning toward anything at this point. There are a lot of issues I'm concerned about, education, job creation ...

"I think there are many positions and opportunities that would help us move these issues forward."

Roberts warned against reading anything into the fact she registered her PAC in Raleigh, not Washington.

"Because it's a state PAC not a federal PAC doesn't mean I've written that off," she says.

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Art Pope resigns more positions

When Art Pope was named Gov. Pat McCrory's budget director in December, he announced his resignation from the board of Americans for Prosperity and the Civitas Institute, a group he helped found. He's given up more positions than that.

Disclosure reports filed Monday with the State Ethics Commission show Pope no longer sits on the board of other groups he did in 2012:

-- The John Locke Foundation
-- The Golden L.E.A.F. Foundation
-- The N.C. Free Enterprise Foundation
-- The N.C. Institute for Constitutional Law
-- The N.C. Institute for Political Leadership
-- Real Jobs N.C.

Reports also show that Yolanda Stith, wife of McCrory's chief of staff Thomas Stith, lobbies for several clients including the N.C. Association of Community Development Corporations.

Monday, February 04, 2013

Kevin Spacey and the Giant Peach

South Carolina's 5th Congressional District has a new congressman. At least on TV.

In the new Netflix production "House of Cards" actor Kevin Spacey stars as Francis Underwood, a Democrat from the Palmetto State's 5th District, just over the N.C. line from Charlotte.

Spacey plays House Majority Whip Francis Underwood. According to the Hollywood Reporter, he "controls the levers of power like the strings of marionettes, turning the world's most powerful deliberative body into his own personal puppet show."

Gaffney's famous "Peachoid" reportedly makes a cameo in the third episode.

The 5th District's current congressman is Republican Mick Mulvaney. According to a spokeswoman, Mulvaney hasn't  seen the show yet but plans to.