15 to watch in 2015 – NC Spin

No matter how good the crystal ball, it is impossible to predict what will happen in 2015. Perhaps it will be easier to identify the people likely to either make or respond to North Carolina news events.

Governor Pat McCrory took a more active legislative role in 2014, frequently butting heads with Senate leadership. This year he needs to pass Medicaid reform, a transportation and infrastructure package and lead from the center, without alienating either his conservative base or independents, in preparing for his 2016 re-election campaign.

Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger, arguably the most powerful politician in North Carolina, is likely to flex his muscles in 2015. Berger doesn’t mind taking firm positions and negotiates grudgingly. Will he be the roadblock or dealmaker? House Speaker Tim Moore is not widely known, so it will be interesting to see if he sides with the governor, the Senate or becomes an independent voice. (Source: Read more)

Virtual charter schools have serious financial and academic questions – NC Spin

Despite major concerns and numerous unanswered questions, a special committee appointed by the State Board of Education recently recommended approval of both applicants seeking to create virtual charter schools in North Carolina. While the concept of introducing more technology into classrooms is almost universally lauded, virtual charter schools are a relatively new concept in which children take courses online on a computer at home and spend no time in a brick-and-mortar classroom.

The committee’s members may have been unsure if they were authorized to block either applicant even if they felt the school would fail students. A provision slipped into the General Assembly’s budget this past summer directed the State Board of Education to open two virtual charter school pilot programs and at present there are only two applicants. (Source: Read more)

Online BS – NC Spin

An outfit called Verifeed says “social conversations” on Twitter helped Thom Tillis beat Kay Hagan. Put me down as a skeptic.

You hear a lot of sweeping claims about how social media is transforming politics. The acolytes can drown you in numbers about “clicks” and “reads” and “open rates.” But is there hard evidence that all this moves votes?

If there is, please share it.

WRAL’s Mark Binker is another skeptic. He posted the story on Facebook and said, “Posting this mainly because I think it’s wrong. For Twitter to be a place where a race is won or lost, wouldn’t it need to be a more persuasive medium? My window into the platform is that people are sharing news, jokes, etc… but there’s not a whole lot of persuasion going on. Tell me why I’m wrong. (Seriously, I don’t buy the argument in this piece but I think there might be one to be made.)” (Source: Read more)

Sequestration Could Cost NC Thousands of Jobs – NC Spin

It is estimated there are 30,000 civilian employees at Fort Bragg, Camp LeJeune, Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, Cherry Point Marine Corps Air Station and the Coast Guard Air Station. These jobs are not only vital to those employees but also essential to our state’s economy. Unless something happens before December 31, we stand to lose as many as 20,000 of those jobs. (More)

SPINCycle for September 23, 2010

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Welcome to this week`s edition of SPINCycle.

This week on NC SPIN we’ll ask our panel to discuss the Congressional elections, whether current laws are too restrictive regarding new political parties, whether our state’s policies concerning sandbags and jetties are clear and correct and the seriousness of the drought many counties are experiencing.

This week’s panel includes:  Chris Fitzsimon, Director of NC Policy Watch; Becki Gray, columnist for Carolina Journal; John Hood, President of the John Locke Foundation and Cash Michaels, columnist for Wilmington Journal. Tom Campbell will moderate the discussion.

We can avoid the lawsuits, bad relations and restrictions metro Atlanta has experienced if we will address our water issues now.  Check out this week’s column “
Water: Our Most Important Issue”.

Heard on the Street

Saying goodbye
Since 2003, we have published a weekly e-mail newsletter for followers of NC SPIN. It has been a labor of love. As time passed, the content and length of this newsletter has grown, as have the number of subscribers. More than 4,000 receive our letter each week and we are thankful. You have honored us with your time and attention over the years.

At times we have been controversial, hopefully interesting and perhaps humorous, more often than not wordy, and occasionally wrong. We hope we have corrected our mistakes when they happened. We have broken news stories on many, many occasions and for that we are proud. We have been praised and criticized, even threatened once or twice. Through it all we have loved communicating with you each week.

This will be the last edition of this version of the newsletter and I wanted you to know the reasons behind its termination. Your reporter has aged both literally and figuratively, having officially moved into senior citizen status this summer. This newsletter now requires about a half-day of my personal time and several hours of staff time each week. I am not complaining, but we receive no compensation for it. We’ve never asked to sell you a subscription or for contributions to support this effort.

