Former state Democratic Party executive director Andrew Whalen will try to help the Blue Dog Democrats make a comeback in 2012.
Whalen, a political consultant based in Raleigh, will run the Blue Dogs' political committee, trying to elect more moderate Democrats.
Blue Dog Democrats picked up seats across the country during the 2006 and 2008 elections but suffered major losses during the Republican sweep in 2010.
There are now 25 members of the Blue Dog Coalition in Congress, including North Carolina's Health Shuler and Mike McIntyre. The group, which is co-chaired by Shuler, was formed in 1995. They are focused on policies advocating fiscal restraint and a strong national defense.
Among other goals, Whalen said, was to engage more moderates in the political process.
"The majority of the people out there don't get involved on a day-to-day basis," Whalen said. "We are going to try to engage some of those voters; let them know who the Blue Dogs are, what they are doing and what actions they are taking to end the partisan gridlock."
This is the first time, Whalen said, that the Blue Dogs have tried to ramp up their operation by hiring a staff member.
Whalen said he would give up his position as director of Shuler's Third and Long PAC.
"I am thrilled to have Andrew in this position with the Blue Dogs as we move toward the 2012 elections," Shuler said in a statement. "He will be an invaluable resource not just to my re-election efforts, but to all the Blue Dogs running across the country. He knows how to communicate with voters and win in the tough districts Blue Dogs represent."
Lottery spending faulted
A new report from the N.C. Justice Center, a left-leaning think tank, critiques how the legislature allocated N.C. Education Lottery proceeds in the latest state budget.
The title of the report - "A Failed Experiment" - suggests that legislative leaders used lottery money to supplant, not supplement, education funding. Author Matthew Ellinwood notes that the legislature put only 23.5 percent of the lottery's education dollars toward school construction, instead of the standard 40 percent.
Lottery spokesman Van Denton noted that the report suggests lottery sales are stagnating, but in reality they continue to increase. (Early projections of a downward trend in the coming year didn't come true.)
Ellmers leadership PAC
U.S. Rep. Renee Ellmers is just a freshman in Washington, but she's looking to increase her clout with the formation of a new leadership political action committee.
Dubbed "Conservatives Restoring Excellence," the Raleigh PAC filed papers with the Federal Election Commission on Thursday. The treasurer is listed as Collin McMichael, who runs his own political shop at CM&Co. The new committee will allow her to raise $5,000 contributions and donate money to like-minded causes and candidates, who are likely to return the favor.
A leadership PAC is not typical for a Capitol Hill newbie. But it's part of the Dunn Republican's effort to distinguish herself as a leading voice. (Call it The New York Times effect: A profile - even if it appeared on A14 - gave her a national platform).
A University of Minnesota study released Monday found that Ellmers was the 13th most-quoted first-term lawmaker - and the third highest-ranking woman - out of 94 freshmen in Congress.
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