Dome: Conservative mounts effort to derail Rick Perry

August 12, 2011 

A Raleigh supporter of presidential candidate Michele Bachmann is starting an independent campaign aimed at blunting the candidacy of Texas Gov. Rick Perry.

The independent effort is being led by Bob Harris, a longtime conservative activist who worked in the campaigns of U.S. Sen. Jesse Helms and his organization, the National Congressional Club.

He has registered an independent expenditure committee with the Federal Election Commission and started a website, keepconservativesunited.com.

"Our goal is keeping conservatives united behind Michele Bachmann by stopping Rick Perry," Harris said. "The country doesn't need another career politician, and Perry's record will stop him if he gets out."

"Perry is just a Republican version of LBJ who's made a fortune in office based on connections," Harris said.

"Bachmann has had the courage to take on Washington," Harris said. "We will begin with Web ads and move on to broadcast next. How effective we can be depends on how many Bachmann supporters join us."

The independent effort is also being run by Luther Snyder, who has worked for conservative candidates for 15 years. Most recently, he served as senior adviser to Renee Ellmers' congressional campaign. He was also deputy campaign manager for Pat McCrory's gubernatorial campaign in 2008 and has worked as an aide in the Senate campaigns of Elizabeth Dole and Lauch Faircloth.

Harris was the subject of a profile on CBS' "60 Minutes" program because of his ability to be an effective researcher despite his muscular dystrophy.

Phipps talks of prison

A recent issue of Metro magazine featured a sit-down with Meg Scott Phipps, the former N.C. Commissioner of Agriculture who spent more than three years in federal prison after a jury found her guilty of perjury and obstruction of justice.

She likened Alderson, the same prison where Martha Stewart served time, to a "college campus or small town," and said, "Everyone had a job to go to each day and freedom to pretty much go where they pleased."

Phipps told interviewer Carroll Leggett that she taught English as a second language there and discovered she loved teaching. She's now a full-time student at UNC Greensboro and hopes to teach on a college campus one day.

She also disclosed that federal prosecutors had threatened to seek an indictment against her father, former Gov. Bob Scott, if she did not plead guilty. Bob Scott died in 2009.

Hagan's high-profile hire

U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan has been attempting to raise her public profile in recent months, holding more teleconferences with reporters, releasing nearly daily statements on the issues, as well as continuing to hold extensive meetings around the state.

Now the Greensboro Democrat has hired D.C. veteran Mary Hanley to be her communications director.

Hanley, who most recently worked with Prism Public Affairs, was communications director for Bill Daley when he was former President Bill Clinton's commerce secretary. Daley is now President Barack Obama's chief of staff. Hanley has also served as communications director for the White House Council on Environmental Quality. She will make $116,500 per year working for Hagan.

"Mary has extensive experience in public policy, business, government and working with the media," Hagan said in a statement. "Her experience, including public service in two administrations and her knowledge of Congress, will be a valuable addition to an already strong staff that is dedicated to working on behalf of the people of North Carolina."

So why does Hagan need such a high-profile communications director?

Well, at least one political analyst, Alan Steinberg, who writes at PolitickerNJ.com, has suggested that Hagan could be Obama's surprise choice for vice president in 2012.

Steinberg's reasoning: the state's importance to Obama's re-election effort and Hagan's own political savvy, noting "that in unseating former North Carolina senator Elizabeth Dole in 2008, Hagan demonstrated superb political and communication skills that would make her a definite asset to the Obama re-election campaign."

rob.christensen@newsobserver.com or 919-829-4532

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