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Issues Economic and Social Justice Stop TPP Fast Track Voter Access SPECIAL INVESTIGATION: How Art Pope helped turn back the clock on voting rights in North Carolina
Saturday, 07 June 2014 18:51

SPECIAL INVESTIGATION: How Art Pope helped turn back the clock on voting rights in North Carolina

Written by  Sue Sturgis, with research by Marion T. Johnson | Facing South

When Montravias King, a senior at North Carolina's historically black Elizabeth City State University, showed up at a hearing before the Pasquotank County Board of Elections earlier this month to defend his bid for a city council seat, he faced off against Richard "Pete" Gilbert, the local Republican Party chair.

Gilbert was there to challenge King's residency qualifications, arguing that because the student lives in a campus dormitory he's not a permanent resident of Elizabeth City and therefore does not have the right to hold local office -- even though he's lived in, volunteered in, and voted in Pasquotank County since 2009. Earlier this year, Gilbert also got 56 ECSU students dropped from the voter rolls for registering at their campus address, but he has not mounted similar challenges to student voters at Mid-Atlantic Christian University, a largely white private school also in Elizabeth City.

The local elections board, which is controlled by a Republican majority, sided with Gilbert, and last week issued an order barring King from the ballot. The Durham, N.C.-based Southern Coalition for Social Justice has filed an appeal with the state elections board, saying the ruling violates equal protection provisions of the U.S. Constitution. The hearing is set for Tuesday, Sept. 3. The decision will have important implications for the voting rights of students across North Carolina, since residency requirements for running for office and casting a ballot are the same.

Gilbert, who told the Associated Press that he plans to "take this show on the road," did not come to the Pasquotank elections board hearing alone: Sitting next to him was Susan Myrick, an elections analyst with the John W. Pope Civitas Institute. (This is not the same Sue Myrick who formerly served as the U.S. Representative for North Carolina's 9th District.) Civitas is a conservative think tank founded and largely funded by GOP mega-donor and North Carolina budget director Art Pope and named for Pope's father, the founder of the Variety Wholesalers discount retail chain through which the family amassed its multimillion-dollar fortune.

Myrick's presence at King's hearing has raised questions about Pope's involvement in efforts to roll back voting rights in North Carolina, which had made great strides in boosting turnout in recent years. But that progress in expanding access to the franchise is now jeopardized by a controversial new state elections law, the Voter Identification and Verification Act, which requires voters to show a state-issued photo ID but does not allow students to use school IDs. VIVA also shortens the early voting period and ends same-day registration.

A Facing South investigation finds that Pope played several critical but largely behind-the-scenes roles in advancing the state's new voting restrictions:

1. Pope's ideological network ginned up fear of voter fraud.

Voters cast 3.79 million ballots in North Carolina's 2010 election cycle, and only 28 cases of voter fraud were referred to district attorneys. In 2012, North Carolina voters cast nearly 7 million ballots, and only 121 alleged cases of voter fraud were found. Going back to 2007, the N.C. State Board of Elections has reported a grand total of 80 cases of double voting, three cases involving voter residency issues, and two cases of voter impersonation, which is what the state's new photo ID law aims to prevent.

There simply is no evidence of widespread voter fraud in North Carolina -- a point made by former Secretary of State Colin Powell, a Republican who served under President George W. Bush, when he recently visited the state and slammed its new voting law.

"You can say what you like, but there is no voter fraud," Powell told an executive forum in Raleigh. "How can it be widespread and undetected?"

But you get a very different impression about voter fraud reading the publications produced by conservative think tanks founded and largely funded by Pope.

Civitas, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that bills itself as "North Carolina's Conservative Voice," gets over 99 percent of its funding from Pope -- so much that the IRS classifies it as a private foundation. Pope also founded the John Locke Foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that promotes limited government, and he provides around 80 percent of its operating budget. Pope sat on the two groups' boards of directors until becoming the state budget director earlier this year, giving him a considerable level of both financial and organizational control.

