Under the Dome

Morning Memo: Senate tea party candidates find common enemy in Tillis

The four tea party candidates in the U.S. Senate race found a common enemy Thursday and it wasn’t Democrat Kay Hagan.

If you take a look at Jim Morrill’s report from the Gaston County tea party meeting, Thom Tillis is the target of most the barbs. It didn’t help that the Republican House speaker reinforced the perception that he is the establishment candidate by holding a fundraiser the same day with Karl Rove.

From the story: “Let’s face it,” said local tea party leader Christian Hine, who carried a sign that read: “Liber-TEA, not Rove.” “Karl Rove declared war on the tea party in February.” That was when Rove launched the super PAC called Conservative Victory Project designed to back candidates that he said would give Republicans the best chance to win.

To illustrate just how far the criticism went, the topic of toll lanes on Interstate 77 north of Charlotte – which Tillis supported – drew strong words. Greg Brannon and Bill Flynn suggested such partnerships were close to “fascism.” Heather Grant said they were “detrimental.”

“You and I know it’s a bad premise,” Mark Harris added. “You and I know it’s got to be stopped.” Read more here.

*** More North Carolina political news below in the Dome Morning Memo. And a programming note: N&O Capital Team editor Mary Cornatzer will take over the memo next week. Send news and tips to capitol@newsobserver.com ***

TODAY IN POLITICS — Health care hearing will take political spotlight : Friday’s congressional hearing in Gastonia about the Affordable Care Act is shaping up to be political spectacle as much as a serious health care discussion.

Staffers for U.S. Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., a critic of President Barack Obama’s administration, have vetted five witnesses who will share their mostly negative experience with so-called Obamacare before several members of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. On the other side, liberal advocates for the federal health care expansion will be on hand to demonstrate and protest the hearing outside the Gaston County courthouse. Read more here.

MORE ON THE HEARING: AP — Congressional Republicans are making North Carolina a temporary showpiece for opposition to the federal health insurance overhaul law. Read more here.

HAGAN FOR, BURR AGAINST — Democrats vote to curb filibusters on appointees: AP — Sweeping aside a century of precedent, Democrats took a chunk out of the Senate's hallowed filibuster tradition on Thursday and cleared the way for speedy confirmation of controversial appointments made by President Barack Obama and chief executives in the future.

Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., who orchestrated the change, called the 52-48 vote a blow against gridlock. Republicans warned Democrats will eventually regret their actions once political fortunes are reversed and they can no longer block appointments made by a GOP president.

WHAT IT MEANS: The immediate impact was to ensure post-Thanksgiving confirmation for Patricia Millett, one of Obama's three stalled nominees for the District of Columbia Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals, and for others whom Republicans have blocked. Rep. Mel Watt, D-N.C., tapped to head the Federal Housing Finance Agency, is among them. Read more here.

BILLY RAY HALL DENIED HUGE SEVERANCE PAYOUT: Leaders of the nonprofit N.C. Rural Economic Development Center, largely funded with taxpayer money for almost three decades, voted Thursday to deny the agency’s former president a special severance worth almost a quarter-million dollars.

Billy Ray Hall, who resigned this summer amid questions about handling of grants at the agency, will not get an expected payment of $242,000 from a fund created for him 10 years ago, according to a statement released by the board. The decision was made behind closed doors.

The decision was made after “a thorough and thoughtful discussion” that lasted about an hour, Bill Gibson, acting chairman of the board, said in a statement. He described the account as a “severance pay plan award previously recommended” for Hall.

The Rural Center, charged with helping the poorest areas of the state, had made periodic contributions of $10,000 to $40,000 to the account, according to center officials and a state audit that first disclosed it. Read it here.

HAGAN SUPPORTS YELLEN AS FED CHAIR: From the Charlotte Business Journal — U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan says Janet Yellen is the right woman for the job. Hagan, a Tar Heel Democrat, voted in favor of Yellen as the next chairman on the Federal Reserve as the Senate Banking Committee on Thursday. Yellen is currently the vice chair at the Fed. Her boss, Ben Bernanke, will step down at the end of the year.

