Civitas Review

Seeing Jim Crow in the DOJ


This article by Hans Von Spakovsky gives me a chance to tell you about a panel discussion taking place in Charlotte on Monday night.

Michel Martin of NPR will host the discussion on voting rights and Von Spakovsky will be on the panel along with Janai Nelson of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Pam Fessler, an NPR correspondent and Michael Dickerson, the Director of the Mecklenburg County Board of Elections.

The event will be held at the McGlohon Theatre in Charlotte from 7 – 9 pm.

If you can't get to Charlotte, then Von Spakovsky's latest article "Shades of Jim Crow at the Justice Department" is the next best thing. In this article, Von Spakovsky writes that the lawsuit filed by the NC NAACP, League of Women Voters and the Department of Justice against North Carolina's voter reform law makes it "clear that these self-appointed champions of minorities have a thoroughly patronizing attitude toward black and Hispanic Americans."

He takes a long look at the witnesses produced by the NC NAACP and the U.S. Justice Department in the preliminary injunction hearing in Winston-Salem last July. Two witnesses, both professors, one from MIT and the other from the University of Wisconsin, described African-American and Hispanic voters in North Carolina as being less capable than white voters. Von Spakovsky writes,

According to them, minority voters are “less sophisticated” and don’t have the same ability as white voters to register to vote, to even find their polling place, or to be informed about the candidates and the issues in the election.

Listen very carefully to the liberal Left when they talk about why it's more difficult for minorities to vote and register to vote than white voters. They can only attempt to make a case by demeaning the people they say they are helping.

Judge Chooses North Carolina Early Voting Site


You may remember my article (Kricker Rules the State Board of Elections). The article was about the one state board of elections member who essentially made all the decisions as to which counties could reduce their one-stop voting hours for the November General Election. Maja Kricker, one of two Democrats on the state board, took advantage of the law that required a unanimous vote to change voting hours. Kricker concocted rules that all counties had to comply with in order to get her vote. And, since the SBOE vote must be unanimous, she effectively made the final decision for the five member board.

The most troubling part of this scenario was that none of the other board members had a problem with her actions. True, their opposition to her tyrannical stance would have been fruitless, but they acquiesced in a way that made her process seem appropriate. The chairman even gave weight to her requirements by naming them "the Kricker Rules."

Now there's another member of a local board that seems to be calling the shots in her County. Kathleen Campbell, in Watauga County, has been fighting to reinstate the one-stop site on the Appalachian State University campus. The three-member board voted 2 – 1 not to open the site on campus, in that the Board of Elections' one-stop site was less than a mile away.

Campbell appealed to the State Board of Elections. Superior Court Judge Don Stephens overturned the State Board's decision to uphold the Watauga County Board of Elections plan. Stephens ordered Watauga County to open the University one-stop site – 10 days before one-stop, early voting was scheduled to start in North Carolina. On October 17, the North Carolina Court of Appeals stayed Stephens' decision and then lifted the stay on October 21st.

It doesn't look like the North Carolina Supreme Court will have to dirty their hands on this case, in an emergency meeting scheduled for today at 4 p.m., the State Board of Elections reversed their decision and re-established an early voting site on the University's campus in time to open tomorrow.

Stephens seems to believe that voting is all about convenience. Stephens, in a statement said; "(It) is the responsibility of government to minimize inconvenience in voting, not maximize it."

This decision may set a new standard for voting in the United States of America – forget about the Constitution and all the equal access and one-person, one-vote blather, we can now look to convenience as a standard to measure voting decisions.

A couple of questions.

Has the State Board of Elections helped to set the precedent that will encourage judges to pick one-stop sites? And, as to one board member in a board of three or five making the decisions, should we ditch the whole idea of boards of elections, both local and state, and let the court's make all the decisions?

"Affordable" Care Act: NC Insurance Premiums to Rise by 13% Next Year


In a conference call earlier today Blue Cross Blue Shield of NC discussed projected insurance premiums for 2015.

North Carolina's largest health insurer says rates will rise by more than 13 percent on average next year for buyers of individual Affordable Care Act policies.
But hey, at least "if you like your plan you get to keep your plan (for two years)". Yeah, if you can afford it.
Aside from ACA plans, the insurer is maintaining pre-existing plans that don't conform to the Affordable Care Act's requirements but customers wanted to keep. Rates for those plans will rise by an average of 13 to 19 percent, depending on when they were sold.

State Treasurer Cowell Involved in Yet Another Pay-to-Play Scheme with Erskine Bowles


Yesterday's International Business Times calls into question some of State Treasurer Janet Cowell's decisions and transparency over the past few years in her role overseeing the state's pension fund. Specifically, it examines the new "Innovation fund" Cowell created in 2010 and how it has benefitted political allies – specifically Erskine Bowles.

From its inception, the innovation fund was run jointly by Cowell and the multinational banking giant Credit Suisse. Within a year of its launching, a fundraiser for Cowell was held at Bowles’ home. Weeks later, the innovation fund awarded a contract to Bowles' firm, Carousel Capital, to manage some of the fund’s money. Only three days after that, Carousel filed documents with the SEC showing that the firm had paid Credit Suisse $775,000 for the bank’s work as a so-called placement agent in helping Carousel attract investment money.

In other words, in its role ostensibly protecting North Carolina taxpayers’ interests, Credit Suisse steered state pension money to a politically connected firm that was paying the bank to help it land pension deals.

Financial and pension management experts inside North Carolina and beyond now say the deal can be viewed as a particularly pungent example of the dubious role of placement agents — intermediaries hired by private financial firms to help them secure fee-generating deals to manage public pension money.

According to the article, Cowell used her power over the state pension fund to reward Erskine Bowles – who just so happened to be a fundraiser for Cowell.

Sound familiar? It should.

Remember a couple of years ago when Cowell invested millions of the pension fund in the Facebook IPO? Bowles was on the board at Facebook and also at Morgan Stanley who was the primary underwriter of the deal and as such reaped millions in fees, so he was involved in two firms that stood to benefit from Cowell's actions.

And then there is the lawsuit against Facebook for its IPO in which the NC pension fund served as a lead plaintiff, and Cowell just so happened to select out of state law firms who were major donors to her campaigns to represent the pension fund, and in turn earn perhaps millions in fees.

How many more cases of Cowell leveraging her power over the state pension fund to enrich her political cronies are there?

All of this corruption further makes that case that the power over the state employee pensions should be taken out of the hands of politicians and government bureaucrats and instead given to the employees themselves. This could be done by transitioning the pension fund to a 401(k) style defined contribution plan.

Candidates and Common Core


Do you want to know if a local candidate supports or opposes Common Core Standards? The Raleigh Chamber –  a strong proponent of Common Core Standards — has published  responses to candidate surveys on its web site.  Candidates who chose to reply are posted. It should be noted that not all candidates submitted replies.

Although we differ with the Chamber on its support for Common Core standards, we  support their efforts to get important information about local candidates to voters.