Having been in the broadcasting and public affairs game for over 46 years I now want to cut back just a bit.  My pastor spouse, Lib, is now working three days a week and I would like more time with her. Also, I think I have a book in me and would like to see if fewer deadlines might help me finish it. I am convinced a fettered mind does not lend itself to creative work. NC SPIN, which is totally funded by underwriter support, cannot afford to hire a researcher and writer to continue the newsletter.

Rest assured I have no plans to reduce my efforts for NC SPIN TV and radio, believing the need for an independently produced talk show that focuses on state issues is more needed now than ever.

Our relationship, hopefully, isn’t over. I still intend to feed you tidbits, gossip, opinions and news stories whenever we run into them. But we will using the new social media that is so popular these days. Look for us on our blog site NCBlogger.com or on Facebook. I am going to be asking our NC SPIN panelists to provide conversation on topics each week to make the discussion more interesting. Who knows, you might like it more than the current format.

You can subscribe just as you have done our newsletter by filling in the box on the right side of the site with your e-mail address. Each time we post a comment you will be notified. Even better, there is more chance for you to respond to our blog and have it available for others to read.

So let’s not stop the conversation. Just look for us next week on ncblogger.com

I am eternally thankful and humbled by your great loyalty and attention.

Tom Campbell, publisher

UNC appeals penalties
The UNC football program has been under investigation, both by the NCAA and the school. The team has withheld 13 players from games this year due to the investigations. Wednesday the NCAA issued sanctions for two players. Cornerback Kendric Burney, who received $1,333 in benefits, is to be required to sit out six games and pay back $575.19 to a charity of his choice. Deunta Williams, a safety, received $1,426 in benefits and will be required to miss four games and pay $450.67 to his favorite charity. Oh, the first two games they already missed count against that suspension.

UNC Athletic Director Dick Baddour says the penalties are too harsh and is appealing the decision to the NCAA. Never mind that the appeal won’t likely be successful, Baddour and the university are sending the wrong message. Players who break the rules should have consequences for their actions.

It would send a message to all college athletes if the NCAA penalty was even stiffer, like suspension for the entire season.

We still don’t know the fate of 10 players who have been withheld or the results of the internal investigation Carolina has undertaken regarding improper actions surrounding tutors. Let’s hope.

What do you think? We’ve written our thoughts on our blog ncblogger.com and now we would invite you to respond. Send us your reactions and we will post them.

And look for a discussion on this topic next week on NC SPIN.

College spending under the microscope
There’s no disputing the escalating costs of tuition at colleges and universities across the country. Tuition in the $30-40,000 per year range is not uncommon in private colleges and universities but even publicly supported schools have experienced dramatic increases.

Where is all this money going? Is the value of higher education increasing at the same rate costs are rising? A new book, “Higher education? How Colleges Are Wasting Our Money and Failing Our Kids and What We Can Do About It”, examines the subject and reports that colleges are not spending their increased revenues in ways that benefit students. Tuition is now $40 billion a year higher than in 1980.

Andrew Hacker, on the faculty at Queens College, and Claudia Dreifus, from Columbia University, are authors of this new book, saying that much of the increase goes to athletics. There are now 629 colleges with football teams, 132 more than in 1980. All but 14, according to the book, lose money. The number of women’s sports programs has soared. Women’s soccer teams have increased from 80 to 956 since 1980. Few sports programs are revenue producers. Varsity golf at Duke, the book says, costs an estimated $20,000 per player. So the $40,000 plus tuition at Duke helps fund two golfers?

Administration costs have risen dramatically. Since 1980, the number of administrators on college campuses has doubled, almost matching the number of faculty. How much value can there be in a senior specialist of assessment, director for learning communities, assistant dean of students for substance education or director of knowledge access services? Colleges claim folks like these are necessary, but they add to the cost of education.

And let us not forget faculty salaries. While pay in most sectors of the U.S. economy rose about 5 percent since 1980, full-time faculty members at Yale now average $129,400 (up 64 percent in inflation-adjusted dollars from 1980). At Stanford, faculty salaries are up 83 percent, with tenure-track professors now pulling down $153,900 per year.

