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Friday Follies

Faberge Eggs?

NC Policy Watch reporter Sarah Ovaska uncovered a lot of startling facts last summer when she broke the story of State Rep. Stephen LaRoque’s unique methods of nonprofit management, but she didn’t have access to all of the records and documents that federal officials ultimately accessed in their investigation. Hence it was not until the release of the 72 page indictment this week that North Carolinians were able to learn a number of the more amazing details about what LaRoque did with all the generous sums of money he paid himself. Among the most interesting and depressing: the fact that the lawmaker spent thousands of dollars on the purchase of so-called “Faberge Eggs.”

As one of the many people in the world who had only the faintest idea of what the heck a Faberge Egg is, I resorted to Google this week and learned that these “eggs” were little bejeweled trinkets created for a Russian czar and that there are only 42 thought to be in existence. They’re all worth gazillions of dollars. Clearly, the ones purchased by LaRoque had no more connection to the original collection that does a fancy Easter egg. (Sarah should have more interesting tidbits on this topic later today on The Progressive Pulse).

Bottom line: It’s hard to know what’s more pathetic: ripping off a publicly-funded nonprofit after you’ve premised much of your political career on criticizing working people who accept public assistance when they’re down on their luck or using your ill-gotten gain to buy tacky, knock-off jewelry. 

NC Policy Watch? Who’s that?

The longstanding battle of ideas between N.C. Policy Watch and the local conservative groups funded by Art Pope obviously gets testy at times. Generally, however, folks have tried to behave professionally and semi-respectfully. Though we sometimes include a little dig when we do it, Policy Watch staffers have frequently given credit over the years when conservative think tankers – particularly at the Locke Foundation – have done the right thing (say, on the lottery or corporate incentives or juvenile justice or eugenics). We obviously have fundamental philosophical differences, but if the market fundamentalist prism happens to align on occasion in such a way so as to produce a progressive position on a particular issue, we’re happy to say so and congratulate our ideological adversaries.

Would that our friends at the Pope Civitas Institute could have displayed such an attitude this week when it came to the LaRoque story. As virtually every story that covered the subject noted, the tale of LaRoque’s highly questionable business practices first came to public light last summer as the result of the outstanding investigative journalism of NC Policy Watch reporter, Sarah Ovaska. The Columbia Journalism Review even did a story on it.

Unfortunately, this simple bit of professional courtesy does not appear to have occurred to the Civitas people this week. They not only wrote about the LaRoque indictment without mentioning Policy Watch, but then also tried to morph the story into a means of promoting their own “Citizen Watchdog” training on how to track government grants. Sigh…    

Creepy troublemaker to headline conservative event

And speaking of Civitas “watchdog” trainings, about all you need to know in order to understand what these things are really about is to check out the announcement for next week’s event. It will feature the young, strange and very troubled Mr. James O’Keefe.  As you may recall, one of the many “accomplishments” on O’Keefe’s brief “watchdog” career (other than manufacturing inaccurate and dishonest ”gotcha’” videos and getting arrested for attempting to play dirty tricks on a Louisiana Senator) was producing a video that wrongfully – some might say fraudulently – claimed to have unearthed voter fraud in North Carolina a couple months back.

As the folks at Think Progress have documented, the whole thing was as phony as a three dollar bill. If O’Keefe is a legitimate “watchdog,” Stephen LaRoque is a gemologist.

Second primary yawns

This week’s pathetic primary runoff election (aka The Big Snooze) has to get a brief mention in Follies this week. Whether it’s instant runoff voting as many good government experts recommend or something else, the state really needs to try something different than having fundamental decisions about who leads our democracy left up to 3.6% of the electorate or about one out of every 28 eligible voters.

Troubling words from the fringe

Finally, what week would be complete without a couple of scary/delusional rants from the folks on the extreme right fringe?

On the comical side there’s the latest knuckleheaded claim from the anti-immigrant crowd at ALIPAC that President Obama has been “confirmed to be an illegal alien.” It’s really hard to know whether to laugh or cry at such madness.

And then, finally, there’s this genuinely scary post from the pro-gun folks at Grass Roots North Carolina. The group was so annoyed at a news report that published public information about gun permit owners that they felt compelled to print the biography of a journalist whom they decided was responsible for it. The post is reckless, irresponsible and way over the line. Let’s hope they have second thoughts and take it down ASAP.