Friday, January 23, 2015

Revealed at last: N.C.'s vast left-wing network

Bob Orr

According to the conservative Civitas Institute, they're part of the "vast, shadowy network" that makes up "the radical liberal left in North Carolina."

They’re named in the institute’s latest project, "Mapping the Left," a list of 140 organizations and 1,800 individuals "working to enlarge state government and erode our freedoms."

Just who are these radicals?

Well, people like former Tar Heels Coach Dean Smith, who sat on the board of an anti-death penalty group. Some are Republicans like former gubernatorial candidates Bob Orr and Chuck Neely and state Rep. Chuck McGrady.

Then there’s former Gov. Jim Hunt and his wife, Carolyn; Charlotte Mayor Dan Clodfelter, former Mayor Harvey Gantt and former Mecklenburg commissioners Chair Jennifer Roberts.

Some are in high positions: state Treasurer Janet Cowell and state Auditor Beth Wood. And some come from business, like former textile executive Crandall Bowles.

Most are on the boards of groups that the institute defines as having liberal agendas, such as the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation, the League of Women Voters and the Sierra Club. Or they’re associated with funding such groups. That’s how The Foundation for the Carolinas (along with CEO Michael Marsicano), Food Lion Charitable Foundation and the Gannett Foundation all made the list.

"Mapping the Left was created to educate citizens and policy makers," the web site says. "It is a repository of vital information that exposes the largest funders and participants in today’s North Carolina political battles to public scrutiny."

The map consists of a giant web of interconnecting lines and circles. Susan Myrick, an election policy analyst with Civitas, said the point is to show who runs, funds and works for the groups she claims makes up North Carolina’s left.

Are the people on the list dangerous radicals?

"No but they’re people with an agenda," Myrick said. "Just like the right are people with an agenda. What makes the right different than the left? (The left) is so massive …

"It's easy for people to see the organizational network on the right because it's so small. But when we turn a light on the left, they're uncomfortable. I don't get it. People should know who they are."

Who they are are people like Orr, a former N.C. Supreme Court Justice who later ran the N.C. Institute for Constitutional Law which, like Civitas, is funded largely by the Pope Foundation. Orr made the list because he’s on the board of The Conservation Trust of North Carolina.

"I'm a strong believer in land conservation and historic preservation," Orr says. "On the other hand I've won four statewide elections as a Republican. I don't think anybody over at Civitas has even run for office."

Neely, a Raleigh lawyer, was asked in an email how he felt being on the leftist list, replied succinctly:

"I have always suspected me," he wrote.