We must pay these high salaries, we are told, to attract the top talent. But a close examination shows these folks are not in the classroom as much, having negotiated frequent leave packages and smaller teaching loads.

And the pay for presidents is double what it was in 1991. The authors say there is no evidence that the pay of the president has any influence on the quality of education. Most of their duties are now public relations and fund raising. At Vanderbilt University, in Nashville, it requires the tuition of 31 students to pay the $1.2 million a year salary of the president.

This book is compelling reading and a compelling topic for a future NC SPIN. You can learn more about the book and read the authors’ blog.

Dalton for Guv?
Lt. Governor Walter Dalton is quietly making telephone calls to major Democratic donors across the state weighing a potential campaign primary challenge against embattled Governor Beverly Perdue. We hear some of the talks are fruitful, with major donors backing away from Perdue, who has historically low voter approval ratings. We understand that Dalton is telling his team he will wait to see where things end up in November, but will begin moving shortly after the first of the year if he plans to move forward with plans to take on a sitting Governor.

To groin, jetty or just sandbag
How long have we been having the conversation about what to do about erosion on waterfront property in our state? Property owners have long wanted permanent groins or jetties, but regulators and environmentalists have just as strongly opposed the action, saying there is not hard proof that they really work and plenty of evidence these structures might impact a property owner downstream. We allowed sandbags, but only on a temporary basis. The Coast Resources Commission has been nothing if not confusing about their policy on beach erosion and the legislature, at least the Senate, seems to be yielding to wealthy property owners who are lobbying hard for groins. We’ll talk about this issue this week on NC SPIN.

Victory Mosques?
One of the reasons we enjoy politics so much is that interesting people do interesting things. Take the new cable ad by candidate Renee Ellmers, trying to unseat 2nd District Congressman Bob Etheridge. The first ad of her campaign speaks of Muslims erecting victory mosques following victories in great battles. That’s exactly what the proposed mosque near ground zero in New York is to be, the ad says. And where is Congressman Bob Etheridge in this debate over whether or not to put a mosque at ground zero?

At first blush this is a laughable. The whole concept is pretty bizarre. Are there really such things as victory mosques? What do mosques in New York have to do with the 2nd Congressional District of North Carolina? And what influence could Bob Etheridge have on this issue? More importantly, how does this help us believe that Renee Ellmers could be better in Congress than Etheridge?

She has plenty of ammunition she could use against Bob, stuff that might even resonate and differentiate her candidacy from his. Take his votes on health care, the federal relief funding and other instances where he sided with President Obama. These are issues voters in the 2nd might care about. But victory mosques?

We have seen stranger things, however. Like the long-remembered visual of the aircraft carrier going through the canal and John East’s harangue about how Senator Robert Morgan (also from Harnett County) singlehandedly gave away the Panama Canal. It worked. Who knows, maybe this will also.

One thing is sure. Ellmers got publicity for her campaign (good or bad) and that is something that she hasn’t been very successful in doing.

You can hear a complete summary of the Congressional races in this year’s elections on this week’s NC SPIN. Be sure to tune in.

Goodwin goes to Washington
NC Insurance Commissioner Wayne Goodwin got plenty of attention yesterday, including some personal praise from the prez. Goodwin was in Washington for a meeting of Insurance Commissioners. The Obama team is looking for some good news to highlight and picked up on our state’s negotiation with Blue Cross, subsequent refunds of $155 million to customers and lower than anticipated rate increases for the year. President Obama seized on this story to indicate how his health reforms are already working and on several instances praised Goodwin by name.
Read the biz buzz blog.

Nonprofits under fire
The Great Recession has impacted our non-profit organizations severely, as donors are holding onto dollars. The NC Center for Nonprofits has been a valuable tool to help these organizations through the years, but Jack Betts, columnist for the Charlotte Observer, reports that they have just released a helpful piece of 9 challenges facing nonprofits. Betts lists them in his
“This Old State” blog. Worth reading.

Drunks off the roads
Drivers under the influence kill people, cause wrecks and all citizens pay for their actions through law enforcement officers, court costs, even jail costs. Too often a slap on the wrist and a small fine are their punishment. North Carolina just hasn’t decided to get drunks off the roads.

