Under the Dome

Morning Memo: NC bombarded with political TV ads

If it seems like an election year when you watch TV these days, don’t worry, you’re not hallucinating.

A recent analysis of spending on political advertising about the federal health care law finds more money is being spent in Charlotte than anywhere else in the nation. The total spent on anti-Affordable Care Act ads is estimated at $710,000, Kantar Media reported.

Raleigh ranks No. 4 at nearly $600,000. The only cities in between the two North Carolina metro areas: Cleveland and Washington.

The media-tracking company’s interactive map, published by The Washington Post and others, shows what Dome readers know well – the ads are targeting Kay Hagan and other vulnerable Senate Democrats, particularly in the South. Republicans see the federal law as the key campaign issue for 2014.

***Republican Mark Harris takes a veiled shot at rival Thom Tillis and the discussion about Gov. Pat McCrory’s troubles continues below in the Dome Morning Memo.***

TODAY IN POLITICS: Gov. Pat McCrory will speak at the N.C. Chamber's energy conference in Durham this morning before traveling to Washington to meet with Pentagon officials and later the N.C. congressional delegation on Capitol Hill. He is lobbying policy makers on the importance of military bases to the state's economy.

At the legislative office building, the Joint Legislative Workforce Development System Reform Oversight Commit (room 544) and the Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Unemployment Insurance (room 643) will meet at 10 a.m.

Also: Don't miss Pints and Politics this evening at Natty Greene's in Raleigh. The event, hosted by the N.C. FreeEnterprise Foundation, will include a wide-ranging discussion of the state's major U.S. Senate race as the Republican primary approaches the six-months-to-go mark this week. The informal event starts at 5:30 p.m. More details here.

CONFLICTS ON THE COURT: Two N.C. Supreme Court justices are being highlighted for ruling on multiple cases in which they had a personal interest. Read more about the new Center for Public Integrity report here.

PAT McCRORY RESPONDS: In response to Taylor Batten’s column you reprinted Dec. 3 under the headline “In the mind of McCrory, the media to blame”: I covered many issues in my 90-minute plus interview last week with the Charlotte Observer’s editorial page editor, and here are the items that should interest nearly every resident in this state as we head into 2014. ... As I did when I was Charlotte mayor for 14 years, I will work hard as governor to build consensus by bringing solution-oriented leaders to the table. While some elected officials, media or overly partisan groups think it makes better copy to tear this process down, we’re not going to be distracted.” Read more here.

Also ... in case you missed it. In a sidebar, Batten wrote: “(McCrory) hasn’t closed the door on reversing himself in his opposition to Medicaid expansion. “By the way, we’re going to keep evaluating that decision” but we don’t know the financial impact on the state, he said. So you could reverse it? “I’m always open.”

ANOTHER TAKE: Columnist Scott Mooneyham read Batten's piece and saw something different. He writes: "(Batten) portrays McCrory as someone who sees his public standing related to how his actions are being communicated to the larger public, and not the actions themselves.

"I see something else in the description. Those tugs at Batten’s sleeve are really a longing to get back to the more nonpartisan, pragmatic ground where local governments and their elected officials traditionally operate.

"State government isn’t like that, though. Decisions about tax policy, school vouchers and abortion cleave along party lines. Media oversight and criticism is filtered though the lens of assessing partisan agendas.

"Like it or not, admit it or not, McCrory has become a key cog in pursuit of an agenda with which many Democrats and some independents have deep disagreements." Read more here.

MARK HARRIS on GOP primary: ‘The last thing we need is Kay Hagan-lite’: The Republican U.S. Senate candidate and Charlotte pastor recently spoke to a Tea Party Express podcast and appeared to draw a strong contrast with his main rival Thom Tillis.

“Kay Hagan is vulnerable,” Harris said. “I don’t think anyone questions that. But we must have a strong Republican nominee that is going to provide a contrast with Kay Hagan, someone that is solutions oriented, someone that has a conservative record, someone who is really not your professional politician. The last thing we need is Kay Hagan-lite against Kay Hagan.” Listen to the full 23-minute interview here.

ALEC CONFERENCE BEGINS ... without Thom Tillis: The American Legislative Exchange Council – a significant influence in the North Carolina Republican legislature – convenes a conference in Washington on Wednesday that will draw GOP hot shots Ted Cruz and Paul Ryan. House Speaker Thom Tillis is a national board member (along with Asheville Rep. Tim Moffitt) but Tillis won’t attend, a spokesman says.

The meeting comes as The Guardian newspaper publishes internal ALEC documents showing its recent troubles that specifically mention Tillis’ role as a fundraiser for the organization: “An influential US lobbying network of Republican politicians and big businesses is seeking to avert a looming funding crisis by appealing to major donors that have abandoned it over the past two years following criticism of its policy on gun laws.

“The Guardian has learned that the American Legislative Exchange Council (Alec), which shapes and promotes legislation at state level across the US, has identified more than 40 lapsed corporate members it wants to attract back into the fold under a scheme referred to in its documents as the "Prodigal Son Project.” Read the full story here.


Fundraiser: Two state senators – Daniel Soucek and Warren Daniel – are hosting a fundraiser for Mark Harris on Friday in Hickory.

Koch-backed groups spent big in 2012: The Center for Responsive Politics has a new report looking at all the money spent in the 2012 elections from groups that didn’t disclose their donors to find the Koch brothers played a big role. Implications for the 2014 expected.

