Raleigh’s Russian Connection: Capstrat & Ken

Surprisingly the Russia/Ukraine conflict story has a Raleigh connection. That would be the Ken Eudy led Capstrat, the Raleigh PR/consulting firm which has ties to the Democratic party, and which was bought by the DC Lobbying firm Ketchum.  Ketchum just announced it was sticking with Putin and keeping Russia as a client.

“Ketchum has worked for the Russian government since 2006, when it helped the country prepare for the Group of Eight Summit in St. Petersburg. The firm held (sic) with research and media rollout for Putin’s 2007 “Person of the Year” award by Time Magazine and contacted The New York Times last year about an op-ed written by the Russian president, according to Justice Department records.”

During this time period, Russia invaded Georgia, provided support to the nuclear weapon program in Iran and helped Assad remain in power in Syria. Now Russia has successfully separated Crimea from Ukraine.

Capstrat, headed by former North Carolina Democratic Party Executive Director Ken Eudy, was bought by Ketchum in 2013.  Capstrat for years has seemed to use its extensive political connections to land lucrative contracts from state government. Since the Republican takeover of state government they have tried to bring in staffers with possible connections to the new majority but have not been able to regain the foothold they once had. Perhaps looking for business in Russia is easier…

Remember the Race-Baiting City Councilman? There’s More to the Story!

A previous Civitas blog post reported that Rocky Mount City Councilman and Witness Wednesday arrestee Andre Knight made comments which could easily be interpreted as calling a community leader a racist.  This happened when that community leader was presenting a petition for the City of Rocky Mount to have a public hearing on whether or not the city should build a proposed Event Center downtown. Wait a minute there is more to the story.

In the meeting, which took place Jan. 13, there was a proposal put forth to approve $67,430 to include a study that would be run by Visions Inc.  Senator Angela Bryant(D- Nash) runs this organization, and Rocky Mount City Councilman Lamont Wiggins is on the board. The Rocky Mount Telegram reported that “(t)he intent of the plan was to assist the city in recognizing the importance of a diverse workforce reflective of the community as much as possible allowing the city to better understand and respond to citizens,” said Assistant City Manager Ann Wall in a memorandum to City Manager Charles Penny. “The intent of the plan was also to establish a workplace which values employees and encourages their development.” The study was approved that night, since September of 2012 the City of Rocky Mount will have spent $413,220 just on studies  for the City and for building of the proposed $43.6 million Event Center.  Citizens in the community are beginning to become upset that the city is spending the taxpayers’ money not only to help a local Senator and City Councilman but to also build an Event Center that is of questionable value.

Another thing to look at about the Visions study that was approved was the fact that it passed the City Council with a voice vote.  Some said “Aye”, no one said “No”, and no one recused themselves.  If LaMont Wiggins is on the board for Visions Inc. wouldn’t it be a conflict of interest for him to vote on the approval of the study?

How to Avoid a Public Records Request (A Government Primer)

Since the 1960s, so-called “sunshine laws” have helped to shine the light of public scrutiny into the dark corridors of government. Under state and federal law, any citizen can request documents that are made or kept by government agencies. Open records are vital to our government. They are an invaluable tool for keeping government officials accountable.

Unfortunately, that doesn’t stop government agencies from trying to get around the law and keep the public in the dark. Just this week, the U.S. Navy accidentally sent a reporter the Navy’s detailed strategy for stonewalling his public records request. The internal memo included several pending FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) requests. For each entry, Navy officials had written helpful advice to their public affairs officers:

I would recommend negotiating with the requester…Josh can help with crafting the language…

Recommend that you provide the requester with an estimate, as I can see the search and review, possible redactions, will be very costly. This may encourage the requester to “narrow the scope.”

This one is specific enough that we may be able to deny.

