Wake County Leaves Non-Citizens on the Voter Rolls

It sounds as if Jay Delancy of Voter Integrity Project (VIP) was a bit disappointed after the hearing at the Wake County Board of Elections yesterday.  You will remember that VIP had discovered hundreds of “citizens” who claimed to be citizens when they registered to vote and then claimed to be non-citizens when they were called to jury duty in Wake County.  VIP compared the list they received from the Wake County Clerk of Court’s office and matched, to the best of their ability, the names to voters on the rolls.  They then challenged the voter registrations of those people who said they were not citizens to the jury summons and said they were citizens on the voter registration form.

Delancy admitted to being frustrated – and who could blame him?

Laura Leslie (a reporter from WRAL) asked Delancy, “Sir doesn’t the law say that they have to presume (because it’s a constitutional right to vote) they have to presume that these people that they are legit unless there is proof they are not?”  Delancy replied, “If someone provides a document to the clerk of court that they are not a citizen – to me that is proof, but obviously to this board, (Wake County Board of Elections) it is not.

When asked by another reporter, “Why should the average voter (who is a citizen) be concerned about what’s going on?  Delancy answered; “The average voter should be afraid because we have a lot of people walking around North Carolina right now who are not citizens who are registered to vote (we just found a few of them) and the board of elections has made it clear they want to take them on the voter roll – I fear for our elections .”

No doubt, speaking on behalf of that the State Board of Elections, Bob Hall interrupted Delancy’s interview by saying “You have wasted the taxpayer’s time.”  Hall is Director of the ultra-liberal advocacy group Democracy NC and works closely with the State Board of Elections.  He admonished Delancy for researching the voter rolls to find people who are registered illegally and proceeded to suggest possible scenarios as to why the people in question might not be illegal voters.

Hall finally exited Delancy’s interview by saying that “I agree with you, we don’t want citizens to be voting.”  (Hall frequently resorts to silliness when he is talking to someone with whom he disagrees)  Outside of the State Board of Elections, only the old liberal media look to Bob Hall for his opinions.  Hall should read NCGS 163-85, he would see that the statute reads: Any registered voter of the county may challenge the right of any person to register, remain registered or vote in such county. Reporters like Laura Leslie like to call Hall a watchdog,  but really he is just a lapdog for the liberal left and funders like George Soros and even Capitol Broadcasting’s Chairman, Jim Goodmon – reporter Leslie’s boss.

North Carolina’s voter rolls are a mess.  Non-citizens populate the voter list along with the deceased and absolutely no law prevent them from voting.  VIP is doing their best to identify names that should not be on the rolls, both dead and non-citizens.  You see, they must do this work, because the State Board of Elections will not and in doing this work VIP has emabarrased Gary Bartlett, Director of the State Board of Elections – that is why Bob Hall popped into the interview.

And on that note – there is some good news – it looks like the work VIP has done in several counties to identify deceased voters has shamed the Board of Elections into at least looking like they are attempting to look for the deceased in the rolls.  I received the email below yesterday – it’s from the State Board of Elections to the County Board’s Directors.   The email directs the counties to work with a new audit report to identify voters who have died and should be removed.  (The list consists of people who died between 2002 and August 2012).

VIP is making a difference and you can too, don’t let bullies like Bob Hall stop you.

Cowell Facebook Fiasco: More Questions That Demand Answers

As the old saying goes, when looking at politics always follow the money.

Having just scratched the surface looking into the Janet Cowell Facebook fiasco, that’s just what I decided to do. The results are unsurprising, and intriguing.

To recap, North Carolina State Treasurer Janet Cowell invested about $26 million of state pension fund dollars in the Facebook IPO. As we all know by now, Facebook stock has dropped significantly, thus the pension fund has lost an estimated $4 million on that risky investment. The losers in this, of course, are taxpayers who will need to continue to finance the now insufficient pension fund. Cowell, in turn, has decided to join a class action lawsuit against Facebook, and the NC pension fund stands to be the lead plaintiff due to the size of its losses.