Nationwide, more than 140,000 people charged with driving under the influence have been forced to wear ankle bracelets that monitor their sweat every half-hour to determine if they have been drinking. North Carolina doesn’t think that’s an effective tool, according to a state panel. The NC Administrative Office of the Courts has opposed using the bracelets for repeat offenders because they are too pricey for some offenders and don’t prevent anyone from driving drunk.

Too pricey? Those who wear them are required to pay $12 per day. Let’s get this right. They can afford to buy alcohol but can’t pay for a bracelet? They can increase costs to taxpayers by their actions but $12 a day out of their pockets is too much? And on, it cannot prevent them from driving drunk but we will know if they are still drinking and require treatment for them.

Here’s the question to AOC. If you don’t like the bracelets, what is your solution to getting drunks off our highways, cause what we’ve been doing isn’t working.

Pardon our rant but we are fed up with repeat offenders killing our residents and costing taxpayers money. You can be sure we’re gonna talk about this on NC SPIN.

First time jobless claims signal bad news
Just as economists have been trying to convince us the recession is over, the Labor Department has released statistics that prove otherwise. New unemployment claims rose to 465,000 last week. While still below the 600,000 weekly claims in June 2009 the figure surprised many who had thought the nation’s economic picture was getting better. One reason for the weekly increase was the number of census workers who were laid off because of completion of the census.

Swindell Campaign Draws Critical Fire for Buck Newton Attack Mailer
State Senator A.B. Swindell’s campaign is under the media microscope for sending out a campaign direct mail flyer alleging that his Republican opponent Buck Newton had been arrested on drug charges 20 years ago when he was at ASU in Boone. But the opposition research folks working for Swindell’s camp never caught the fact that the charges were dropped and the District Attorney had written a letter stating this fact, a letter that the Newton camp is parading around to media outlets in the Wilson/Nash District as well as with the Capitol Press Corp.

This is a big mistake for Swindell in a campaign where he can’t afford any mistakes. Recent public polls have shown Swindell in a neck-to-neck race with Newton.  Now, Swindell is on the defensive and that’s the last place he wants to be going into the final weeks of the campaign.  No word on who sent the mailer out, the disclaimer said the flyer was paid by the NC Democratic Party and authorized by Senator Swindell.

We don’t want to be Atlanta
The Atlanta Metro area, like North Carolina, has seen a rapid increase in population growth. Like our state, they have also experienced hot, dry summers. Leaders in the region turned their heads to the growing water crisis for too many years, resulting in 6 major lawsuits, angry relations between counties and cities, severe water restrictions and stymied economic growth.

The warning signals were ignored. Will North Carolina ignore the same signals? It is time we had some frank discussions about water in this state before our problems reach the crisis levels experienced in Atlanta and other areas of our country.

NC SPIN’s day-long conference, NC H20, features a group of North Carolina’s best experts on water issues, talking about the issues and proposing some viable solutions to them. This conference is open to the public, however seats are filling rapidly.

If you want to hear the problems and explore the solutions, you need to register now. Registration is $60 and group discounts are available.

Read more in this week’s My Spin, “Water: Our Most Important Issue.”

Claire Cox-Woodlief, Editor
Tom Campbell, Publisher

NC SPIN`s facebook page

SPINCycle for August 19, 2010

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Welcome to this week`s edition of SPINCycle.

This week depending on where you tune in, two different programs will air.  Due to some mix up’s, WRAL and WFMY did not air our special edition of NC SPIN last week which included a discussion between Reverend William Barber and John Tedesco regarding school assignment and student achievement.  This show also included regular panelists John Hood and Chris Fitzsimon.  This show is too important for you to miss, so we have asked them to air it this week.

All other stations will air a program where we will talk about the investigation into the State Bureau of Investigation, look at November’s elections to tell you what to expect, talk about the recently released end of grade test scores to see if real progress is being made and ask our panel whether all this stimulus money has really helped North Carolina.  This program will include political consultant, Brad Crone; Chris Fitzsimon, Director of NC Policy Watch; John Hood, President of the John Locke Foundation and former House Speaker, Joe Mavretic.  This show will be moderated by Tom Campbell.

Both of these shows can also be viewed and heard by visiting our website www.ncspin.com where you can either hear the radio version or video stream the show.

