Under the Dome

Morning Memo: Despite bipartisan criticism, Rucho refuses to retreat

Republican N.C. Sen. Bob Rucho was steadfast in his response to tweet-gate despite calls for apologies from his state party chairman and another Republican senator. To those who know Rucho, his reaction isn't surprising.

As Jim Morrill put it neatly in today's News & Observer and Charlotte Observer: "It’s the latest flap for the eight-term Republican from Matthews, whose passion has sometimes outrun his politics."

But what Rucho may not consider is how it will color other Republicans. The Democrats will use his words on Tuesday to put pressure on GOP Senate candidate Thom Tillis. Rucho endorsed Tillis in November. “Will Thom Tillis call on Bob Rucho to apologize and stop embarrassing North Carolina?” asked Ben Ray, a spokesman for the N.C. Democratic Party. “Or do Tillis’ primary challengers have his tongue?”

It's also just the latest national headline this year that puts North Carolina in a sour light. From Morrill's story: A headline in the blog “Wonkette” read: “North Carolina State Senator hits Nazi-USSR-Terrorist Trifecta of Obamacare Hyperbole.” MSNBC’s Chris Matthews mentioned it on “Hardball” during a segment he called “Sideshows.”

It also became a mobilizing tool. The liberal group ProgressNC Action asked supporters to sign an online petition demanding Rucho apologize.

***Get a full dissection of Rucho’s response to the controversy he sparked below in the Dome Morning Memo.***

TODAY IN POLITICS: A special legislative committee will take a look at the Common Core standards Tuesday. State Superintendent June Atkinson and State Board of Education Chairman Bill Cobey will testify. The meeting starts at 1 p.m. in room 643 of the legislative office building. (Get two perspectives on the issue from the N&O's opinion pages here and here.)

BOB RUCHO’S ASSAULT ON CRITICS: Dismissing critics as “the socialist elite,” Rucho insisted he was making a valid point for a tweet that seemed to compare the Affordable Care Act with Nazis and terrorists.

But one of those "socialist elites" is the chairman of the N.C. Republican Party. Claude Pope blasted the tweet on Monday: “The tweet is highly offensive and he should apologize,” he said.

RUCHO DISMISSES GOP CHAIRMAN: “I have no need to respond to Claude Pope because I don’t owe him and he doesn’t owe me,” responded Rucho. “What I stand on is the truth.”

More criticism from his fellow Republicans: “Unfortunately that’s not how it comes out,” said GOP Sen. Jeff Tarte of Cornelius. “If that’s what he meant he absolutely should apologize. Obviously it’s way over the line, and you can’t compare affordable care and policies of the other party to millions and millions of deaths …Anybody that’s a human being on the planet is probably offended by it.”

RUCHO TRIES TO EXPLAIN: More from Morrill's story:

1) Rucho said Sunday’s tweet was referring to the cost of American conflicts. “That was costly,” he said of the wars. “This (health care plan) will be even more costly.”

2) Rucho said he’s trying to get people to “open their eyes” about the true costs of President Barack Obama’s health care law. “People that are the socialist elitists that want to make people dependent on government are criticizing me for telling the truth,” he said.

3) “If the liberal elite can’t stand the truth, that’s their problem not mine.” Read more here.

COLUMNIST BARRY SAUNDERS gets even more explanation from Rucho. He argues that Rucho shouldn't apologize: "No. Don’t. Please, don’t. It is refreshing to hear a pol say what he or she means, even if it is ridiculous and frightens the bejesus out of us. I’ll take honest lunacy over a meaningless apology any day. Despite trying to shade the wording, Rucho is standing by his sentiments. Good for you, homes.

"Besides, what’s more frightening than an elected legislator comparing a bill seeking to provide people with health care to war atrocities and evil men flying airplanes into buildings? I’ll tell you what’s more frightening: the fact that many people agree with him. Want to bet that all of those people already have insurance? “I’ve seen those comments,” Rucho said proudly.

"So have I, and the “Yeas” outnumber the “Nays” on some websites I’ve visited." Read more here.

