Government Lobbying Government Part 2

“No man’s life, liberty or property is safe when the legislature is in session.” – Mark Twain.

The N.C. General Assembly is back in session. At least they were for a day. The assembly officially convened their 2015-2016 “long session” Jan. 14, then recessed for two weeks. In those two weeks, most of the legislators will hold fundraising events, just as they did in the days before the session opened. It’s never too early to start collecting money for the next election.

One of the first actions in the House of Representatives was a unanimous bipartisan vote to elect Rep. Tim Moore (R- Clevland) speaker. That will probably be the only unanimous bipartisan vote of the session.

Most of the members of the General Assembly were sworn in Jan. 14, all except for Rep. Edgar Starnes (R-Caldwell) who took the oath early – so he could resign before the session convened to accept a job with the state treasurer’s office. Starnes was slated to be the House majority leader.

“I am not a lobbyist,” Starnes said. “I am a legislative liaison.”

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Government Lobbying Government

Wake County will pay a former county manager and state legislature $100,000 to lobby in the General Assembly. The lobbyist, former state Sen. Richard Stevens, spent 16 years working for the county and ten years in the legislature. They’re also going to pay $110,000 for an “intergovernmental relations manager.”

In other words, our elected commissioners will use taxpayer money to pay a former elected official to convince current elected officials to give more taxpayer money – including money from people in other counties – to Wake. Does that seem right? Isn’t that what we elect commissioners to do?

This redistribution of your tax money within the governing class is a prime example of the revolving door politics pervading all levels of government.

One commissioner’s comments illustrate this illogical thinking. Jessica Holmes said that education was a priority, and wants the county to request a statewide raise in teacher pay. Why didn’t any commissioner suggest using the $200,00 for education? Or one of the other programs local official are always complaining don’t get sufficient funding from the state. They could even have done something really radical and returned the money to the hard-working people who earned it.

Note: This was published as a letter to the editor in the News & Observer. The newspaper agrees with me. Read their editorial which ran alongside the letter.

Fewer Ethics Rules and More Ethical People

Gov. Pat McCroy’s claim that he made an honest mistake by not listing his Duke Energy stock ownership on the ethics form the state requires him to file does not pass the smell test. The governor claimed that he, and his attorney, “misread” the 11 page disclosure form.

In that case, I suggest the governor get a new lawyer who can understand plain English. In Section I, page 2, the form (check it here on the News & observer website) clearly asks for information “as of December 31.”

It’s ironic that the same politicians who create these long-winded and incomprehensible forms themselves always claim they don’t understand them when caught making a mistake. If our elected leaders don’t understand the rules they enacting, perhaps they should rethink the rules?

The governor may have made a honest mistake. And this may only be a minor issue. After all, McCrory’s connection to Duke Energy is no great secret.

What North Carolina aren’t more rules and bureaucratic barriers to deter and prevent ordinary citizens form running for office. What we need are fewer rules, and less bureaucracy so that the average man or woman can run for office without having to open up every aspect of his or her private life to government scrutiny.

We don’t need more ethics rules, but more ethical people.

Libertarians see opportunity in rising voter discontent

brad_hesselThe Libertarian Party of North Carolina’s new executive director believes the growing public dissatisfaction with the government in general and the “two-party” system in particular offers a new opportunity to move public policy in a more libertarian direction.

“As the Democrats and Republicans move us relentlessly down the road to hell, kicking the can as we go, more and more Americans can feel the heat rising,” said Brad Hessel, who was appointed last month.

Hessel said the advent of the Tea Party, the Occupy Wall Street Movement and, in North Carolina, the growth rate of unaffiliated voters, which is dramatically outstripping that of Democrats and Republicans, are evidence of this discontent.

“These are all signs that most Americans believe something is very, very wrong with our political system,” he said.

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Public-private partnership is not privatization

Leaving aside the observation that the term “public-private” partnership is an oxymoron, the fact is that such an arrangement is merely a cover for corporate welfare.