Over the past five years, with Pope and his money at the helm, Civitas and the John Locke Foundation published more than 50 articles, op-eds and blog posts warning of voter fraud and using the alleged threat to call for a strict photo ID law, an end to same-day registration, and a shorter early voting period.

Some stories in Pope-connected publications took a more measured approach to promoting fear of fraud. "Realistically, voter ID requirements are an insurance policy against the possibility that an extremely close election might be stolen by voter fraud," John Locke Foundation President John Hood wrote in a December 2012 article in Carolina Journal, the organization's flagship publication.

Others suggested that voter fraud is a tool commonly used on the political left. "We know that the SEIU, Democratic Party, lefties of all stripes, and every identity group out there understands that a voter ID law would make it difficult to commit vote fraud," Jon Ham wrote for the John Locke Foundation's Right Angles blog in 2011. "THAT's why many of them oppose it."

Meanwhile, Civitas relentlessly criticized an earlier version of voter ID legislation, saying it allowed too many ID options, including utility bills and bank statements. The bill also allowed voters without ID to simply show their signature matched the one on their voter registration -- an approach Civitas rejected in its effort to get the kind of bill that ultimately passed.

"It is safe to say that anyone who votes for a voter ID bill that includes any of these elements is not a supporter of true voter photo ID," Myrick wrote at the time.

2. Pope's ideological network gave a platform to voting restriction extremism.

Both the John Locke Foundation and Civitas Institute have prominently featured the work of Jay DeLancy and his group the Voter Integrity Project of NC (VIP-NC), which has been involved in controversial efforts to kick people off the voting rolls.

A retired Air Force officer, DeLancy attended a 2011 summit held in Houston by True the Vote, a group with close ties to the Tea Party movement that promotes poll watching efforts to root out what it alleges is widespread fraud. True the Vote has been criticized by voting rights advocates for intimidating voters. It has also come under criticism for describing itself as nonpartisan while making in-kind contributions to Republicans and contributing thousands of dollars to the Republican State Leadership Committee, which works to get party members elected to state office. (Pope's business also funds the RSLC.)

DeLancy launched a North Carolina chapter of True the Vote, but he broke from the national group after it raised concerns about his anti-immigrant leanings. He then founded VIP-NC, which DeLancy says "springs from [his] outrage at the news of how election after election is stolen in some amazingly brazen way."

Last year, DeLancy challenged the registrations of more than 500 voters in Wake County, N.C. -- mostly people of color -- who he said were not U.S. citizens. One voter was found to have improperly registered and was stricken from the rolls, while several others requested their own removal. Of the 18 challenges that the local election board found required further investigation, all were dismissed after hundreds of hours of work by the board. A furious DeLancy stormed out of the hearing, kicking open the building's glass doors and denouncing the board as looking "stupid."

Also during last year's busy election season, DeLancy's group submitted nearly 30,000 names of registered voters it claimed were dead to the state elections board. But after a lengthy investigation, the board found that many of the people on DeLancy's outdated list had already been removed from the rolls -- and others were still alive. No evidence emerged of any kind of fraudulent scheme to steal an election.

DeLancy's less-than-careful work and nativist leanings did not deter Pope's ideological network from giving him a platform, however. In the past year, they have cited him and VIP-NC at least 10 times. In one blog post, the John Locke Foundation published DeLancy's claim that VIVA was too permissive. In another, Civitas applauded VIP-NC's work.

"VIP is doing their best to identify names that should not be on the rolls, both dead and non-citizens," Myrick wrote. "You see, they must do this work, because the State Board of Elections will not … ."

3. Pope supported key GOP lawmakers involved in advancing voting restrictions.

House Bill 589, the elections bill that the North Carolina legislature passed this year, was originally introduced in April by four primary sponsors, all Republicans. Two of them -- Reps. Harry Warren of Rowan County and Tom Murry of Wake County -- got generous support in launching their political careers from Pope, his family, and his network of political spending groups.

