Thursday, January 25, 2007

Hillary's Baggage

Now that Kerry is out and it looks like the Presidential field is tightening a bit [heh], I took a look back at the January 1, 2007 issue of Newsweek. The major story in this edition features Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama and asks if America is ready for a woman or African American as President.

It's not a bad piece and puts a lot out there that can serve as conversation starters.....and enders.

Then, there was this little tidbit and it stopped me dead in my tracks:
And what about Bill? The 42nd president is clearly a major plus for Hillary as long as he does nothing to embarrass his wife. One close friend of the family, who requested anonymity for obvious reasons, says the two now have a "loving marriage" and that his intense desire to see Hillary as president is helping him fight his longstanding "addiction": "He so wants her to get recognized for her fabulousness that he could live without a lot of things you wouldn't think he could live without."
Addiction? Oh....and wait....he wants her to be President soooo much there are a lot of things he's going to live without. What? Like sex with younger women? What about living without it because he LOVES HIS WIFE!

Hillary isn't my first choice as a candidate, but I sure do feel sorry for her after reading this. It appears Bill isn't her greatest asset. He may very well be her heaviest piece of baggage.

[Note] I've linked to page five of the article because that is where the quote is located. This is a long piece, but worth the read.

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Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Easley Beats Liddy in Head to Wig Poll

We have more polling goodness coming our way tonight from Public Policy Polling. They polled 501 registered voters on January 22, 2007. Their release says these are "likely general election voters".

They polled on approval ratings for our governor and senators as well as approval ratings for the war in Iraq. We will also get to see how a hypothetical meeting between He-Who-Refuses-To-Run and Empty Wig would end up.

Easley wins the popularity contest hands down. He has a 50% approval rating compared to 36% for Dole and 32% for Burr.

North Carolinians do not like Bush's plan to escalate death and dismemberment in Iraq. A surprisingly high 57% of those polled do not approve of the plan.

Finally, in a head to wig hypothetical race, Easley beats Dole 44% to 41%. I wonder if Governor Easley is paying attention?

For more information on this poll including all the crosstab goodness please go here. (PDF)

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Congressman Brad Miller, Science and Subpoena Power

Many of you were here during our live-blogging session with Congressman Brad Miller. Some of you might remember this comment he made after a question from gregflynn.
We're still collecting accounts of intimidation.
Submitted by repbradmiller on Thu, 12/28/2006 - 10:02am.
The Science Committee will have a new subcommittee next year, an Investigations and Oversight subcommittee. Yes, it will have subpoena power.

I will no likely chair that subcommittee next year, unfortunately, but I expect to remain active on the issue. You can still send e-mails confidentially to heather.parsons[at] with any examples of research being quelched or manipulated because of political considerations.
I was sad to see that Rep. Miller wouldn't chair that committe, because I felt he would be an excellent fit for the job. The good great news is that Congressman Brad Miller is indeed the chair of the Investigations and Oversight subcommittee and yes, the committee does have subpoena power. They have just finished their first organizing meeting and it is official.

I had a chance to speak with Representative Miller this morning to ask a few questions. I encourage anyone who wants to gain a basic understanding of just how knowledgeable he is and how engaged he is with the challenges facing our nation's scientists, to read his diary posts at DailyKos.

Miller said that he has heard from a lot of scientists about this administration's attempts to tailor the science or to force the scientists to tailor their findings to fit a predetermined outcome. There has been intimidation and funding has been cut. At the science blogging conference this past weekend almost every speaker referred to "the current political climate" in some manner. It's obvious many (most?) are feeling some type of pressure - even if indirect - to not do their jobs the way they should be done. Miller says the committee will be looking at whether we are letting scientists be scientists.

While the idea that Brad Miller having the power to subpoena all our favorite science-hating neocons might make some of us giddy with delight, Miller says subpoenas will be used as a last resort. Initially, the committee will request information and see what they are able to obtain willingly before resorting to issuing subpoenas. He also mentioned some might be issued when they are required to obtain the information. He referred to these as "friendly" subpoenas.

I also asked Congressman Miller if there were any specific incidents that he felt needed to be investigated. He mentioned the attempted silencing of James Hansen at NASA. This should be good.

Congratulations, Congressman Miller.

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Sue Myrick Bitch Slaps Robert Pittenger

Jim Morrill from The Charlotte Observer got a chance to step outside his typical dry political world and write about something juicy. I'm not going to give it all away, so you will have to go read it yourself.

