Hundreds of conservative activists and officials will gather starting Friday in Raleigh for the annual two-day Conservative Leadership Conference.
The agenda for the Civitas Institute event reads like a buffet line of hot-button conservative issues: Common Core standards, ending renewable energy mandates, stand your ground gun laws, IRS investigations, Obamacare and plenty more.
The biggest name on the plate is Utah Sen. Mike Lee, who will speak at Friday’s lunch. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal backed out at the last minute, replaced by author and commentator Ann Coulter.
But what is remarkable is what’s missing: little attention on the U.S. Senate race. Republican Mark Harris is expected to attend but his aides said a planned debate between the top candidates – Harris,Thom Tillis and Greg Brannon – fell apart when other campaigns failed to commit.
Brannon will campaign across the state and hold fundraisers with Lee on Friday.
Gov. Pat McCrory will address the conference at Friday’s dinner as a “special guest” ahead of keynote speaker Walter Williams, an economist and occasional guest on Rush Limbaugh’s radio program.
*** Charlotte Mayor Patrick Cannon’s arrest still leaves plenty of questions. Get some answers below in the Dome Morning Memo.***
TODAY IN POLITICS: Gov. Pat McCrory will attend a ribbon cutting for NGK Ceramics in Mooresville at 10 a.m. and make an economic development announcement in Henderson County at 12:45 p.m. He later will attend the CLC event at 6:45 p.m.
BULLETIN: Health care signups reach 6 million-plus. Read more here.
OUTSIDE GROUP LAUNCHES ANTI-HAGAN BILLBOARDS: A Charlotte-based super PAC announced Friday it had purchased billboards to attack Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan for repeating President Barack Obama’s pledge that people could keep their existing health care plan if they wanted.
“On more than 20 occasions, Senator Hagan has stated that she will protect the rights of citizens to keep their health plan and to see the doctors of their choice,” said Allison Milbridge, spokesperson for Our America. “However, her actions have failed to live up to her words.”
The organization, to this date unknown but organized in January, lists Robert Wallace as its treasurer, according to FEC filings. Its former treasurer is AnnaMaria Gallozzi, whose LinkedIn page lists her as the field organizer for The Leadership Institute, where she recruits and trains conservative and libertarian students on college campuses.
More efforts are planned and the group announced that radio personality “TJ” of the syndicated “Ace and TJ” show will record advertisements. Full release here.
TOUGH HEADLINE: Tillis accused of being a bully. Read more here.
A LOOK AT GREG BRANNON – American Spectator story headlined, “A Constitutionalist in North Carolina.” Read more here.
TILLIS ALLY EXPLAINS PLANNED PARENTHOOD TIES: From Talking Points Memo – ...One of the co-chairs of the Women for Tillis Coalition is Dr. Mary Susan Fulghum, who helped found the Planned Parenthood Health Systems headquarters in Raleigh. (Fulghum is the wife of Republican Rep. Jim Fulghum.) Read more here.
LOBBYISTS HOST FUNDRAISER FOR DEMOCRATS, HAGAN: From Politico – Democratic lobbyists John Buscher, George Cooper, Jay Driscoll, Jeff Forbes, Libby Greer, Rachel Miller, Dan Tate Jr., and Zach Williams co-hosted a Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee fundraiser Wednesday night at Oracle’s townhouse.
The event raised more than $100,000, according to a PI tipster. DSCC Chairman Michael Bennet and Democratic Sens. Dick Durbin, Kay Hagan, Al Franken and Mazie Hirono attended. Spotted: Anheuser-Busch’s Don Calloway; UPS lobbyist Nick Lewis; UnitedHealth Group’s Jennifer Walsh and UBS lobbyist Meredith White.
HEADLINE: Republican establishment chooses electability over purity. Read more here.
WHAT TOOK THE FBI SO LONG IN CANNON CASE? As the corruption investigation of former Charlotte Mayor Patrick Cannon went back underground Thursday, a nagging question hung over his embarrassed city:
Couldn’t this have been known before he was elected mayor in November?
According to an affidavit released this week, the FBI became aware of possible illegal activity of then-City Council member Cannon as early as August 2010. ...
David Rudolf, one of North Carolina’s best-known defense attorneys, says he suspects Cannon’s investigators were taking time to build the strongest case possible, not a bigger headline. Maybe agents delayed the arrest until after the election, he says, to avoid the appearance that they were meddling in local politics.
“When you have a public-corruption case, you want to make it as tight as it possibly can be,” Rudolf says. “... I hate to think they kept it going in hopes of (Cannon) becoming mayor so it would become a bigger case.” Read more here.