Tom Campbell`s Spin
It is time for adults to resolve the dispute about school assignment plans.  Read this week’s column “
School Assignment”.

Heard on the Street

Attorney General Facing Mounting Legislative Pressure
Will Roy Cooper be able to put his finger in the dike to protect the tarnished SBI Crime Lab?  There’s mounting pressure from a coalition of legislators to move the SBI Crime Lab out from under the supervision of the Attorney General and put it in an independent office such as a Special Superior Court Judge at the Administrative Office of the Courts.  Powerful Representative Mickey Michaux has fired the warning shot – noting that the Black Legislative Caucus and liberal Democrats are demanding accountability. Cooper is already smarting from his bitter legislative fight with the same group over DNA Testing.  The Black Legislative Caucus and the liberal Democrats are using the negative press about the sloppy results at the SBI Crime Lab as further evidence to show the SBI can’t be trusted to handle DNA evidence obtained from suspects facing minor charges – not to mention major felony cases including murder suspects.

It’s unlikely that Cooper will win the fight to keep the labs under his supervision, Cooper will have bigger fish to fry – trying to repair his reputation and protect his political flank from a potential run by Republican U.S. George Holding, who wore out the SBI and Attorney General in press clipping last week. That was the opening shot in the 2012 Campaign. We understand that Holding is being recruited by the GOP to challenge Cooper and point to his record of fighting corruption in state government, sending Democrats and Republicans to federal prison.

We Stand Corrected
Heard on the Street incorrectly reported last week that Capstrat had done business with the Governor’s Highway Safety Program on their seat belt safety campaigns and drunk driving enforcement efforts. That’s not the case we have been told by officials at DOT. We apologize. We also learned that Capstrat has represented the Health and Wellness Trust Fund on their anti-smoking initiatives.

The story remains that Democratic legislators are asking state contractors to raise money after the Democrats blocked efforts to pass ethics reform legislation that prohibits candidates for the General Assembly and state offices to solicit campaign cash from people who do business with the state.

Heard on the Street understands GOP Senator Phil Berger said he would support a special session of the Legislature to pass the bill if the Democratic Leadership in the State House and Senate would make the call.

Alice Garland the Heads Up Favorite to Assume Lottery Job
Who’s going to replace Tom Shaheen, the outgoing lottery director who resigned this week, to take a job in the video lottery terminal business?  Shaheen is leaving his $247,000 a year job that he’s held for nearly five years to work for a lottery vendor who wants to sell lottery tickets through machines like an ATM.

Will Shaheen get into the the video gaming business?

Who’s going to replace Shaheen?  It looks like Alice Garland, a fixture in Democrat politics and public affairs, will be the lead candidate for the job. Garland is former head of PR for Electricities and is married to Johnston County native Mike Davis, who is one of the top Democratic political consultants in the state.  Garland is well connected and we hear she has done a tremendous job at the lottery, serving as a good in-state foundation for Shaheen, who came to the state from the New Mexico Lottery.

Garland would be a good fit, she has the experience and understands the state’s politics and with four years experience at the Lottery, understands the gaming business. She would enable the state to have a ‘home grown’ candidate.

GOP Senate Caucus Makes a Haul in Western North Carolina
There’s parity in the fundraising fight for the N.C. Senate and that’s something of a first. We heard earlier this week that Senator Phil Berger and a number of Western Senators and Senate candidates were on the stump raising money in the mountains. Heard on the Street was told the GOP Senate Caucus took out more than $150,000 out of the hills to fund competitive senate elections.

All eyes remain on a few seats:

            Boseman – Wilmington

            Albertson – Duplin, Sampson, Lenoir

            Snow – Cherokee

            Forriest – Burlington

            Davis – Greenville

            Dickson – Fayetteville

            Soles – Columbus / Brunswick Counties

            Queen / NW Mountains

            Goss / NW Mountains

GOP campaign operatives are telling us they think there will be some will be some surprises.  The Republicans are pushing the theme that State Government Is Broken and it’s gaining traction.

Meanwhile-Jim Hunt back on the Trail
With Governor Bev Perdue’s numbers in the tank, Democrats are calling out former Governor Jim Hunt to help.  Hunt is hosting a series of fundraisers to help Sen. Basnight and Sen. Martin Nesbitt. He is also headed to Lexington next week to help House Majority Leader Hugh Holliman.  We hear Hunt is scheduled to help State Rep’s Van Braxton and Randy Stewart as well with special efforts targeted to the business community.