Gist for the mill: Sue Myrick is in for 2008. She blames Robert Pittenger for spreading a rumor that she was not going to run. Sue no likey Robert Pittenger anymore and it looks like another man is involved. Oooh, a political menage a trois.

In a rare public rebuff, U.S. Rep. Sue Myrick Tuesday severed ties with fellow Charlotte Republican and longtime supporter Robert Pittenger.

Myrick told Pittenger, a state senator, that she was kicking him off her congressional finance committee and asked him to remove her picture from a Web site.

"I no longer think it appropriate for you to have a part in the strategic direction of my political future," she wrote.


In her letter to Pittenger, Myrick said she had heard "from numerous sources" that the two of them had "cut a deal" where Myrick would run for governor and endorse Pittenger for her congressional seat.

"I am not going to run for governor and I am not going to support you for Congress," she wrote.

What does Pittenger have to say and where does he place the blame for this development? You'll have to read the Observer. I can't give away all the juicy stuff Jim worked so hard to ferret out.

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Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Live Blogging SOTU at BlueNC

I will be live blogging the State of the Union Address at Don't miss it! We'll be having a party. Live Blog Thread


Monday, January 22, 2007

Science Blogging Conference Review

I can wrap this baby up in one word: Awesome! Obviously, my unbridled enthusiasm could use some perspective. I don't get out much. My time with the grownups - very bright grownups - is something I hope to repeat next year.

Kirk and Robert might have more subdued, mature reactions for you and I hope they'll chime in with their own posts or in the comments.

Bora Zivkovic and Anton Zuiker organized the event with the help of volunteers. WillR tended to the registration duties and BrianR was also helping out to make sure everything ran smoothly during the day. I'm sure there were other volunteers who worked hard to make the event seem effortless. Breakfast and lunch were provided and we had lots of goodies waiting for us. I'm going to provide a list at the bottom to give the folks who helped out a little more ad space and promotion. They deserve it.

After attending Converge South (MSM and bloggers) and the Science Blogging Conference (Scientists, Educators, Bloggers) I can tell you that scientists are a lot funnier than journalists. Converge South was terrific, but there is tension between bloggers and journalists, blogger/citizen journalists and journalists and journalists who wish they were bloggers. That tension was missing at the event on Saturday.

The scientists all seemed excited about using blogs to communicate with other scientists and with the general public. The educators all seemed to be excited about having another tool to help them communicate with and teach their students. The bloggers, well, we were just there for the free food.

OK, not really. I can't speak for anyone else, but I feel that science will have an increasingly important role in defining our progressive agenda and as a political blogger, I want to be able to understand the science and know how to effectively explain it to my readers. All three of them.

A yummy breakfast of croissants, scones and other assorted goodies was provided courtesy of Blogads and Burroughs Wellcome Fund. We chatted and went by the swag table to scoop up science journals, DVDs and all sorts of other fun stuff. Much of it was already in a handy tote bag provided by RTI International that we were given as we checked in. We were also given a great tee shirt sponsored by the Public Library of Science.

I had a chance to chat with Robert and Kirk before the morning session started. It was great to see them both. It was also great to see WillR and GeorgeB (whom I met at Converge South), but I missed getting a chance to meet BrianR. Maybe next time.

Bora and Anton started off the morning session which featured Hunt Williard, the director of the Duke Institute for Genome Sciences & Policy and Janet Stemwedel, who is an assistant professor of philosophy at San Jose State University, a physical scientist and a blogger.

Williard is a cross between a stand up comedian, your favorite Uncle Joe and the neighbor down the street you never talk to because his IQ of a million and eight intimidates you. He referred to blogging as an, "intriguing and yet scarily democratic method for communicating about science." At one point he referenced the space race and how it had become a part of everyday life without people understanding the science behind it. That, of course, got me thinking about which science in the present or near future will become a part of our daily lives and how bloggers can help facilitate a basic understanding. Of course, I want to understand the science myself and not just repeat bits and blurbs from others. (It's going to take more than attending a few conferences for that to happen!)

Janet Stemwedel is a cross between your favorite science teacher in high school, your best friend in college and the girl next door who just happens to have an IQ of a million and eight, but for some reason you aren't intimidated by her. She is a blogger and already understands the importance of the community that develops around a blog, at one point saying that these are people you would spill blood for. She's right. Stemwedel said that community and communication are key ingredients for human flourishing and blogs can be an important means for achieving that sense of community for scientists who are many times isolated in and by the work that they do.