Running for the legislature for the first time in 2010, Warren narrowly defeated his Democratic opponent, a five-term incumbent, by fewer than 200 votes. Warren's campaign benefited from over $109,000 in spending from Real Jobs NC, a 527 political group co-founded by Pope and whose major funders include Variety Wholesalers. Also in 2010, Murry's campaign to unseat a Democratic incumbent benefited from $12,000 in campaign contributions from Pope and his family, and over $92,000 in independent spending from outside groups affiliated with Pope. That total included more than $45,000 from Real Jobs NC; $25,000 from Civitas Action, the Pope-founded 501(c)(4) sister group of the Civitas Institute; and $21,000 from Americans for Prosperity, on whose national board Pope sat until becoming state budget director.

The revised version of the House elections bill that was unveiled in the state Senate and passed in the closing days of this year's session was even harsher than the original House proposal. Pope's network also supported the lawmakers behind voting restrictions that were added to the final version of the bill.

State Sen. E.S. "Buck" Newton III is a Wilson County Republican who formerly served as an aide to deceased U.S. Sen. Jesse Helms, an outspoken foe of the Voting Rights Act whose 1990 campaign against Harvey Gantt, the African-American former mayor of Charlotte, got in trouble for illegally trying to suppress the black vote. Newton was the primary sponsor of an omnibus elections bill introduced in April that had a strict voter ID provision and disallowed the use of student IDs for voting. It also dramatically shortened early voting and eliminated same-day registration -- all provisions that were added to the House bill and became law. Newton was first elected to the state Senate in 2010, defeating the Democratic incumbent with the help of $4,000 in contributions from Pope and his family and more than $17,000 in independent expenditures from Americans for Prosperity.

Pope and his network also generously supported the 2010 election to the state House of Bill Cook, a Republican who is now a state senator representing the northeastern North Carolina coastal district that's home to Elizabeth City State University. In the 2010 cycle, Cook benefited from over $79,000 in outside support from Pope-backed groups, as well as $16,000 in direct campaign contributions from Pope and his family. Running for state Senate two years later, Cook was helped by over $9,700 in expenditures by Americans for Prosperity, winning by just 21 votes.

Cook went on to become one of the primary sponsors of Senate Bill 666 -- dubbed the "Bill of the Beast" by voting rights advocates -- that cut early voting, eliminated same-day registration, and expanded the rights of party-appointed poll observers. All of those provisions made it into the law signed by Republican Gov. Pat McCrory, whose 2012 campaign received $20,000 in contributions from Pope and his family, and benefited from independent expenditures of $380,000 by Real Jobs NC and $130,000 from Americans for Prosperity.

This year Cook was also a primary sponsor of another bill that would have imposed a tax penalty on the parents of students who register to vote at school. That proposal was tabled after public outcry.

4. Pope helped Republicans win control of state government.

As Facing South has documented, Pope, his family, his company, and the network of outside political groups he's affiliated with -- Americans for Prosperity, Civitas Action, and Real Jobs NC -- spent a total of over $2.2 million in the 2010 election cycle to elect Republican state lawmakers, helping give the party control of both the state House and Senate for the first time since Reconstruction. Those wins also put Republicans in control of drawing new political lines, with Pope serving as an adviser to the redistricting process and further consolidating GOP control of state government.

Pope was an important force again in the 2012 election cycle, as he, his family, and his affiliated groups spent over $2 million on state-level races, helping Republicans win supermajorities in both chambers and putting a Republican in the executive mansion. Without the GOP in power in Raleigh, legislative proposals to limit access to the ballot box -- which disproportionately affect minorities, young people, and other Democratic-leaning constituencies -- would have gone nowhere.

That those proposals are now the law in North Carolina is due in no small part to the efforts of Pope.

Link to original article from Facing South

Read 2450 times Last modified on Saturday, 07 June 2014 19:09

Trans Pacific Partnership Fast Track - Where Does Your Legislator Stand

Click your state to see your Senators and Representatives

Green = Most Legislators Oppose Fast Track, Yellow = Some Opposition, Orange = Oppose TPP, Gray = Unknown
DeLauro 13 - Signed 2013 DeLauro/Miller letter
Pocan - Signed Freshman Letter Opposing Fast Track
W/M - Signed Ways and Means Letter opposing TPP
Gibson - Signed Rep. Chris Gibson letter opposing TPP
SOPA - Oppose Stop Online Piracy Act - voted against
Currency - Oppose Currency Manipulation (Signed Michaud Letter)
Textile - Oppose changes to "First Yarn" (Signed Textile Industry Letter)

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    Trading You In

    Ten score and thirteen years ago corporate forefathers began conquering wilderness, steam, gas, oil, electricity, transcontinental rails and airways communication, prospering by quenching America’s thirst for more, better, faster.  Now we who built it, want more, faster, so thinking locally, we trade globally.  Thus unlike you, we will always have money to eat.