The sad thing is that this approach is all too common in government. Although public officials pay lip service to transparency, their actions show otherwise. Civitas files public records requests quite frequently, and it is the rare respondent who acts promptly and correctly in accordance with the law. There is an elaborate dance, which often features one or more of the following:

  • The runaround: Oh, sorry, this is the wrong place! You’ve got to talk to Jim in another department. What’s that? You already talked to him? He said to talk to us? Well, that’s just not true. Try talking to Jennifer.
  • The delay: Yes, we have received your request. Yes, it was sent three months ago. We are in contact with our public affairs people. They will advise us when it is completed.
  • The office lawyer: You asked me for every report from the past month. I interpreted your use of the word “every” to mean “some.” Perhaps you are unaware that this is an accepted definition?
  • The accountant: According to our calculations, the cost of responding to your request will be approximately $200,000. Where shall I send the bill?
  • The cricket: *Silence*

These tactics by government are frustrating, and intentionally so. When it comes to open records, sometimes government acts like a small child who would rather throw an hour-long tantrum rather than pick up a toy off the ground. But in the end, the response must always be the same as a parent’s: Be patient, and don’t let up until the child does what he is supposed to do.

William Barber Rakes in Taxpayer Dollars – Leads — Moral (no it is) — Money Mondays!

While the Rev. William Barber, head of the NCNAACP, likes to call opponents extremists and rant about the immorality of legislative actions, he never mentions one important detail concerning his personal interest. An organization associated with his church, Rebuilding Broken Places Community Development Corporation, of which he is the founder and still chairman, has bellied up to the taxpayer buffet to the tune of over $1.15 million in recent years. A quick search shows some but not all of the taxpayer dollars garnered by his organization (State Agencies come from NC Open Book:

State Agency

Child Nutrition Programs

Dept. of Health and Human Services

$565,220

State Agency

Not Listed

Not Listed

$1,275

State Agency

Support Our Students

Dept. of Public Safety

$245,426

State Agency

Dropout Prevention Grant

Dept. of Public Instruction

$173,331

State Funded

Econ Dev & Capacity Building

NC Rural Center

$134,480

State Funded

Capacity Building (Jan 2013)

NC Community Dev. Initiative

>$40,000

 Tentative Total

>$1,159,732

As the head of the NCNAACP and the organizer of the Historic Thousands on Jones Street (HKonJ), he is the originator and ringmaster of the “Moral Money Monday” protests. Barber has said in many places that the HKonJ organizations are the organizers and force behind the “Moral Money Monday” protests.

It is a collection of groups that, like Barber’s group, has benefited handsomely from taxpayer dollars. While he cloaks his actions in morality and even the trappings of Christianity, going as far as wearing religious garb at the protests, his interest is really about that least religious of concerns – Mammon, or money.

He and his cohorts in the HKonJ organizing group do not want to lose access or control of the taxpayers’ dollars. This may very well happen if the current legislature continues to reduce taxes, reform government and stop funding special-interest groups.

So remember from now on to refer to the Monday protests by their proper name !Moral Money Monday” !

What WRAL Isn’t Telling You About BlueprintNC

While the media is reporting on an important political story, WRAL is leaving out key information about its deep connections to the group at the center of the story . The Charlotte Observer posted a story on BlueprintNC, a liberal group responsible for coordinating activities on the left, after a “confidential” 38 page strategy memo was leaked. Wral picked up on the story and posted the memo on line. But what has WRAL left out of the story?

The WRAL reporter left out the very deep connections WRAL has with BlueprintNC through its owner Jim Goodmon, donations and former employees. The AJ Fletcher Foundation has given $35,000 to BlueprintNC and $380,000 to the NC Justice Center which initially housed BlueprintNC when it was formed (the foundations 990 IRS reports are not current so there may be more) . The Goodmon family which owns WRAL has 4 family members on the board of the Fletcher Foundation including Barbara the President and Jim the chairman of the board. The Executive Director was formerly the head of the NC center for Voter Education, one of the original members of BlueprintNC. In addition Chris Fitzsimon, former WRAL reporter,  is head of the liberal NC Policy Watch, the original lead attack group in the Blueprint coalition. Fitzsimon is also provided free airtime on Goodmon owned WRAL-FM from which he launches daily attacks on political opponents. The Fletcher Foundation has been a long time funder of Policy Watch is now housed in the Justice Center.