After the morning sessions we were provided an excellent lunch that was sponsored by BlogBurst and JMP Software. Once again we had a chance to chat with folks we already knew and meet new people as we sat around the classrooms waiting for the afternoon breakout sessions.

I attended the afternoon session given by Rosalind Reid, editor of American Scientist Magazine, on how best to use graphics in our posts. I found the session very informative. Professional journalists might have already known quite a bit about what was discussed, but most of the folks sitting around me were very engaged in the points made by Ms. Reid and the conversations they started among the participants. I'm running short of time, but will update this post with a list of the sources and resources we were given. I will also be referencing this session in the meta post I have almost finished on copyright infringement. There were two important points I picked up in this session. First, many science illustrations don't stand on their own and need the identifying information attached to them in some way so readers aren't lost. The other is that many science journals, universities, etc will allow you to use their illustrations if you are on topic and using them to further the understanding of the science involved. Once again, I'll touch further on this when we discuss copyright infringement.

I was not able to stay for the second round of breakout sessions and hope Kirk or Robert will have something to say about them.

For those of you who missed the conference, but would like to read some of the best in science blogging from the past year, Bora pulled together an anthology and it can be purchased by visiting this link. You can download it and print it yourself or purchase the paperback edition. The link attached to his name above will take you to his blog where you can see his announcment of the anthology.

Finally, I would like to thank Bora and Anton for putting together a wonderful conference. I've never organized anything this big, but I have put together some pretty large fundraising events and know how hard it can be. They made it look easy and I know it was not.

Now, don't you wish I'd left it at "Awesome!"?


UNC School of Medical Journalism
Sixma Xi
American Scientist
Seed Media Group
Ecco/Harper Collins
Museum of Life and Science, Durham, NC
RTI International

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Thursday, January 18, 2007

Time to Doff the Tin Foil - No Suspicious Undervote in NC-08

Unless you've been in seclusion or you've been living under a rock, you've heard about the alarmingly high undervote rate in Florida's 13th Congressional District race. According to The San Francisco Chronicle piece linked above via CommonDreams, the undervote of somewhere around 15% in Sarasota County means that close to 18,000 people voted for other races, but failed to select a choice for the Jennings/Buchanan race. Unlike North Carolina, Florida does not require a paper trail for its touch screen machines. There are several theories floating around as to what happened to those 18,000 votes, but with no paper trail, it is difficult, if not impossible to verify the count from the machine.

Now, conspiracy theories are cropping up surrounding the 4.2% Mecklenburg County undervote in the 8th Congressional race between Larry Kissell and Robin Hayes. It started with an email going around with lots of THESE and quite a few of !!!!!!! these. According to the author of the email the Mecklenburg County Board of Elections was negligent in its execution of the 3% eye-hand recount performed on November 29, 2006. The author also claims that there is an unprecedented undervote in Mecklenburg County for the 8th Congressional District race. The undervote rate of 4.2% is unprecedented in this race for Mecklenburg County, however, in light of circumstances surrounding November's elections, it is not surprising, shocking or significant and all the CAPITAL LETTERS and !!!!! exclamation points!!!! in the world will not change that fact.

Why address this publicly? The email has had broad enough distribution that it deserves to be addressed publicly. Not only that, diaries are showing up on Daily Kos, Democratic Underground and now BlueNC. A new web site asserting this claim also exists. It isn't my intention to call out any one person or to try and embarrass someone, therefore I'm not addressing the author of this email or the web site by name.

Another reason to address this publicly is the spread of faulty data that is now getting wider distribution. A couple of days ago, Kirk Ross brought our attention to a writer who is spreading confusion by using a completely inaccurate undervote total for North Carolina's 8th Congressional District. Michael Collins has a post at Scoop Independent News, and it was taken to Crooks and Liars by Nicole Belle. In this article Collins claims that the undervote percentage in the 8th Congressional race in Mecklenburg County was over 15%. I'll refute his numbers later in this post.

The most important reason to address this publicly is that there are valid complaints with election procedures and results in some states. Any time a false claim is made or a problem created where none exists, it dilutes the importance of other, more valid claims and takes attention and possibly resources away from where they are most needed.

What is an undervote?