MALCOLM GRAHAM’S BIG NAME FUNDRAISER: Charlotte state Sen. Malcolm Graham’s congressional campaign is getting help from prominent Democrats in his bid to replace Mel Watt in the 12th District.

A Thursday fundraiser in Raleigh includes these sponsors: Heather and Bruce Thompson, Caroline and Richard Sullivan, Charles Meeker, Betty Kenan and other state senators. The top donation is $2,600 and the minimum contribution is $75.

SKIP ALSTON TO RUN FOR LEGISLATIVE SEAT: From the News & Record -- Former Guilford County Board of Commissioners Chairman Melvin "Skip" Alston will officially announce his run for a General Assembly seat Wednesday.

But which office will he seek? The public will have to wait until the 2 p.m. press conference at the Old County Courthouse, 301 W. Market Street. "All I'm saying right now is it'll be a big announcement," Alston said Tuesday.

Alston lives in the N.C. House district currently represented by fellow Democrat Marcus Brandon and in the N.C. Senate district represented by fellow Democrat Gladys Robinson. Read more here.


ON SEX AND POLITICS: It's nothing new, Rob Christensen writes in Wednesday's column: "People cluck over modern sex scandals and wonder what has become of morals. But yesterday’s politicians were little different. What has changed is how the media cover such activities." Read more here.

VIRTUAL SCHOOL BLOCKED BY COURT RULING: A charter school that had planned to open in the fall of 2012 and offer only online classes failed to convince the N.C. Court of Appeals that it should have been allowed to move forward with its plan without approval by the State Board of Education.

In a ruling issued Tuesday, a three-judge appeals court panel rejected arguments by N.C. Learns, a nonprofit organization backed by K12 Inc., a for-profit company and one of the biggest players in the online education business. In early 2012, N.C. Learns used an unusual process in its quest to open the state’s first virtual charter school. Read more here.

PROTESTERS TRIAL CHALLENGES LEGISLATIVE BUILDING RULES: From the story -- Much of Tuesday’s testimony came from Brock, Jeff Weaver, chief of the General Assembly police force and Phillip King, sergeant-at-arms of the N.C. Senate.

Weaver testified that he ordered the arrests because he thought demonstrators had broken N.C. Legislative Building rules by standing in front of Senate chamber doors, holding up signs and disrupting business of the General Assembly. But defense attorneys Scott Holmes and Irving Joyner questioned their interpretation of the rules and have argued previously that they are so vague and broad that they are not constitutional.

The trial for Rev. William Barber continues Wednesday. Read more here.

STATE CLOSES BRIDGE: Bonner Bridge, a 50-year-old Outer Banks structure that links Hatteras and Ocracoke islands to the mainland, was closed to traffic Tuesday after sonar scans and divers found new evidence of dangerous erosion that has undermined bridge supports.

The N.C. 12 bridge over Oregon Inlet will be closed for emergency repairs that could take as long as 90 days, the state Department of Transportation said. DOT launched emergency ferry service late Tuesday between Stumpy Point on the Dare County mainland and Rodanthe on Hatteras Island. Read more here.

BUY N.C. CHRISTMAS TREES: Gov. Pat McCrory and Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler, both Republicans, made appeals this week to encourage North Carolina residents to buy live Christmas trees. The industry is a major part of the state's agricultural economy, particularly in the remote western counties along the Tennessee border.

What goes unmentioned is the immigrant labor force that makes those live Christmas trees possible. The Latino Post website takes a look. Read it here.

CAPITAL TRAFFIC ALERT: Commuters will begin to feel the long pain of a three-year freeway repair project on Thursday morning, when they will find four lanes of Interstate 440 West traffic at the southeast corner of Raleigh’s Beltline squeezed into two lanes.

... This is not a short-term inconvenience. This corner of the busy Beltline will be reduced to two lanes each way, 24 hours a day, for the next year. Read more here.

FROM THE #NCGA: Some academics and a former CIA director are urging North Carolina state lawmakers to require better protection of electricity transmission systems from solar flares and cyber and terrorist attacks. Read more here.

ANTHONY FOXX RETURNS TO CHARLOTTE: U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, Charlotte’s former mayor, touted the Queen City as a model for a nation that he said must move beyond partisan squabbles to fix its crumbling infrastructure. Read more here.

A LOCAL LOOK AT HEALTHCARE.GOV FIXES: From the Fayetteville Observer front page -- Three days after federal officials said the glitchy HealthCare.gov website would be running more smoothly, Fayetteville-area consumers are beginning to make it through the site's application process to purchase health insurance. Read more here.

LEAD STORY IN WILMINGTON -- From the Star-News: The New Hanover and Brunswick school districts both will receive state funding for new school resource officers in elementary and middle schools sometime before Christmas.

New Hanover asked for eight school resource officers and Brunswick requested funds for four. Both requests are expected to be approved, state officials said Tuesday. Read more here.


Lenoir News-Topic: “There will be a “concentrated effort” to give teachers pay raises when the N.C. General Assembly convenes in May, House Majority Leader Edgar Starnes told the Granite Falls Town Council on Monday.” Read more here.

Pope picket makes MSNBC: Rachel Maddow featured the protest. See it here.

CONGRATULATIONS: To U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan, who announced Tuesday that she recently became a grandmother. Hagan’s daughter Carrie gave birth to a baby boy named Harrison. In an email to campaign supporters, Hagan said all are happy and healthy.

SAD NEWS: Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Aldona Wos’s father died recently, Gov. Pat McCrory said Tuesday. Wos is in Florida with family, he said.