But there were some big winners in this ordeal, and certainly some connecting of the dots of the major players in this scenario should raise the eyebrows of government watchdogs, taxpayers, and retired teachers and government employees across the state. Following are the most relevant details:

As reported previously, Erskine Bowles sits on the Board of both Facebook and Morgan Stanley – two companies that were winners in this deal. FB of course raised billions from investors on quite possibly overvalued stock, and Morgan Stanley  earned millions as the chief underwriter of the IPO. As reported in the Wall Street Journal:

The deal was lucrative for the lead underwriters. In large IPOs, it is common for fees to be split relatively evenly between several lead underwriters. On the Facebook deal, Morgan Stanley stands to collect $68 million in fees—38.5% of $176 million slated to go to about 30 underwriters, public filings indicate. J.P. Morgan will get about 20%, and Goldman, 15%

And, in spite of the fact that FB stock prices have plummeted, Morgan Stanley made even more money off of the stock through a practice known as “stabilization.” The Wall Street Journalexplains:

Profits made by banks underwriting Facebook Inc.’s initial public offering as the stock fell were distributed this past week from a pool of about $100 million, say people with knowledge of the deal.

The banks together made the money through a process known as stabilization, which is a standard procedure in IPOs, though Facebook’s deal size made the profits larger than normal, these people said.

……

Stabilization works this way, people familiar with the process say: If investors are selling the stock after the IPO launches, pushing the price lower, bankers can step in and buy shares at the IPO price in an attempt to keep it from falling below its issue price. This also serves to cover their short positions. If a short position remains on their books and the stock keeps falling—which was the case with Facebook on subsequent trading days—the underwriters can continue to cover their short positions by buying back shares at prices below the IPO price, netting a profit.

There is no risk to the banks in this effort. If the stock only trades up, the short position is covered when banks exercise what is known as an overallotment option, buying more shares from the newly public company at the IPO price. The banks don’t lose money, and the new public company makes more money when the overallotment is exercised.

So there was no risk to Morgan Stanley as part of this deal, and in fact the drop in FB stock meant Morgan Stanley was able to make tens of millions more on the deal.

Now recall that Erskine Bowles and his wife hosted a fundraiser for Janet Cowell. Any conflict of interest there? Bowles raises funds for Cowell, then Cowell throws millions at the FB IPO in which Bowles sits on not one but two boards of companies standing to reap millions.

But wait, that’s not all.

Representing the North Carolina pension fund in the lawsuit – and jockeying to become lead counsel in the case – is the firm Bernstein Litowitz Berger & Grossmann. The New York based firm stands to make a lot of money in legal fees if they are chosen lead counsel.

An examination of political contributions to Janet Cowell’s campaign since 2008 courtesy of the NC State Board of Elections shows that employees of Bernstein have donated nearly $75,000 to Cowell in the last two elections cycles.

Interestingly, the donations include three in-kind donations for room/lodging in New Orleans. The contributor of this in-kind donation is Anthony Gelderman III, who is highlighted in this 2004 Forbes article as one who has “used political ties to turn Louisiana’s pension funds into a profit center for his New York law firm, Bernstein Litowitz.” Indeed, the article discusses a previous class action suit in which Bernstein tried to bill its clients (including major public pension funds) more than $10,000 per hour. The article also notes that Bernstein’s business model seems to include cozying up to politicians and then leverage that relationship for lucrative class action suits:

Despite its New York roots, Bernstein Litowitz is especially influential in Louisiana. The state’s public pension funds have retained the firm for at least 15 class actions. Bernstein Litowitz has contributed more than $90,000 to Louisiana politicians since 1996. It gave $38,000 last year, 83% of its contributions nationally.

Now it appears they are bringing that shady practice to North Carolina.

Every step in this story involves the politically-connected (Bowles/Morgan Stanley, Bernstein Litowitz) reaping major financial rewards, with taxpayers and perhaps NC state retirees on the hook. And Janet Cowell is squarely in the middle of it.

This whole Facebook fiasco begs a number of questions:

  • Was the risky Facebook investment a quid pro quo deal between Cowell and Bowles?
  • What about the selection of Bernstein as counsel in the class action suit, given their generous donations and cozy relationship with Cowell?
  • What was Cowell doing in Louisiana multiple times in the last few years?
  • What is a New York based law firm with much of its business in Louisiana doing donating to the North Carolina State Treasurer, if not sniffing an opportunity to someday milk the pension fund for outlandish legal fees by representing the fund in a class action suit?
  • Will NC taxpayers be on the hook for $10,000 an hour legal fees?
  • Should retired teachers and state and local government employees be comfortable with how their pension is being managed?
  • Does anybody else see any conflict of interests in this whole ordeal?

State and local government retirees – and taxpayers –  deserve some answers.

UPDATE: This original post included an erroneous spreadhseet of Bernstein, Litowitz Berger & Grossmann employees’ contributions to Cowell – it mistakenly listed several donations from earlier election cycles twice. The total came to nearly $100,000. The corrected spreadsheet is now available at the link provided above, and reflects what should be the correct total amount of nearly $75,000. Civitas regrets the error.