An undervote occurs when a ballot is cast and the voter either intentionally or inadvertently does not vote in a race on the ballot. Undervote rates tend to increase the further down the ballot the race is located. Undervoting is to be expected, but at the top of the ballot any undervote over 2% should at least get a nod of attention. How much over 2% is acceptable depends on which race sits at the top of the ticket and any special circumstances surrounding the vote. Last year, in Mecklenburg County there was an undervote of 4.2% in the 8th Congressional race, which sat at the top of the ballot.

Today, I hope to lend some perspective to the analysis others have given and I hope to correct the inaccuracies being spread by Michael Collins and any others who are using faulty data. To understand this post, you might need to follow the links. I have provided my raw data, but have also linked to the data provided by the Mecklenburg County board of Elections. I know some of you will want to do your own calculations.

The Email

If you're on as many political email lists as I am, you've probably seen this email. It includes an exchange between an observer of the Mecklenburg County recount and Bev Harris of Blackbox voting. You will find a redacted version of the email at this link. You will find the email author's raw data at this link.

To summarize, the author of the email makes these claims:

* There is an unprecedented, suspicious undervote in Mecklenburg County, especially in the 8th Congressional race

* No other down-ballot races had a higher undervote rate than the 8th District with the congressional race being outperformed by all other down-ballot races.

* It is the FIRST time all down-ballot races have had a lower undervote rate than the top of the ticket race.

The author of the email is wrong on all counts. There was a partisan down-ballot race that had a higher undervote than the 8th Congressional District race. Kissell shared 20 of 29 precincts with the County Commission District 4 race, which most would consider a down-ballot race. The author chose instead to include in his comparison a county commission race that shared only two precincts with the 8th Congressional District. In comparing only shared precincts, the 8th CD had an undervote rate of 4.3% and the County Commission District 4 race had an undervote rate of 5%. Raw data for this can be found here.

The author's excitement over the fact that it's the first time this has happened deserves some perspective. In 2004 the sheriff was not running for re-election and none of the other races that shared precincts with the 8th CD had opposition. The only races that provide any reasonable comparison were the 2002 elections for sheriff, County Commission District 4 and NC House District 100. Making this claim based on a comparison which includes only a few races from one year makes the claim that it, "NEVER BEFORE HAPPENED", a little weak. Actually, it makes it a lot weak.

The following is a quote from the email about the author's experience during the recount procedings.
I was present for the manual hand recount of the 3% of the precincts in Mecklenburg, but the recount procedures I witnessed where NOT appropriate. First of all even though I was an observer I was NOT permitted to view the paper reams that where being counted. Although this seems the defeat the purpose of having a observer the BOE officials insisted that the reams where confidential and would only me, OR the campaign attorney to view the tapes.
The only people allowed to view the tapes where BOE employees and they where given instructions that virtually guaranteed they would produce the same results of the machine count.
While I did not attend the recount itself, I did call the Mecklenburg County Board of Elections to ask an official about their recount procedures. I did not ask for a formal statement, so will not give a direct quote, however I do know this person attended the recount and is very familiar with the procedure. I will request a formal statement if my explanation does not suffice.

First, my understanding is that none of the machines involved in the eye-hand recount showed a significant difference from the machine tally when counted by hand. If there was a difference, it is my understanding the tape was examined to see if it could be determined whether human error caused the difference in count. If they could determine where the mistake was made on the tape, and the tape then verified the machine count, the tape was not recounted. There was nothing found during the process that indicated a problem with any of the machines.

The other issue the author takes with the recount procedures is that he was not allowed to examine the tape. North Carolina election law can be ambiguous on some points, but a reasonable interpretation of G.S. 163-182.2 (3)(PDF - pg. 172) might explain why the author wasn't allowed to examine the tapes. It reads :
Any member of the public wishing to witness the vote count at any level shall be allowed to do so. No witness shall interfere with the orderly counting of the official ballots. Witnesses shall not participate in the official counting of official ballots.
An observer or witness is just that, an observer. As far as I'm aware, an observer is not entitled to any special privileges just because he or she is from a campaign. Examining the tapes might be construed as interfering with the orderly counting of the official ballot. I'm not a lawyer or judge, but this statute could easily be interpreted - and may already have been interpreted to prevent witnesses from touching, examining or hovering over the official counters while they touch and examine the tapes. It appears to me, the author's complaint isn't with the Mecklenburg Board of Elections on this point, but with North Carolina's election laws.

I understand why tapes should be examined and I understand why the observer might want to see for himself what the tape says, but the employees of the different boards are required to follow the law.

