Fed heat on Cooper

One day after North Carolina Democrat party lawyers deposed NC GOP executive director Dallas Woodhouse to engage in what Woodhouse dismissed as “a fishing expedition”, Republicans cast a line of their own but with a much larger hook and serious implications for Gov. Roy Cooper.

Woodhouse was forced to answer questions in response to Democrats’ demands to know what role he played in the his party’s cancellation of this year’s judicial primaries. The deposition is tied to a Democrat party lawsuit against GOP leaders Tim Moore and Phil Berger, attempting to overturn the elimination of those primaries last year.

While the lawsuit is little more than a sideshow — non-judicial county primaries are May 8; the case isn’t set for trial until June, leaving no time to wedge in another primary for judges — the NC GOP on April 24 issued a request for something with a bit more teeth, a federal investigation of Cooper and his role in the Governor’s office taking control of a $58 million pipeline fund.

The NC GOP is citing the Hobbs Act of 1949 in its submission to U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Raleigh-based Robert J. Higdon Jr., the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina.

The Hobbs Act prevents wrongful property extortion by public officials whether they personally benefit financially or not. Eight governors have been convicted of public corruption through the Hobbs Act since becoming law 69 years ago.

Read the request for implementation of the Hobbs Act in the Cooper matter here.

A joint statement was issued by NC GOP Chairman Robin Hayes and Woodhouse:

“The conduct of Governor Cooper regarding the $58 million pipeline fund, designed to be under his sole control, appears to be the worst example of pay-to-play politics, intended to benefit him personally and/or politically. A serious look by federal investigators is warranted.”

NC leads on free speech

North Carolina Lieutenant Governor Dan Forest and fellow state Republicans go into 2018 with considerable momentum, owed to last year’s numerous legislative victories and despite ever looming veto threats and lawsuits courtesy of Democrat Governor Roy Cooper.

In a December 31 op-ed for North State Journal, Forest summarized legislation that originated in his office in 2017. In particular, he heralded adoption of a Campus Free Speech Act by the Board of Governors of the University of North Carolina system, which “helps restore and preserve free speech on our public university campuses.”

While this objective might strike some as common sense and overdue, the law places North Carolina and its public universities squarely in a position of national leadership at a time when disrupting campus speech — in classrooms and in public forums, or by forcing speakers to be “disinvited” — has emerged as a core tactic in the left’s so-called “resist” movement. As the Democrat party moves further left and pursues an ever more radically progressive agenda, college campuses are devolving into battlegrounds, thick with tension.

The NC law (HB527), sponsored by Rep. Chris Mills (R-Pender), inevitably will become a substantive pillar on which Forest can campaign in his likely run for the Governor’s mansion in 2020, especially if Forest is forced to contend with a field of other Republicans — Phil Berger, Pat McCrory, or U.S. Senator Thom Tillis — for the nomination. When he hits the campaign trail, Forest would be wise to repeat the words he wrote in his North State Journal op-ed last month.

The job of government and our universities is not to shield individuals from speech they might find offensive, but to commit to the principles of free speech, including spontaneous demonstration and access to campus consistent with the First Amendment.

Forest and fellow Republicans also have a golden opportunity to remind voters — often — that the bill passed into law without Cooper’s signature. His inaction was not unintentional. Cooper didn’t forget to sign it. So what was his underlying message to Democrats in North Carolina and beyond?

In its reporting on the bill’s passage, Generation Opportunity state director Anna Beavon Gravely told Carolina Journal that it appears Cooper supports campus environments “where unelected employees of state government are able to intimidate into silence the views that are not their own.”

If the sitting Governor of North Carolina believes that, it is never too early to begin working to unseat him. Let it begin now.

 

Amazon-mania

Amid frenzied speculation about Amazon’s search for a so-called “second headquarters” (HQ2) beyond its mothership in Seattle — 238 cities and/or regions are bidding — the data point emphasized repeatedly is 50,000. As in 50,000 Amazon jobs materializing to boost the economy of the winning applicant. (Charlotte, Hickory, Raleigh and the Triad are North Carolina’s candidates).

But job creation is only one variable in the high stakes scenario. The quest to win over Amazon requires far more than producing slick chamber-of-commerce video presentations. The corporate welfare phenomenon, nothing new, is about behemoths shamelessly plunging cities and states into a cash incentivizing orgy, which is precisely why organizations like Generation Opportunity cast a skeptical eye on Amazon mania.

GO’s North Carolina state director, Anna Beavon Gravely, in an op-ed published by North State Journal, does the math on the Amazon gambit:

Away from the spotlight you will find the losers of corporate welfare: the small businesses struggling to stay afloat, the young entrepreneurs who can’t compete with established interests, and the taxpayers who are forced to pick up the tab.