Hunt is talking about education – surprised? Hunt is making the pitch that the state has to invest in public education and work on improving our public schools performance to educate the next generation so that they kids growing up will be able to compete in a competitive global market.

A New BOE Report on Perdue’s Plane Flights
We hear that the State Board of Elections will be seeing a new report from Kimberly Strach on the Bev Perdue Flightgate story. It’s reported to us that Strach has updated her report with additional information and new interviews including statements given to her from Perdue’s campaign accountant, Dunn Mayor Oscar Harris, a prominent CPA in Harnett County.

One of the key findings – there was no computer glitch, the staff just didn’t know how to reconcile the computer programming to the scheduling information. One set of records was kept the old fashioned way – in a ledger notebook.

Democrats Coordinating Field Efforts
Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx; former U.S. Senate Candidate Cal Cunningham and former DOT Board Member, Nina Slozberg are heading up the coordinated campaign effort for the Democrats this fall. Chairman David Young has been relegated to the back seat because of the internal grumbling about his low-profile performance and the lack of any type of aggressive communication effort coming out of the Goodwin House.

The Democrats are hosting a huge party in Raleigh next Thursday, August 26 at the home of Bruce and Heather Thompson on Stratford Court featuring NC Secretary of State Elaine Marshall and Lt. Governor Walter Dalton. Among the top dollar donors.

Water Forum report
We continue to make plans for the NC SPIN Water seminar which will be held October 12th.  The keynote speaker for the event will be Dr. David Moreau, former chair of the NC Environmental Management Commission and Professor Water Resources & Environment at UNC-CH. Moreau will provide statistics and information about current water conditions, availability, supply and demand. The luncheon speaker for the event will be Norris Tolson, President of the North Carolina Biotechnology Center. A series of panel discussions on relevant topics is being developed and there will be ample opportunity for audience input. For more information, including sponsorship details, contact us at (919) 832-1416 or

Until next week, watch out for the SPIN!

Claire Cox-Woodlief, Editor
Tom Campbell, Publisher
NC SPIN`s facebook page

NC Spin Sunday August 15, 2010

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Welcome to this week`s edition of SPINCycle.

This week`s special edition of NC SPIN will include a discussion between Reverend William Barber and John Tedesco regarding school assignment and student achievement.

Tom Campbell`s Spin
Who else is innocent and what is going to be done about it are just two questions that need answering in this week`s column “
SBI guilty of poor law enforcement”.

Heard on the Street

Barber-Tedesco debate airs Sunday
In the 12 years we have produced NC SPIN we have never seen the amount of interest being generated from the upcoming debate between Reverend William Barber and John Tedesco about school assignment plans. While the context of this discussion focuses on Wake County Public Schools, it is highly relevant to most every school district in North Carolina. This NC SPIN promises to be worth watching, regardless of where you might live, as we discuss diversity, neighborhood schools, school choice and student achievement.

Because this program is not being taped at our regular time the show is being overnighted to TV and radio stations across the state. If, for some reason your station doesn`t air the show, you can always visit our website www.ncspin.com and either hear the radio version or video stream the show.

No indictments
In last week`s Heard on the Street we indicated that state indictments of former Governor Mike Easley might come as early as this week. The Rowan County District Attorney who heads up the state investigation has been telling reporters there won`t be any immediate action on former Governor Mike Easley. He`s telling reporters to call back in early September. Meanwhile, we hear U.S. Attorney George Holding is telling friends his term won`t be extended when it expires at the end of this month. Holding is telling folks there will likely be an interim U.S. Attorney until the Senate confirms the President`s appointee.

Election update
Labor plans to play in North Carolina`s election cycle.  Last week we reported that SEANC would not be endorsing candidates for the State Legislature.  This week we learn that other labor organizations such as AFL-CIO, Teamsters and NEA plan to create a joint campaign effort to support Elaine Marshall for US Senate and to work in targeted races for the General Assembly. We hear labor will spend more than $250,000 to back Marshall, which is down from the past campaigns, but we are in a recession. Will it be enough to counter the $6 million Burr reportedly has on hand? Look for a complete discussion on this election cycle next week on SPIN.