As I mentioned above, I'm not writing this to pick on anyone or to call anyone out. However, the data that the author of the email used is inaccurate and incomplete. Sensationalizing a 4.2% undervote when prior undervotes have been just over 2% is not in the best interest of the candidate and it certainly isn't in the best interest of the people who spend many hours investigating claims like this. Their time should be spent on legitimate issues.

The Web Site

The author of the email and the owner of the web site are not the same person. I don't doubt the sincerity of the owner of the site, but the data given to back up his claim that there is an aberrant undervote is sketchy(Precinct 205 counted twice) and simply does not do the job.

The site gives a few graphs and claims the undervote was 4%. More specifically it is 4.2%.

The following is a summary of the site owner's questions:

* If the undervote is attributed to voter dissatisfaction, why did it stop at the county line?

* Why did the voter dissatisfaction "arise sui generis in 2006"?

* Why did voter dissatisfaction not extend to candidacies lower on the ballot?

Answering the first question is easy. Republicans voted in other races, but did not vote for Robin Hayes. If you look at shared precincts, the Republican candidate in the county commission race came within two votes of Robin Hayes' total. It's hard to imagine that a relatively unknown candidate from a down-ballot race who lacks the power of incumbency, could come within two votes of a popular, well-known congressman. The NC House race between Hal Jordan and Jim Black isn't a fair comparison with Jim Black's ethics challenges. However, Hal Jordan had about 700 more votes than Robin Hayes in their shared precincts.

If you look at overall percentage of votes for these Republican candidates across their respective districts, Robin Hayes received the lowest percentage of votes of any of the Republicans with shared precincts and he is the only Republican incumbent with high name recognition.

Also, the NCGOP ran an aggressive ad campaign in Mecklenburg County to try to flip control of the county commission. This ad campaign did not extend beyond the county's borders and should at least help explain why Republicans would turn out to vote for the county commission, state house and sheriff races while their overall dissatisfaction gave them a reason to withhold their vote from Robin Hayes.

You would have to have spent the last year under a rock or in a cave to not understand the escalation of voter dissatisfaction that has built over the past year. Why did this wave not occur in 2004 or wait until 2008? Like I said, rock or cave, if you were not politically aware of what was going on, I'm not going to waste ink rehashing it here.

The final question posed asks why voter dissatisfaction did not extend to down-ballot races. Well, North Carolinians might not all be the brightest bulbs in our respective packs, but most of us understand that our county commissioners, state house reps and our sheriffs don't have a thing to do with the mess in Washington.

Michael Collins Articles

The articles linked above written by Michael Collins are particularly disturbing. First, it appears that Mr. Collins is advocating that Mecklenburg County's tapes be used to prove that Sarasota County's machines are faulty. If the problem is in the programming and Sarasota's machines were faulty or tampered with, recounting the results in Mecklenburg County will not prove anything. He completely ignores the fact that the 3% eye-hand recount performed in Mecklenburg County resulted in zero added votes and did not indicate any problems with the machines.

There is a bigger problem with his article, however. Collins either intentionally uses an inflated undervote figure to make Mecklenburg County's undervote appear more sensational, or he has no idea how to figure the undervote from the iVotronics returns.

In stating that Mecklenburg County's undervote is greater than 15% he failed to exclude all paper absentee, curbside and provisional votes. Provisional votes naturally create a huge undervote since so many are discarded. Once those are removed the actual undervote of 4.2% is revealed. With the correct undervote total, Collins' entire argument is rendered moot.


There was no vast conspiracy in Mecklenburg County. There was no suspicious, aberrant, shocking or surprising undervote in Mecklenburg County. Voters were unhappy with the mess in Washington and it showed in the slightly inflated undervote. Republicans voted for down-ballot races, but withheld their votes from Robin Hayes. I only wish they had withheld about 330 more.

This is a long piece and if I've failed to clarify a point well enough, please feel free to ask questions. I am not an election returns expert. I am not a political scientist. However, I do follow returns and fiddle around with numbers and I've been doing it for a good long while. I am in-tune enough with what happened in Mecklenburg to be able to take a step back and apply a little common sense to this situation. At least, I hope that's what I've done. I'm sure you will all let me know if I have failed.