THE BIG STORY -- TEACHERS FILE LAWSUIT: SAY END OF TENURE IS BREACH OF CONTRACT: In the second major education lawsuit in a week, six teachers and the N.C. Association of Educators are expected to file suit on Tuesday, challenging the end of tenure for public school teachers across North Carolina.

The legislature this year passed a budget that eliminates tenure in 2018. In the meantime, school districts will offer the top 25 percent of teachers four-year contracts and $500 to relinquish their status.

The state teachers group seeks to keep tenure for those teachers who have already earned it and to restore the possibility for those in the pipeline. Last week, the teachers association and public education supporters sued the state over the private school vouchers, calling them unconstitutional. Read more here.

TAX LAW HITS SMALL BUSINESSES: In the final weeks of 2013, small-business owners should collect as much revenue as possible, defer any bills that can be paid next year, and have a clear understanding of how the loss of state tax credits and deductions will impact their bottom line in the years to come.

That’s the advice from local certified public accountants on maximizing expiring tax breaks and preparing for the North Carolina tax law changes that go into effect Jan. 1.

Small-business owners will probably benefit from the 2014 reduction of the personal and corporate income tax rates. For many small-business owners, however, the personal income tax reduction will be offset by the upcoming loss of the small-business income tax deduction for the first $50,000 in income. Read more here.

COOPER FILES LAWSUIT AGAINST ONLINE LENDERS: State Attorney General Roy Cooper said the state has sued four companies involved in online lending that he says were charging illegally high annual interest rates – up to 343 percent.

Cooper announced the lawsuit against CashCall of Anaheim, Calif., Western Sky Financial of South Dakota, and two related companies during a conference call with officials from New Hampshire, Colorado, Indiana and the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which filed a lawsuit of its own against CashCall. Read more here.

COWELL DISCLOSES PENSION INVESTMENT AGREEMENTS: The state pension fund has secured nearly $15 million in refunds and fee discounts from eight investment managers who used placement agents to secure business from the fund.

Treasurer Janet Cowell’s office disclosed the agreements in a 131-page report issued Monday. The report summarizes the findings of a review of the role placement agents played in securing investment dollars from the fund between 2002 and 2008, when Democrat Richard Moore was state treasurer.

The use of such agents became an issue in North Carolina in 2009 after it was disclosed that the state’s chief pension investment officer, Patricia Gerrick, was offered favors. Cowell, a Democrat, fired Gerrick and implemented a number of reforms designed to increase transparency, including requiring investment managers to disclose when they have retained placement agents and the fees paid to them. Read more here.

WATT TO RESIGN SOON: U.S. Rep. Mel Watt said Monday morning that he expects to know “in the next couple days” when he’ll formally resign his House seat to take the helm at the Federal Housing Finance Agency.

Watt’s resignation will trigger the scheduling of a special election to succeed him. Gov. Pat McCrory will start the process once Watt’s resignation is official. Watt told the Observer his resignation is contingent on the timing of his swearing-in at the housing agency. That has not been scheduled.

At least six Democrats are actively running for Watt’s seat in the 12th District, which stretches from Charlotte to Greensboro. A special election could be scheduled for as early as February.

McCRORY TO GET COAL FOR GIFT: Charlotte educators plan to deliver a holiday message to Gov. Pat McCrory on Tuesday: You’ve been a bad boy this year.

Robert Corriher, a community organizer who worked with Charlotte’s “Moral Monday” protests this summer, will dress as Santa to deliver a bag of coal to McCrory’s Charlotte office at the Government Center, 600 E. Fourth St., at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday. Read more here.


Adams gets endorsement: From Roll Call -- EMILY’s List endorsed state Rep. Alma Adams in the crowded Democratic primary for a North Carolina special election, according to a news release shared first with CQ Roll Call. Read more here.

Walter Jones backs medicial marijuana use: U.S. Rep. Walter Jones has taken up the case of a number of desperate North Carolina parents who are hoping state lawmakers will legalize medicinal marijuana for children with uncontrollable seizures. Read more here.

N.C. out $15,000: The federal government won't reimburse cost for opening Smokies for a day during shutdown. Read more here.

Gov. Hunt gets a smartphone: Touts his new gadget. Read more here.

MSNBC: Host Chris Hayes picks up Thom Tillis’ ‘losers’ remark. See it here.