Last week SPINCycle broke the story about Capstrat CEO Ken Eudy, a former executive director of the Democratic Party, hosting a fundraising event featuring former Governor Jim Hunt and Senators Marc Basnight and Martin Nesbitt at his Harvey Street home in Raleigh.  The story is gaining traction with campaign finance watchdogs complaining that it is another example of pay-to-play politics. The Wilmington Star-News
reports that Eudy`s firm recently won a large PR contract with the State Ports Authority and states that while it doesn`t appear to be a quid-pro-quo arrangement, the situation doesn`t look good.  Capstrat has contracts with many agencies of state government for programs such as Booze it and Lose It, Click it or Ticket, the Seniors Health Plan and many others. Those contracts amount to millions of dollars in PR and advertising revenues to the firm.

Republicans say they are watching with a close eye and point to the fact that this fundraiser is another example of why lawmakers should pass an ethics law that prohibits legislators from raising money from state contractors.

SBI in scramble mode
The News and Observer in Raleigh has written three excellent stories on problems in our State Bureau of Investigation. Charges are damning and Attorney General Roy Cooper is in scramble mode to salvage the reputation of this once-proud agency. The N&O series has reported “junk science” in blood stain investigations, shoddy investigative work by agents, a penchant for favoring prosecutors and law enforcement agencies in pursuing investigations and irresponsible oversight and management at all levels.

A growing number of critics are calling for the state crime lab to be moved out of the Attorney General`s office and placed under the direction of a special superior court judge to have more independents and accountability.  The idea is gaining momentum especially in the African American community.  The Black Legislative caucus is likely to support the move especially after the bruising fight over the new DNA registry law. The African American community is concerned if there are already systematic problems in the state crime lab, how will they handle DNA swabs collected from suspected criminals? There are even some murmurs that perhaps the SBI needs to be removed from the Attorney General`s office in order to ensure better management.

Meanwhile, Sheriffs, District Attorneys and law enforcement officers across the state are shaking their heads about the apparently strange appointment of Greg McLeod as interim SBI Director. The Sheriffs and District Attorneys are privately complaining that McLeod has no managerial experience and no law enforcement background. McLeod was Cooper`s legislative lobbyist before being moved to the SBI.

Look for more discussion about the SBI on next week`s NC SPIN and read My Spin on the issue, “SBI Guilty of Poor Law Enforcement”.

New UNC Prez
Attorney General Roy Cooper is one of three reported finalists for the UNC President`s job. Many are asking how the revelations about the SBI, coming as they do when the final decision is nearing, might impact Coop`s chances. The other two are former Jim Hunt lobbyist and former UNC Board of Governors chair Jim Phillips, a Greensboro attorney, and Bill Roper, head of UNC Health Care.

GOP makes impression on Business
GOP State House Leadership got very high marks from Chamber folks last week following their presentation to the NC Chamber.  All four caucuses made presentations to the Chamber`s Executive Committee in RTP last Friday. Charlotte lawmaker Tom Tillis got very high marks for outlining the GOP platform and showing the contrast between the GOP agenda for business and the Democrats record on business issues. Tillis made the point that the business community needs leadership in the House Finance committee that understands the elements of running a company and making a profit.  Meanwhile, some Chamber executives were stunned by Rep. Pryor Gibson`s opening comment, "I`ve either done something for you or something to you," said Gibson, a lawmaker from Wadesboro. Gibson made the comment in jest but some folks in the room weren`t laughing.

Perdue popularity
Why do pollsters repeatedly survey popularity numbers of politicians who aren`t up for re-election anytime soon? To keep their polls names in the news, we suspect. The recent Civitas poll showing that Governor Perdue has a 33 percent favorable rating is relevant to what? Her re-election campaign, if there is to be one, doesn`t take place until 2012.

Sixty is the new 40
Several weeks ago we wrote a column about
getting older, in honor of my advanced age birthday. I reported on my new stand-up comedy routine that will take the place of this column, stating that I was printing a bumper sticker that said “60 is the new 40.” The folks at the News and Observer`s Under the Dome obviously liked the concept, heading one of their blog blurbs with the same title.

The story is about a new law that allows drivers up to the age of 66 to renew their drivers` licenses for eight years if they fall between the ages of 54 and 66. Unfortunately (for me) the new law doesn`t take effect until January.