Data Links
Email Data
Web Site Data
My Raw Data derived from Meck BOE data
Media Download, Meck BOE
Election Returns Archives, Meck BOE
November 7 Returns, Meck BOE

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Monday, January 15, 2007

Something in the Air

You know something isn't right when I find myself agreeing with John Hood two times in so many days. Last night Anglico linked to and quoted John Hood saying this:
"Hackney is a liberal who most conservatives will disagree with, but he's also a smart and fair-minded legislator who conservatives can work with," Hood said. "Under Hackney, the House will be a place of deliberation again, which it should be."
I have no problem with this comment. Being called fair-minded isn't the worst thing in the world.

The second incident occurred this morning in an article in The Charlotte Observer about how Dems have now decided to utilize the loophole that the Republican women broke in a while back. You know the loophole I'm talking about - the one that allows politicians to receive money from lobbyists afterall. Yeah, that one. We all knew it wouldn't be long before Dems decided to join Republicans in exploiting it.

Can you blame them? Why should the Republicans get all the good money? I mean, they are the party out of power in this state. If lobbyists are willing to buy donate to them, then they certainly should be more than generous with the party that is in power, right?

Seriously, it would be ethical stupid, moronic, imbicilic for Dems to decline lobbyist donations. Why should we let Republicans line their war chests while we do all the work running this state? I mean, it's laughable, right?

The Observer has this about and from Hood:
John Hood, whose John Locke Foundation was part of the same coalition, said he was always dissatisfied with the ban. Instead, he would like to see a dollar cap on what lobbyists can give.

"This is good evidence of the fact that the bill was sprawling. It involved a lot of different issues. Parts of it were written quickly or rewritten quickly," Hood said. "This is an area that needs to be clarified."

Clarified, absolutely. It needs to be changed as soon as possible. Until then, we need to keep this as public and transparant as we can. We need to keep a running list of which lobbyists pony up to the PACs, groups and parties and which candidates receive lobbyist contributions via the PACs, groups and their respective parties.

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Sunday, January 14, 2007

Is Sue Myrick Retiring?

A friend nudged me in the direction of a Charlotte Observer rumor mill piece printed yesterday that tossed the idea in the air that Pat McCrory might run for Sue Myrick's seat if she retires. Funny, we were having that discussion here way back at the end of November.

State Sen. Robert Pittenger, according to the Observer, has already made it known that he would run for Myrick's seat if she vacates it. With all this rumor mongering by the Observer it does lead me to believe something is up with Sue. Maybe she isn't well enough to continue serving, or maybe she does plan to run for Dole's seat.

I've also heard through the grapevine that McCrory might consider a run for Lt. Governor, but I'm not sure I see that. McCrory's not a bad guy for a Republican, but my fear is that he would get to Washington and step in line with all the other wingers. I know Pittenger would.

There's no suspense over who will be throwing his hat in the ring for a possible run against the Republican nominee. Bill Glass has announced he will run again in 2008. I haven't heard any rumors as to whether there are any other Democrats wanting a chance at this seat.

It's probably going to be a while before we find out.

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Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Introducing Public Policy Polling

Many of us remember Public Policy Polling as the group that provided some encouraging polls for both Larry Kissell and Heath Shuler. Today, PPP has released some early polls on the primary races for governor and president here in NC. We're so happy they've decided to share - at least I am.

The best news is that this isn't a one-time thing. According to their press release there's more in store for those of us who love real polls.
As we begin a new year, a new legislative session and a new campaign season, PPP is rededicating itself to tracking issue trends, campaign match-ups and approval ratings. you can expect more poll data and more expert analysis on all aspects of North Carolina politics and government.
What is Public Policy Polling? To find out more about Public Policy Polling and owner, Dean Debnam, just read this great piece from Bob Geary in The Independent Weekly.

There are plenty of folks working hard to put together and execute the polls, so a great big thanks to all of them for their hard work. My contact - our contact - is our very own justing. He is Justin Guillory and is a visitor here at BlueNC. I hope we will find him gracing our site a little more often.

Please keep in mind when reading the polls that their data is based on real people giving responses to questions. You might not agree with the data, but that doesn't make the poll wrong or bad. We are lucky PPP has decided to make more of its data available.

To the polls.....:

2008 Democratic Primary

Currently the data shows a plurality of voters still undecided when asked who they would support for president and for governor. Currently Edwards leads the pack of Democrats, but 40% are undecided. Perdue leads Moore with 41% undecided. You can see all the data here. (PDF)

2008 Republican Primary

Currently, data shows more Republicans have decided which candidate they will support in the primary and it's a squeaker with Giuliani leading the pack. Fewer have made a decision about their pick for governor, but Graham is leading the way in this one with a plurality undecided. You will find that data here.