    Written on Monday, 21 October 2013 00:00 Read more...
  • Will Obama Fast-Track the Trans-Pacific Partnership?
    Will Obama Fast-Track the Trans-Pacific Partnership?

    President Barack Obama has demanding a ‘trade promotion authority’ from the United States Congress to fast-track the Pacific Rim treaty, the Trans-Pacific Partnership.[1]

    The fast-track authority plays a pivotal role in determining the extent to which the United States Congress can engage in a critical review of trade agreements.[2]

    Written on Thursday, 17 October 2013 20:25 Read more...
  • There's an International Plan to Censor the Internet in the Works -- Let's Stop It in Its Tracks
    There's an International Plan to Censor the Internet in the Works -- Let's Stop It in Its Tracks

    How the Trans Pacific Partnership making its way through Washington seriously undermines citizens’ rights to participate in a free and open Internet. One month. That’s the time left before the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) could become a finalized agreement.

    Written on Wednesday, 16 October 2013 00:05 Read more...
  • A Corporate Coup in Disguise
    A Corporate Coup in Disguise

    The Trans-Pacific Partnership would create a virtually permanent corporate rule over the people. What if our national leaders told us that communities across America had to eliminate such local programs as Buy Local, Buy American, Buy Green, etc. to allow foreign corporations to have the right to make the sale on any products purchased with our tax dollars?

    Written on Thursday, 03 October 2013 03:17 Read more...
  • 'Flush the TPP!': Protesters Scale Trade Building in Protest of Secretive Deal
    'Flush the TPP!': Protesters Scale Trade Building in Protest of Secretive Deal

    Protesters scaled the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative on Monday and dropped banners calling for greater transparency and an end to "corporatocracy" over the ongoing and secretive Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement currently in the works between the United States and several Pacific nations.

    Written on Tuesday, 24 September 2013 03:31 Read more...
  • Secretive Free Trade Agreement Puts Climate, Public Health at Risk
    Secretive Free Trade Agreement Puts Climate, Public Health at Risk

    New warnings on TPP, free trade 'regime' fostering 'global emergency situation'

    As secretive talks over the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP)—the pending free trade agreement slammed as "NAFTA on steroids" and "a quiet coup for the investor class"—continue, new warnings highlight the corporate winners and global losers at stake.

    Written on Monday, 16 September 2013 02:45 Read more...
  • Stop the Trans Pacific Partnership Fast Track
    Stop the Trans Pacific Partnership Fast Track

    President Obama has asked Congress to provide “Fast Track” authorization for consideration of the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) a new “free trade” deal.

    The negotiations for this new “free trade” agreement have been conducted in secret. Members of Congress as well as the public have no factual information about the contents of this deal.

    Written on Sunday, 15 September 2013 17:36 Read more...
  • TPP Talking Points

    The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is a proposed agreement between the U.S. and 12 nations that do business throughout the Pacific Rim. TPP and its European cousin the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (aka TAFTA), are "free trade" agreements that do much more than the term implies.

    Written on Monday, 02 September 2013 00:00 Read more...
  • Obama's secret trade deal threatens prescription drug prices on global scale
    Obama's secret trade deal threatens prescription drug prices on global scale

    The US pharmaceutical industry has been shaping elements of the Obama administration’s secret Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement to favor their own profits. But the deal could also could cause the price of prescription drugs and some medical devices to soar on a global scale.