State Board of Elections stories continue
The controversies swirling around the State Board of Elections continue. The News and Observer reported this week about the contract for Printelect, a New Bern printing company, to print election ballots in our state. Follow ups included contributions to political candidates by Owen Andrews, president of the company, trips for SBOE head Gary Bartlett on Andrews` boat, as well as contributions to the meeting for county election directors.

Government officials need to take note. Any contact with anyone doing business with the state or local governments, especially those units with whom you do business, are going to be reported…and probably not in the most favorable light. Find your entertainment and contributors elsewhere.

Now if our legislature would get serious and pass ethics laws to make such contacts illegal.

UNC-TV and Alcoa
Another issue that won`t die is the UNC-TV handling of the Alcoa story.

Following our story last week, Steve Volstead, UNC-TV Director of Communications and Marketing, wrote to respond to points raised by us (and other media) about the School of Journalism investigation into UNC-TV`s handling of the issue.

Says Volstead, “Opinions about the issue may vary, but there are some objective factual errors that have been part of the continuing discussion that need to be clarified for the sake of accuracy.
“First, there is recurring reference to reporter Eszter Vajda having `compiled more than 200 hours of video investigation` related to this story.  It is true that Ms. Vajda cited that figure in her sworn affidavit to the State Senate Judiciary II Committee meeting on July 6.  However, when UNC-TV requested that Ms. Vajda provide her supervisors with her working tapes in order for UNC-TV to comply with the committee`s request for materials, she turned in 13 DVD discs with a total of 10 hours and 47 minutes of content, which she said was all the material in her possession.  If there is more existing video, UNC-TV is unaware of it and has not seen it.  

“Secondly, it has been stated that Ms. Vajda `had originally been working on this as a documentary to air on the statewide network when she was suddenly told the documentary project would be halted because of lack of resources.`  This is inaccurate.  When she was given the assignment in February 2010, her original and sole assignment was to produce a series of reports for North Carolina Now.  At no time was she asked to produce a documentary for UNC-TV.  The 56-minute piece she turned over to the Judiciary II Committee for screening is an unauthorized derivative work that she produced independently using UNC-TV work product, and in fact, no one at UNC-TV was aware that a “documentary” existed until the committee screened it.

“Finally, regarding the independent evaluation of the North Carolina Now pieces that UNC-TV Director and General Manager Tom Howe requested from UNC-Chapel Hill`s School of Journalism, it has been said that `he withheld the report of the panel.`  In point of fact, after requesting the original review on July 9, on July 13 Mr. Howe asked the panel of journalism experts to postpone doing the critique while he and others were engaged in trying to evaluate the broader and rapidly evolving situation.  At that point, Mr. Howe did not know if the review had been started or what conclusions it might draw.  After Alcoa made a public records request of the J-School to get a copy of the draft report, Mr. Howe followed suit, making his own public records request of the journalism school in order to obtain his own copy.”

We wanted to give UNC-TV the opportunity to respond. The one, inescapable, conclusion about this matter is that UNC-TV bungled this whole affair about as badly as someone could. Don`t take our word for that. Read The Charlotte Observer`s editorial, Carolina Journal`s editorial, and Laura Leslie`s blog, “Alcoa: UNC-TV tries to Unring the Bell.” Leslie also reports “The Latest on Alcoa,” on her Issac Hunter`s Tavern blogsite. The High Point Enterprise wrote an editorial about the Alcoa takeover attempt by the state. Good points were raised.

Water Forum report
We have been keeping you updated on the progress about the NC SPIN Water seminar which will be held October 12th. We can now report to you that the program is coming together. The keynote speaker for the event will be Dr. David Moreau, former chair of the NC Environmental Management Commission and Professor Water Resources & Environment at UNC-CH. Moreau will provide statistics and information about current water conditions, availability, supply and demand. The luncheon speaker for the event will be Norris Tolson, President of the North Carolina Biotechnology Center. A series of panel discussions on relevant topics is being developed and there will be ample opportunity for audience input. For more information, including sponsorship details, contact us at (919) 832-1416 or

Until next week, watch out for the SPIN!

Claire Cox-Woodlief, Editor
Tom Campbell, Publisher
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