I hope you will enjoy the polls and I hope you will welcome justing when he finds time to visit again. Public Policy Polling is local and with their transparency as to methodology I feel confident we will have fun with their polls over the coming election cycle.

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Friday, January 05, 2007

NC Republican Women Skirt the Law

I knew that someone would work hard to find a loophole around our new ethics laws here in NC. I didn't think it would happen this quickly and would be this blatant.

David Ingram is reporting in The Charlotte Observer that a group of Republican women has lost no time in leaping through a loophole in the new law that allows lobbyists to continue giving to political groups or PACs.

From the Observer:
.....And that exception has not been lost on the leaders of the Committee to Elect Republican Women, a group of 14 female state officials.

The group sent a letter this week to lobbyists, inviting them to attend a breakfast Jan. 24 before the new session of the General Assembly and to contribute as much as $4,000. The invitation even mentions the new law and argues that the group is exempt.


Cherie Berry, founder of the Committee to Elect Republican Women, said it's doing only what it has done since its launch in 1999.
Please follow below the fold....

What's that, Cherie? Worming your way around the law?

According to the Observer article, the actions of this group have those who supported the new ethics law upset.
Groups that argued for the new law say the Committee to Elect Republican Women is taking advantage of a loophole -- one of the first loopholes in the state's new, more comprehensive ethics laws.

"They're trying to thread the needle," said Bob Hall, research director of the Carrboro-based watchdog group Democracy North Carolina. "They're undercutting the spirit of what the new law says."
They should be upset. There is nothing that prevents a group of lawmakers from forming a PAC for the sole purpose of soliciting funds from lobbyists. Quite frankly, setting up a PAC isn't that difficult. According to G.S. 163-278.6 (14)(PDF):
The term "political committee" means a combination of two or more individuals, such as any person, committee, association, organization or other entity that makes, or accepts anything of value to make, contributions or expenditures and has one or more of the following characteristics:

a. Is controlled by a candidate;
b. Is a political party or executive committee of a political party or is controlled by a politcal party or executive committee of a political party;
c. Is created by a corporation, business entity, insurance company, labor union, or professional association pursuant to G.S. 163-278.19(b); or
d. Has as a major purpose to support or oppose the nomination or election of one or more clearly identified candidates.
As you can see, there is nothing to prevent two like-minded (or opposite-minded) legislators from joining together to rake in the big bucks from lobbyists. There may be limits as to how much each can use to fund their campaigns personally, but imagine the power that could be garnered as they spread the wealth among their cronies. This could easily happen on both sides of the aisle.

Once again, according to the Observer:
According to the invitation, the group has received written opinions from a staff lawyer at the General Assembly and from the State Board of Elections indicating it was complying with the law. Berry said those opinions are good enough for her.

The lawyer, Walker Reagan, told the Observer his opinion is not binding. Gary Bartlett, executive director of the State Board of Elections, said he is unaware of any written opinion from his office. Bartlett said he isn't sure his office has authority over the issue.
I see a couple of folks pulling out their ten foot poles. Not gonna touch this one, huh boys?

David Ingram did an excellent job pulling this article together. Please visit the Observer at the link above and if you like the coverage email and let him know. He might not share my opinions about the facts he presented, but I think he did a thorough job presenting the facts.

Note: While I wasn't able to find a complete list of the 14 Republican women playing fast and loose with our new ethics laws, I did find their listing at the North Carolina State Board of Elections. Here is their third quarter report from 2006. (PDF)

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Tuesday, January 02, 2007

This is my first attempt at a video/slide show with my new software. Enjoy! Click on the picture and it will take you to the page where I saved the slide show. I'm not ready for YouTube Primetime, yet. Thanks for watching and any feedback would be helpful. I recognize a lot of issues, but don't yet know how to fix them. I'm working on it, though.

The song, "Have You Had Enough?" is a remake of a great Squirrel Nut Zippers song and features Ricki Lee Jones on vocals. Howie Klein, of Blue America, did some wonderful advocacy work for candidates who might not otherwise get the attention. Videos were worked up for and by candidates using this song. It was inspired after Larry Kissell appeared at FireDogLake in a live-blog session as part of Blue America. This song has inspired me to get out of my computer chair and dance many times. It also inspired me to hunt down some music by the Squirrel Nut Zippers. I hope it inspires you to do the same.