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The Follies


Berger’s campaign for Berger

Senate President Pro Tem Berger and his staff have been awfully busy lately.  A couple of weeks ago Berger released a 15 minute video about his life, most likely the first such biopic produced by a Senate President Pro Tem.

Not long after the video came a 30-second campaign ad that also promoted the 15-minute production. The ad is for the fall election, but Berger has no serious opposition.  The new districts drawn by the Republican majority made sure of that.

Then Berger released a slick 12-page color brochure to accompany the release of his education reform plan that seemed as much a political document as a serious education policy proposal.

This week Berger released another video, a 30-second appeal for the marriage discrimination amendment. That commercial came with an appeal for money, not for the campaign to pass the amendment, but for Berger’s campaign.

It’s not clear what is going on in Bergerville, but we may be seeing the launch of Berger’s 2014 run for the U.S. Senate against Democratic Senator Kay Hagan.  He is definitely running for more than reelection to the state Senate.

Senator Vaughan’s ALEC problem

Senator Don Vaughan from Greensboro said this week that he wants to be the next chairman of the N.C. Democratic Party and will seek election to the post when the party’s executive committee meets May 12.

Current chair David Parker announced he would step down after the primary after he came under fire for his role in the settlement of a sexual harassment scandal involving former executive director Jay Parmley, who resigned after the allegations became public.

Vaughan is serving his second term in the Senate and is a former member of Greensboro City Council, both of which ought to help him in his bid for the job.

But Vaughan is also a member of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a national right-wing organization that brings big money interests and conservative state legislators together to develop and promote model bills in state legislatures.

ALEC recently announced it was ending its work on non-economic issues after several major corporations resigned in the wake of the Trayvon Martin shooting in Florida and the controversy about the Stand Your Ground law passed there at the urging of ALEC members.

Common Cause has filed a complaint with the IRS asking that ALEC’s tax-exempt status be revoked because it is a lobbying group.

ALEC has become one of the most visible national symbols of the right-wing policy machine.

It’s hard to imagine an ALEC member becoming the chair of any Democratic organization, especially a state party.

Filling time for the secret budget

You would think that a meeting of the human services budget committee would be serious business, especially when it comes just two weeks before the summer General Assembly session begins and just three weeks before legislative leaders say the budget will pass the House.

But that was hardly the case this week when the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Human Services met for the first time since last year’s long session adjourned. The committee meeting lasted roughly an hour.

There was very little talk about the budget itself, the looming shortfall in Medicaid, the Republican’ proposals to privatize preschool programs, the federal government’s ruling on adult care homes and host of other important issues affecting the budget.

Instead the meeting featured brief remarks by HHS officials and a short presentation by legislative staff.  Then apparently sensing that a 20 minute meeting would be embarrassing, committee Chair Justin Burr asked each lawmaker on the committee to share what was on their mind about budget issues.

What should have been on their mind was when the public debate about the budget would begin in earnest.  The charade of a committee meeting was the latest evidence that the budget is being written by Republican leaders in secret in preparation for the session.

The Republican pandering to extremists continues

Another week, another prominent Republican catering to the right-wing fringe.  Former Mecklenburg County Sheriff Jim Pendergraph, a candidate for Congress in the 9th District, said this week that he has “reason to be suspicious” about whether or not President Obama was born in the United States.

Pendergraph made the remarks in a joint appearance with Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio, an anti-immigrant zealot, who now says he has evidence that Obama’s birth certificate is a forgery.

Arpaio was in town to speak at a Union County Republican Party event. Pendergraph’s extremist comments caused the Charlotte Observer to rethink its endorsement of him in the crowded race for the Republican nomination for the seat currently held by Congresswoman Sue Myrick, who is retiring.

Last week, Richard Hudson, the Republican establishment’s choice for Congress in the 8th District, also made comments questioning Obama’s citizenship. Next month, the keynote address at the state Republican convention will be delivered by Donald Trump, who has praised Arpaio’s pathetic efforts to prove Obama’s birth certificate is not legitimate.

The pandering to extremists apparently knows no bounds in the North Carolina GOP.