Under the Dome

Outside money dominated N.C. races

November 23, 2012 

It was obvious that spending from super PACs and other outside groups dominated the elections this year. The Institute for Southern Studies has done a quick snapshot showing just how much was spent in North Carolina.

Based on incomplete reports – final financial disclosures aren’t due until January – the analysis shows the scope of the funding: more than $14 million on state-level races.

More than 90 percent of it came from 10 groups, dominated by conservative or Republican-leaning organizations, which spent more than twice as much as liberal/Democratic-leaning groups. Races for governor and state Supreme Court dominated the money game.

The biggest spender was the Republican Governors Association, which reported close to $5 million spent on Gov.-elect Pat McCrory. More than $8 million went into the governor race, with 68 percent benefitting McCrory.

The institute tracked $1.9 million in expenditures for super PAC N.C. Judicial Coalition, formed to re-elect Justice Paul Newby. The super PAC’s largest donor was another super PAC – Justice for All N.C., which in turn received more than $1 million from the Republican State Leadership Committee, based in Washington, D.C.

“Whatever impact super PACs and outside money groups may have had – or not had – nationally, they were a big factor in North Carolina state elections,” the institute’s executive director, Chris Kromm, said.

For the specifics, check out the institute’s searchable money-tracking database at www.FollowNCMoney.org.

Appealing for a delay

At the first of the year, up to 2,000 people with mental disabilities living in group homes may find themselves without lodging because of a change in Medicaid rules.

Gov. Bev Perdue said last week that she’s working on a solution, but for now, state officials, legislators, and advocacy groups are promoting a plan to flood the administrative court system with appeals from Medicaid recipients affected by the new rule.

Recipients’ benefits will continue during their appeals, and the idea is that pumping thousands of appeals into an administrative court system with fewer than a dozen judges will give the legislature time to fix the Medicaid problem when it gets back to work in late January.

Chief Administrative Law Judge Julian Mann said being handed thousands of cases at once would be difficult, but the court could hire temporary administrative judges, if necessary, to help handle the workload.

The administrative court has 10 judges available to hear cases.

Mann said he could not comment on using administrative appeals as a stall tactic.

“Our responsibility is to absorb as efficiently as possible the cases and dispose of them in a timely manner,” Mann said. But, “if you pour enough water into the canal, it will eventually overflow.”

Educators group hires leader

The N.C. Association of Educators has hired Ann McColl to be its first in-house lawyer.

In addition to legal work, she’ll work on policy and lobbying.

McColl moves to NCAE from her job as lobbyist for the State Board of Education, where she’s been for about two years.

“Ann brings a wealth of experience, talent, and commitment to our Association’s work,” said NCAE President Rodney Ellis. “Whether the issue is employment, working conditions, or education reform, Ann believes that educators deserve a strong voice. NCAE is stronger with Ann on our team.”

Transportation leader awarded

North Carolina Transportation Secretary Gene Conti has been honored with a national award for outstanding contributions to highway engineering.

Conti was presented the Thomas H. MacDonald Memorial Award, the highest designation of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, during the group’s annual meeting in Pittsburgh earlier this week.

According to AASHTO – which represents state departments of transportation in every state, D.C. and Puerto Rico – Conti has demonstrated a personal commitment to serving as a transportation advocate and has worked tirelessly to advance transportation on the federal, state and local levels during his years in public service.

The award was established in 1957 to honor the former chief of the federal Bureau of Public Roads and is given to an individual that has “rendered continuous outstanding service over an extended period of time or has made some exceptional contribution to the art and science of highway engineering.”

Staff writers Craig Jarvis, Lynn Bonner and Austin Baird

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