    Written on Saturday, 27 July 2013 00:00 Read more...
  • Pocan Calls for Increased Transparency on Trans-Pacific Partnership Free Trade Agreement to Protect American Jobs
    Pocan Calls for Increased Transparency on Trans-Pacific Partnership Free Trade Agreement to Protect American Jobs

    Pocan urges Congress not to give up its constitutional authority to oversee foreign trade agreements

    Written on Friday, 14 June 2013 00:00 Read more...
  • Alan Grayson On Trans-Pacific Partnership: Obama Secrecy Hides 'Assault On Democratic Government'
    Alan Grayson On Trans-Pacific Partnership: Obama Secrecy Hides 'Assault On Democratic Government'

    Progressive Democrats in Congress are ramping up pressure on the Obama administration to release the text of Trans-Pacific Partnership, a secretive free trade agreement with 10 other nations, amid intensifying controversy over the administration's transparency record and its treatment of classified information.

    Written on Thursday, 13 June 2013 00:00 Read more...

Join "Countdown to Coverage" Share TPP with your Daily Newspaper

CWA devised a simple plan for which they were uniquely suited: drag TPP out of the shadows and into the light - one city at a time - using a medium they understand intimately: Daily Newspapers!

Two CWA members - Dave Felice in Denver, CO and Madelyn Elder in Portland, OR have started the ball rolling. We just need to keep up the momentum leading up to a big day of petition deliveries.

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Step 1 is to send an Op-Ed to your Daily Newspaper.

Join our Twitter Storm

If you have a Twitter account you can help stop Fast Track on the TPP. Sign-in to your Twitter account and copy and paste the Tweets from our Twitter storm. Or you can copy your favorite Tweet and then click on the map and Tweet your legislator.

Twitter Storm Tweets for Tuesday, January 28th @ 9pm Eastern

Tweets for the special State of the Union Twitter Storm will be posted on January 28th at 8pm EST. Check back for the new Tweets.

Find Your Member of Congress

Click here to quickly find your member of Congress by putting in your home address. This site also features a one-click link to the same information in Spanish

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Then call and ask them to oppose Fast Track on the Trans Pacific Partnership.

Sample script is below.

Script

“I'm a constituent, and I am strongly opposed to my representative giving away Congress’ constitutional authority to control our trade policy. We send people to Congress to stand up for us, not give away their power to stop more American job offshoring and protect us from dangerous imported food that doesn’t meet our safety standards. This latest so-called trade deal, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), would not only do that - but also ban Buy American and increase our medicine prices. That’s why it’s crucial that Congress not give away its authority to make sure every provision of TPP is in our interest before this massive deal can be signed. Good trade deals don’t need to be railroaded through Congress using Fast Track. I hope my representative will commit to opposing this outrageous legislation.”

Email Your Senators and Rep - Say No On Fast Track and TPP

Send an email directly to your Senators and Representatives courtesy of our partners at CWA. Enter your zip code and your members are automatically selected.

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Sign the ERA Petition

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On Friday, September 12th more than 150 activists will go to DC and Demand that their Senators and Representatives support removing the ratification deadline from the ERA (SJ Res 15 and HJ Res 113)

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Sign the Petition - Sen. Sanders Run as a Democrat in 2016

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Report on your TPP Contact

Please let us know your legislator's stance on Fast Track Authorization for the Trans Pacific Partnership as well as their stance on the TPP in General. Click here to report the response.

The Trans Pacific Partnership: Corporate Global Domination

Lori Wallach on the TPP from PDA Progressive Roundtable

Progressive Roundtable with Reps. Ellison and Pocan and Lori Wallach on TPP

Lori Wallach Leaked TPP Documents (Democracy NOW)

TPP: The Biggest Threat to the Internet You've Probably Never Heard Of

Lori Wallach on Thom Hartmann (Great Minds) - The TPP

Flush the TPP

Congress only has one more week in session this year, the week of December 9. So far our pressure to stop the TPP has been working. Visit Flush the TPP for calling scripts and links to Members of the Ways and Means Committee.

Flush the TPP

TPP Downloads

The following documents are available from the Oppose TPP Downloads Folder

June 29th TPP Powerpoint

CWA TPP Jobs Report