What NC’s Tax Free Weekend Can Teach Us

Tax-free weekend is fast approaching! If you’re in dire need of pencils, the weekend of August 3-5 holds much promise for you. Fear not, though, more than pencils will be free from our state and local sales tax, which ranges from 6.75 to 7.25 percent depending on the county in which you reside. Clothing, computers, and even some sports equipment will be exempt, among other selective items pertaining to “back to school” needs.

The media always seems to be excited when North Carolina’s weekend without a sales tax comes around. Story after story encourages parents and consumers in general to take advantage of the wondrous event. And, don’t get me wrong; it is a good event. I’ll probably be out there with everyone else, buying pencils for my final semester of college.

This coming tax-free weekend got me thinking, though. What underlying economic reality emerges during the blissful weekend? People become rather excited about the notion of purchasing goods in the marketplace while not being coerced by the government to pay a pesky sales tax. That is a cause for some excitement. It seems that, in today’s era of big government, every activity (even some inactivity, sadly) is liable to be taxed. While most of us realize that the government’s taxing power is a legitimate function, that legitimate function has been used to the max, taking away too much of our money with increased frequency and intensity. With that in mind, there should be no confusion as to why people become excited about a tax-free weekend.

But, perhaps we can take away an even larger, more significant truth from our state’s tax-free weekend. What does the event imply about the relationship between consumer participation in the economy and taxes? It seems to suggest that people are incentivized to enter the marketplace and spend their money when the tax burden (even a seemingly small burden of 6.75 percent) is removed. Imagine that! People will typically spend more money while engaging in economic activity when they know they will not be taxed. Politicians should take note.

People really don’t like taxes. And when those taxes are nullified, even for a weekend, consumers respond, spurning greater economic participation and, if stretched over the long run, economic growth.

Our great nation and state remain mired in difficult economic times. Perhaps our elected officials should consider the reaction of consumers during a tax-free weekend to find solutions to our economic malaise. Taxes have the tendency to discourage economic activity, whereas reducing or eliminating taxes have the power to do just the opposite.

So, when you are out buying pencils for your young scholar or scholars during this coming tax-free weekend, think about the incentives and disincentives taxes (or, lack thereof) have on economic growth and prosperity.

NOTE: The original post only mentioned the state-imposed segment of the sales tax of 4.75, however the sales tax holiday applies to both the state and local sales taxes.

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.

Dead People and Non-Citizens Can Vote in NC – Do They?

Project Veritas, an organization formed by James O’keefe, paid a visit to North Carolina during the May 8 primary.  Watch the video to see discussions with non-citizens who are registered to vote in NC, UNC leaders and Board of Elections officials.  James O’Keefe is famous for exposing ACORN and formed Project Veritas, a 501(c)(3)organization, with the mission to “investigate and expose corruption, dishonesty, self-dealing, waste, fraud, and other misconduct.  As of late they have focused on election integrity and the voting processes in several states.

NC Democrat Party Leader Accused of Sexual Harassment Resigns

North Carolina Democratic Party executive director Jay Parmley was accused of sexual harassment by former male staff member Adriadn Ortega. Ortega left the party after the incident. Ortega has not returned calls and has blocked access to his Linkedin Network site. The Daily Caller published quotes from a chain of emails discussing the situation but didn’t name the victim. Ortega was well known and well liked within Republican circles because he attended several GOP events for the Democratic Party.  Republican officials saw him as a respectful and good person.

As mentioned in the Daily Caller Ortega and the Party reached a financial settlement so Ortega would not pursue an official complaint. The amount has not been disclosed nor has the source of funds for the settlement. Democratic Party Communications Director Walton Robinson also didn’t return email or phone contacts with us.

But the sexual harassment is apparently just part of the problem within the Democratic Party. The same chain of email shows the anger a member of the Democratic Party Executive Committee had toward the leadership at party headquarters in the Goodwin House on Hillsborough Street. Watt Jones expressed his frustration to Party Chairman David Parker. Jones complained about an atmosphere that led to some staffers leaving for various reasons.

Parker replied “campaigns frequently poach the most qualified Party staff during primaries. This year is no exception.   I am delighted that several have moved to greener pastures. I am also delighted that the Staff that remains are resisting better paying offers and entreaties to go elsewhere.

Our earned media is the best I have seen in the 21 years that I have been on the Executive Council.  I credit Walton and his dedication to the NCDP for that. We interviewed for that position from both inside NC and out. I stand by him.  Our ability to win legislative seats in the Fall may depend on his assertiveness and responses.  I value his advice highly.