ANOTHER QUESTION – WILL CANNON’S WIFE FACE TROUBLE? One of the people who may have known about former Charlotte Mayor Patrick Cannon’s interactions with undercover federal agents was his wife.
The affidavit alleges that Trenna Cannon thanked agents for $1,000 in spending money in Las Vegas. Among the items seized from the Cannon residence were financial records related to Patrick or Trenna Cannon.
She was not charged Wednesday. Legal experts speculated that troubles for her could depend on whether Patrick Cannon cooperates and how much federal authorities can prove she knew about the bribes Cannon allegedly accepted. Read more here.
CNN FAIL: Teaser for Cannon story includes Pat McCrory’s photo. See it here.
THE BIG STORY – McCRORY DHHS SECRETARY GRILLED BY GOP LAWMAKERS: During a sometimes-tense exchange, state lawmakers Thursday grilled Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Aldona Wos about problems in her department, and one powerful state senator questioned whether the agency was fit to take on massive and complex reforms to the Medicaid program.
The back-and-forth between legislators, mainly Republicans, and Gov. Pat McCrory’s health chief came as she is trying to sell a Medicaid reform plan to the General Assembly ahead of the 2014 session in May. Medicaid reform is one of McCrory’s priorities, but some lawmakers have expressed reservations with the plan.
State Sen. Harry Brown, a Jacksonville Republican and Senate majority leader, ticked off concerns about Wos’ department, including the lack of “reliable data” coming from the agency, making it difficult for lawmakers to draft a budget. ...
THE QUOTE: “How can we as a General Assembly feel safe or comfortable that you can implement a reform package when we still have all these problems?” Brown asked. “That’s a real concern for us.”
WOS RESPONSE: She said the agency is “micromanaged” by the legislature, and that has discouraged potential candidates. Read more here.
LAWMAKERS MUST TURNOVER SOME DOCUMENTS: The North Carolina legislative leaders who led the crafting of the state’s new voter ID law will have to turn over some of their correspondence and email messages to voters and organizations challenging the wide-ranging amendments, according to a federal court ruling.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Joi Elizabeth Peake issued a ruling on Thursday that addresses an attempt by lawmakers to quash subpoenas seeking email, correspondence and other documents exchanged while transforming the state’s voting process. Read more here .
ONE DONOR TO SECRETIVE McCRORY GROUP REVEALED – Reynolds American gave the private nonprofit boosting the Republican governor $50,000. Read more here.
BERGER JR. RELEASES A NEW TV AD: Phil Berger Jr.’s campaign released a new TV ad, touting him as a “man of his word” who is tough on crime and Obamacare. See it here.
The campaign sent the link to its supporters Thursday. Details about the ad buy were not immediately available.
Updated -- PLAYING COZY WITH COBLE: U.S. Rep. Howard Coble is the special guest at a Berger Jr. campaign fundraiser Monday. The retiring lawmaker has declined to make an endorsement in the race, but Berger Jr. wanted to tout the event, including it in the email about his TV ad. Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger, his father, and other top local officials are helping to host the event.
INVESTORS ASK DUKE’S BOARD TO PROBE ASH SPILL: Nineteen of Duke Energy’s institutional investors, including three state treasurers, want Duke’s board to investigate the Feb. 2 coal ash spill into the Dan River.
“Deeply troubled” investors organized by the Nathan Cummings Foundation, a New York social-justice group that often raises shareholder proposals, made the demand in a letter Thursday to Duke’s board.
The foundation earlier submitted a shareholder proposal that Duke disclose its political contributions, which according to a recent report favored Republican causes. Investors will vote on the proposal at the annual meeting May 1; Duke’s board opposes it. Read more here.
THE BIG PICURE – RURAL COUNTIES CONTINUE POPULATION DECLINE, URBAN AREAS GROW: The Triangle, Charlotte, Asheville and counties along the coast and near Fort Bragg continue to lead the state in population growth, while many rural counties are still losing population, according to the latest estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau.
Wake, Durham and Harnett counties were among eight counties in the state that grew by more than 2 percent in the year ending last July, the Census Bureau said Thursday. The fastest-growing county was Brunswick on the southeastern coast, which grew by 2.8 percent. Read more here.
QUICK HEADLINES –
Ned Mangum named acting Wake DA. Read more here.
Port Authority selects new executive director. Read more here.
Vidant Health, NAACP reach agreement to delay rural hospital closing. Read more here.