"As North Carolina’s unemployment rate remains far too high and our economy continues to recover, Vice Chair Yellen’s impressive public sector and academic experience will make her a stable hand at the helm of our central bank," Hagan said in a statement. "I’m pleased to join my colleagues on the Banking Committee from both sides of the aisle to support Vice Chair Yellen’s nomination, and I hope the full Senate confirms her as the first woman to head the Federal Reserve with broad bipartisan support in the coming weeks." Read more here.

STATE WORKER ON TROUBLED PROJECT NOW WORKS FOR CONTRACTOR: From WRAL — A state employee who helped oversee the construction and rollout of the NCTracks Medicaid billing system now works for Computer Sciences Corp., the contractor responsible for the troubled project.

Paul Guthery was an IT manager at the Department of Health and Human Services, where he had worked since January 2010. At a hearing Wednesday, State Auditor Beth Wood described him as the agency's "point person" for CSC, responsible for certifying NCTracks' testing process. Read more here.

PAT McCRORY ON SEN. BRUNSTETTER’S RETIREMENT: “Senator Brunstetter is a dedicated public servant who has made a difference in education, commerce and took the lead in crafting a budget during the most trying economic times in recent memory. He was a good partner with our administration during this first year and Pete brought an intellect and much needed experience that will be sorely missed. On behalf of the people of North Carolina, I want to thank him for his hard work and wish him and his family the best in his future endeavors.”

GENE NICHOL V. CIVITAS: From the Institute for Southern Studies, a think tank critical of Civitas and Art Pope — “A think tank founded and almost wholly funded by conservative mega-donor and North Carolina budget director Art Pope recently filed a broad Freedom of Information Act request seeking all emails and other records of a University of North Carolina law school professor and anti-poverty crusader over a month-long period.

“The Raleigh, N.C.-based Civitas Institute wants the email correspondence, phone records, and calendars of Gene Nichol, director of the UNC Center on Poverty, Work and Opportunity and a Moral Monday protest participant. It seeks Nichol's records during the period from Sept. 14 through Oct. 25, the day the request was filed. Civitas submitted the FOIA request the week after Nichol wrote a newspaper column critical of the McCrory administration.” Read more here.

REPUBLICANS LOOK TO ROUZER AGAIN: The National Republican Campaign Committee is counting on former state Sen. David Rouzer to beat U.S. Rep. Mike McIntyre. Rouzer lost by the closest of margins a year ago. From a press release: “Today, the National Republican Congressional Committee announced that David Rouzer has been elevated to ‘On the Radar’ in the NRCC’s ‘Young Guns’ program. The program will help to provide candidates and their campaigns the tools they need to run effective, successful and winning campaigns against their Democratic opponents.”

... McINTYRE IS WAITING: Mike McIntyre knows Rouzer is likely to be his opponent and he’s using it to raise money. From a fundraising email Thursday: “Since I first took office, I’ve never forgotten that I work for you — and all the people of Eastern North Carolina. That's why I continue to fight to create jobs right here at home, stand up for our veterans, and responsibly reduce the deficit. It's why, as a senior member of the Agriculture Committee, I work diligently to protect our farmers.

“But DC insiders are gearing up to try to buy this seat. They've once again decided to back their hand-picked lobbyist who has taken a ton of money from outside special interest groups. That could translate into a crushing number of misleading ads against me right here in North Carolina.”

MARK HARRIS RAISING MONEY ON ‘FLAMETHROWER’ LABEL: The National Journal named Mark Harris as one of the new Republican “flamethrowers” that is scaring national Republican strategists. And Harris is turning around and using it to raise money. “In fact, according to a headline yesterday from the National Journal, the liberal DC media thinks that talking about faith in marriage makes me a ‘flamethrower!' ” he wrote in a recent fundraising email. “Will you join me in this fight by donating $25, $50, $100, or even $1,000 today? I am running to win — I am asking you to please stand with me as I work to bring America back to the traditions that have made our country great and the vision of our Founding Fathers of a free and just society.”

REMEMBERING JFK: See a collection of stories and multimedia presentations here.

PERSONNEL FILE: The N.C. Council for Women announced new board members this week: Laura Riddick, chairwoman, Wake County; Dena Barnes, Guilford County; Joyce Krawiec, Forsyth County; Marsha Prestage, Sampson County; Valerie Procopio, Wake County; Kirby Tyson, Cumberland County; and Debbie West, Guilford County.