Let’s get on with the business of whipping Republicans and setting our beloved State right again!!!”

Jones expressed special frustration with Robinson and how he has handled his job as spokesman and filed an official complaint against him. Jones also was concerned about “outsiders” coming to work with the North Carolina Democratic Party including Robinson.

Robinson shot back.

Next time you want to call for someone’s job, please at least have the guts to do it to  their face. I find it personally disgusting that you would attempt to put me in the unemployment line and then turn around and talk about fairness.
> You do not know me personally so it is impossible for you to know what I personally care about or hold dear. North Carolina is now my home and I fully intend to be here and help improve North Carolina and get Democrats elected across the state.
> Perhaps you should not assume that you know me or how I feel about things—it makes your calls for “fairness” look less than genuine.
> Thanks,
> Walton Robinson

This is clearly going to become a big distraction for the Democratic Party in the middle of important campaigns.

Update: Parmley submitted his resignation and Party Chairman David Parker accepted it over the weekend.

Upset About UNC Tuition Hikes? Here’s a Free Economics Lesson

Here is a free economics lesson for these college students protesting proposed tuition hikes.

The price of a good or service (such as tuition and fees for college) is set where supply equals demand. When that price is allowed to be set in a free, competitive market, the price will bring into harmony these factors.

But when government interferes with the function of the price system, we get shortages, excess inventory and – as in this case – skyrocketing prices. Much like our government-managed health care industry, the market for a college education is highly distorted by government subsidies to the schools, direct student aid, and cheap government loans.

These factors artificially inflate demand, and create a sizable wedge between what the consumers (students) pay for the product and the income taken in by the producers of that product (the universities). The inevitable result is skyrocketing prices completely out of line with true consumer demand. These rising prices arise in large part because universities can “invest” in greater and greater amount of inputs that create little value to the consumer (i.e. duplicative and little-sought after degree programs or “research centers”).

But when part of that revenue stream (ie. state subsidy) takes a small dip, the universities scramble to hike the price because they don’t feel any real need cut back on inefficient expenses, knowing that the subsidies will once again rise and that other government programs like direct student aid and cheap federal loans will keep flowing in the near future, because politicians must “do something” about the rising cost of tuition. The whole process plays itself out in a never-ending upward spiral of tuition while the quality of the product declines.

The protesters would be much more effective if they first understood the root causes of skyrocketing tuition.

SC Attorney General: Hundreds of Dead Citizens Have Voted in Recent Elections

According to South Carolina’s Republican Attorney General,  recent South Carolina elections have featured hundreds of dead citizens voting. From the AP:

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) – South Carolina’s attorney general has notified the U.S. Justice Department of potential voter fraud.

Attorney General Alan Wilson sent details of an analysis by the Department of Motor Vehicles to U.S. Attorney Bill Nettles.

In a letter dated Thursday, Wilson says the analysis found 953 ballots cast by voters listed as dead. In 71 percent of those cases, ballots were cast between two months and 76 months after the people died. That means they “voted” up to 6 1/3 years after their death.

The letter doesn’t say in which elections the ballots were cast.

The analysis came out of research for the state’s new voter identification law. The U.S. Justice Department denied clearance of that law.

Wilson told Nettles he asked the State Law Enforcement Division to investigate.

This follows an explosive video from New Hampshire which demonstrated the ease with which potential voter fraud can occur without voter ID.

But remember folks-Voter ID requirements are a solution in search of a problem.

Public Teachers Now Covered with Statewide Liability Insurance

Many public school employees joined such organizations as the North Carolina Association of Educators (NCAE)  mainly for the classroom liability insurance. They had dues automatically deducted from their paychecks to pay for it. But beginning in September of 2011 a new statewide insurance policy went into effect for those employees and it is free. That new policy is not widely known.

Representative Dale Folwell (R-Forsyth) worked to get the new policy into the budget. He says grouping all of those employees into one pool reduced the cost. Folwell says public school employees also no longer have to join a group to get the insurance and it saves local districts…

At the same time lawmakers approved the statewide insurance they passed legislation to eliminate the state’s involvement in automatically deducting certain organization’s dues from paychecks. Gov. Perdue vetoed the legislation, but the legislature overrode her veto a couple of weeks ago. The NCAE filed a lawsuit to keep the deductions and that is currently working through the court system.

Folwell says the legislature didn’t receive much praise from the education system for giving teachers free insurance…