Wral is also actually doing one of the items in the strategy memo. The memo on page 3 calls for tracking McCrory “Campaign Promises” and “slam him when he contradicts his promise.” WRAL appears to have taken that for action by launching their “Promise Tracker”, complete with cute little “Skull & Crossbones” symbols.

Civitas has previously written about BlueprintNC including this chart back in January 2010 (this contains a handy list for “legislative leaders” who might be interested in groups wishing to “eviscerate” or “cripple” them) . It played a key coordinating role leading up to the 2008 election and its extensive network became evident while investigating the role of ACORN in North Carolina. We also wrote about its role in the news you are getting.

It should also be noted that the Z Smith Reynolds Foundation which has given $425,000 to Blueprint and $2.7 million to the Justice Center which housed Blueprint, was headed succesively by Tom Ross the current UNC system President and Leslie Winner a former Democratic state senator and UNC VP.

Sen. Berger: Council of State Must Vote Down Bad Deal on Dix

The Council of State will meet Tuesday morning at 9:00 and will face a decision of what do with the Dorothea Dix property in Raleigh. Governor Bev Perdue wants the other elected officials on the panel to approve a deal she worked out to allow the city of Raleigh to lease the land for 75 years.  Republicans leaders in the General Assembly say that’s a waste of very valuable land owned by the srtate and are urging the Council of State members not to go along with Perdue’s deal. Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger the nonpartisan Fiscal and Program Evaluation Division estimates the lease deal, after factoring in inflation, is only worth $22.6 million.

“Even Gov. Perdue’s senior advisers readily admit her plan shortchanges North Carolina taxpayers,” said Berger. “I trust the Council of State will carefully weigh this important decision. And I know they understand their responsibility to be more than a rubber stamp for Gov. Perdue and her attempt to cobble together a last-minute legacy.”

Berger says the lease “dramatically” lower than even the most unfavorable appraisal of the property.

Gov Perdue Decides on State-Federal Health Exchange

Governor Bev Perdue today said it was her intent to form a state-federal partnership to run a health exchange under Obamacare. It was one of three choices, the others being a state run exchange or letting the federal government run it. She told a press conference she couldn’t speak for Governor elect Pat McCrory but the incoming executive said he had been talking to Perdue about a decision. Perdue said her decision would give the state a say…

Update: Governor elect Pat McCrory released a statement on Perdue’s announcement.

“Governor Perdue’s decision leaves flexibility for North Carolina in the future when it comes to the delivery of health care. I will be discussing this with more governors today, and will continue those discussions in the coming weeks to ensure the best results for North Carolina.”

Update: Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) issued the following response Thursday to Gov. Beverly Perdue’s press conference declaring her intent to establish a state-federal partnership exchange.

“Let’s set the record straight – it is not necessary or appropriate for Gov. Perdue to prematurely declare her intent to establish a state-federal partnership exchange.  The initial deadline for the state to make this declaration is February 15, 2013 – three months from today.  The voters elected a new legislature and governor last week and policy decisions of this magnitude should be left to them.”

Berger said he thinks it was reasonable for Perdue’s administration to apply for federal grants to keep the state’s options open, as long as it does not frivolously spend the tax dollars until the new leaders determine the next steps.

State House Speaker Tom Thillis spokesman Jordan Shaw sent an email with the Speaker’s position on Perdue’s decision.

Speaker Tillis had a conversation with Gov. Perdue about this latest step in a long process.  He looks forward to working with Governor-elect McCrory, Sen. Berger and other officials over the months ahead to make the best decision for North Carolina taxpayers.