The proposal by Gov. Pat McCrory’s Department of Commerce to “privatize” several functions is a case in point. Republicans either are afraid to stand up for the values they supposedly believe in, or do not understand what “private” means. (“Speed, sweep of NC Commerce restructuring raise concerns,” News & Observer, Dec. 6)

Using “authority” supposedly granted in a brief, vaguely worded section in the budget bill – and guidelines in a bill that did not even pass the General Assembly – Commerce Secretary Sharon Decker created a public-private partnership called the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina.

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Pension spiking is corruption

Once again, the News and Observer has performed an admirable public service by exposing the exorbitant salaries being paid to select state government employees and the manipulation of the law to increase their pensions.

In a series called Checks without balances, the N&O detailed how four community college presidents, two housing authority directors, and a Town of Cary “tennis pro” collected tens of thousands of dollars in perks and benefits in a scheme designed to circumvent salary caps.

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Politicians distort the plain meaning of words

So N.C. Republicans have finally agreed on which Ponzi scheme they’re going to use to con North Carolinians into thinking they’re cutting taxes.

Yippie.

Democrats, predictably, are screaming about how this plan will hurt “the poor” and reward “the rich.” Even some conservatives, to their credit, see the sham.

But everyone is taking about the issue in Newspeak.

Republican and Democrat politicians don’t speak the same language as everyday folk. Listen to how they talk about tax “cuts.” They maintain government “loses” money through “loopholes” and tax exemptions. The implication is clear. You don’t own the money you earn. How else could government lose something it doesn’t own?

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Libertarians oppose welfare for (Met)Life

RALEIGH (April 18) – The awarding of nearly $100 million in “corporate incentives” to MetLife, one of the largest insurance companies in the world, is a classic example of state and local governments playing the game of Reverse Robin Hood, robbing from the rich to give to the poor, a state Libertarian Party spokesman said in a statement today.

J.J. Summerell, Libertarian Party of North Carolina chair, said the party denounces all such corporate welfare as fiscally irresponsible and the practices should be stopped immediately.

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Durham should privatize forensic analysis

Durham should leave behind a “broken system” and turn over forensic analysis to a private lab, rather than hiring State Bureau of Investigation analysts, said the chair of the Durham-Orange Libertarian Party.

“The purpose of a crime lab is to objectively analyze forensic evidence from a crime scene in order to produce an unbiased assessment of the facts,” wrote Jason Melehani in an op ed published in the Durham Herald-Sun. “Unfortunately, government-operated crime labs present a serious and direct conflict of interest in administering justice.”

Melehani noted that an independent investigation by two former FBI agents requested by state Attorney General Roy Cooper uncovered gross corruption in the SBI lab which lead to the execution of three innocent men. The investigation found more than 230 cases over a 16-year period that were manipulated unfairly to produce results intended to help secure convictions.

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The real misbehavior was who paid for the trip

The real misbehavior that occurred when a group of Congress members visited Israel last year was who paid for the trip, not what they did.

The real misbehavior that occurred during this Congressional junket wasn’t that a Kansas represented allegedly went skinny-dipping in the Sea of Galilee. I’m sure that’s been done before.

The real misbehavior is that these supposed representatives of the people were on a junket paid for by a lobbyist group. According to Politico.com, the trip was paid for by the American Israel Educational Foundation, a group related to the prominent pro-Israel advocacy group AIPAC.

These Congressman were supposedly on a fact-finding mission, yet they were staying in a $1,000 a night hotel. Rep. Renee Ellmers told WTVD news that they were ‘working hard.’ If the work was so hard, why was her husband along? And what facts could they possibly find about anything related to their Constitutional duties in a luxury hotel?

I’m sure the donation was all legally reported, and least according to the very loose rules Congress writes for itself. So technically it can’t be called a bride. Since all the Congressman are already avid supporters of Israel, perhaps the lavish trip could be called more of a “reward” than a bride.

Either way, anyone with any common sense recognizes that such a gift is wrong. But as the eminent American philosopher Will Rogers once observed, “Common sense ain’t so common.” Especially not in Congress.

Anyway, Rep. Yoder probably just thought he could walk on water. After all, most Congress members think they have the power to do anything. This trip is a perfect example.

The mainstream media, political pundits, and late night comedians will undoubtedly delight in focusing on Yoder’s antics, and divert the public’s attention from the real outrage – the arrogance and abuse of power by elected elites.