That leaves the door open for the new Governor and the legislature to make the final decision on the health exchange and the possible expansion of Medicaid. Legislative leaders said during the last session of the General Assembly they did not want to expand Medicaid. So those decisions will be important priorities when the new session begins in January.

McCrory had not released a statement at the time this was posted. When he does we will update this post.

NC’s Welfare for Politicians Scheme Beginning to Unravel

A ruling by a federal judge struck a blow to North Carolina’s system of taxpayer-funded political campaigns.

A federal judge struck down part of North Carolina’s public campaign financing system, following in the footsteps of other cases that link political money to free speech.

U.S. District Judge Louise Flanagan issued her ruling Friday after the N.C. Right to Life Committee challenged a state law that gives judicial candidates “rescue funds” when outside political groups spend a certain amount against them.

“The North Carolina matching funds statutes (impose) a substantial burden on the speech of privately financed candidates and independent expenditure groups,” the ruling states.

North Carolina has a similar financing program for Council of State candidates (but the funds for that program are drying up).

Under NC’s program of taxpayer-funded campaigns, “rescue funds” are triggered when a candidate relying solely on voluntary contributions – who is running against a candidate taking taxpayer dollars – raises more money than the taxpayer funded candidate has received from the public campaign fund. The rescue funds are intended to ensure that both candidates have an equal amount of money.

In such a situation, however, if you donate money to candidate X who is relying only on voluntary contributions, that triggers the rescue funds (taxpayer dollars) to his opponent. In short, your donation not only helps the candidate of your preference but also the candidate you oppose.

The court was right to strike down the rescue funds portion of this scheme – and this decision will go a long way toward ridding NC of the unjust practice of using taxpayer dollars to finance political campaigns.

Gov. Perdue Promises to Raise Taxes in Next Budget

Governor Bev Perdue put out a press release announcing she would raise the sales tax in the budget she will present to the General Assembly for the Spring short session. She said that would pay for education cuts in the plan passed by the legislature. Legislative leaders said they haven’t seen the horror stories come true that were predicted by Democrats because of that budget.

A recent article posted on the Civitas Institute noted an increase in spending and hiring within the education budget.

Perdue was quoted in the press release:

“I want to let you know that when I present my budget this spring, I will once again call on the Republican-controlled General Assembly to temporarily restore three-quarters of the one-cent sales tax as a vital step to funding our schools.”

Perdue’s promised tax increase mirrors the same pledge made by Rep. Bill Faison (D-Orange) who appears to be setting himself up for a primary challenge to Perdue. He also called for increasing the sales tax.

Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) pointed that out in a press release reacting to Perdue’s pledge.

“Obviously, Gov. Perdue’s attempt to nip this economic recovery in the bud is dead on arrival at the General Assembly,” said Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger (R-Rockingham). “The Democratic primary for governor apparently has devolved into a fight over who can raise the most taxes, spend the most money, and grow the biggest government. Gov. Perdue’s latest tax-hike stunt proves she can’t fix this mess she made.”

Berger said The Governor seemed to be wanting to one up Faison. Sen. Berger noted while Faison would raise the tax by $700 million, Perdue’s proposal would up it by $750 million.

Update:

House Speaker Thom Tillis (R-Mecklenburg) issued the following statement today regarding Gov. Bev Perdue’s proposal to raise $750 million in new taxes:

“Governor Perdue continues to show that she is out of touch with North Carolinians and lacks a basic understanding of our economy.  Her proposal, which would raise the state portion of the sales tax by an estimated 15%, would make it harder for working families to purchase prepared food, clothing, medical supplies and other basic necessities to support an extreme agenda for larger government.  That is completely unacceptable.  This regressive tax would make it more expensive for single moms to buy carryout food for their children, force seniors to pay more for medical supplies, and would negatively impact every level of society.  Now is not the time to raise taxes, especially in light of the fact that the General Assembly’s education budget was only 0.5% different than the Governor’s – and we did not raise taxes.”