Gravely notes that under the first-year administration of Gov. Roy Cooper, North Carolina has handed out $125 million as suitors of insurer AXA and financial giant Credit Suisse, among others. Cooper (and governors nationwide) are quick to give themselves credit for thousands of incoming jobs, 1,200 at Credit Suisse and 550 at AXA. But the financial incentives that brought them here makes the creation of one job a very pricey investment. A single job created at Credit Suisse’s Raleigh campus cost taxpayers $33,500 because it received $40.2 million worth of incentives.

Corporate welfare enthusiasts like Cooper will always try to justify it as “creating jobs.” But as we’ve seen here in North Carolina, lowering and simplifying taxes for everybody does far more to create jobs than special handouts for the few.

Just look at the extraordinary progress our state has made in recent years. Since 2011, the General Assembly has lowered personal and corporate income tax rates, eliminated the estate tax and simplified other business taxes. This year, lawmakers overrode Cooper’s veto to enact even more tax cuts for North Carolinians, which will result in $476.4 million in savings for businesses over the next five years.

Amazon is the standard bearer of no-hassle e-commerce deliveries, but it’s proving to be more than capable of receiving. New Jersey has offered Amazon a mind boggling $7 billion across the next decade. Irvine, Calif., took a straightforward approach. Amazon estimates HQ2 will cost $5 billion, so Irvine suggested its taxpayers underwrite the entire project.

Gravely and her colleagues at Generation Opportunity believe future economic growth will be driven by millennial entrepreneurs, who are launching new businesses at twice the rate of their parents’ generation. If Amazon decides that North Carolina is an ideal place to go forward with HQ2, roll the red carpet but not at the expense of small businesses, the engines of the state’s booming economy.

The 2018 challenge

It is no secret that North Carolina will be targeted by outside Democrat funding in next year’s mid-term elections. In their quest to retake a majority in the U.S. House and state General Assembly, Democrats need to shake up North Carolina. But there also is a not-so-well-kept secret that will confound this effort. Like many thriving states governed by Republican-controlled legislatures, North Carolina’s economic engine is roaring and it’s prospects for growth are soaring.

In 2011, when Republicans won their General Assembly majority, North Carolina’s unemployment rate exceeded 10 percent, House Speaker Tim Moore recalled during a recent address before the Moore County Republican Men’s Club in Pinehurst. Moore’s message certainly resonates with Republicans, who have seen that rate plunge to around four percent, but it’s difficult to comprehend how Democrats will be able to disparage this and other economic data points on the 2018 election stump. But disparage they will.

Listening to Moore’s summation of the state’s dynamic economy, we could not help feeling a tinge of melancholy as well. This same story of prosperity and growth was making headlines in 2016 but Republicans and, specifically, Governor Pat McCrory’s re-election campaign, managed to underplay it. This is mind boggling in retrospect.

Let’s not repeat this mistake during the 2018 campaign. If the campaign narrative is about the economy, N.C. Republicans should continue to be well represented in Raleigh and Washington. But messaging discipline and clarity can’t be taken for granted. The key points shared by Speaker Moore are these:

  • The state’s tax structure and regulatory environment are attracting new businesses and encouraging established businesses to expand.
  • 89,000 new jobs were added during a 12-month period ending September 2017.
  • North Carolina has seen a $4 billion swing from debt to savings in six years and has achieved a Triple-A bond rating from the three major agencies. Only 11 other states share this top rating.
  • The state’s unemployment insurance tax fund carries a surplus, which is part of $1.8 billion in “rainy day” reserves.

Strong economic data, while difficult for Democrats to refute, is frequently misrepresented by Democrat Governor Roy Cooper, and others, as resulting solely from the repeal of the so-called “bathroom bill” (HB2) after Cooper was sworn in last January. A complicit mainstream media is more than willing to let them get away with overlooking the fact North Carolina has been turning around since 2011 under Republican majorities in the state House and Senate. Consider this exchange between Cooper and CNBC after the network said Amazon should select multiple North Carolina markets as the home of Amazon’s planned HQ2 headquarters.

A CNBC reporter sat down with Gov. Roy Cooper on Monday to ask about (HB2 repeal). Cooper said moving beyond HB2 and his election a year ago demonstrates to the business, sports and entertainment sectors that North Carolina is a welcoming state.

“We’re sending a strong message we’ve taken a big step,” Cooper said. “That’s why these companies have come back on my assurances that North Carolina is moving in the right direction.”

My assurances? Absurd, of course. But look-ahead polling earlier this year suggests Democrats are eager to give Cooper and their 2018 candidates credit for, well, everything. Democrat enthusiasm is partially fueled by Donald Trump backlash.

In the May 18, 20-21, 2017 Civitas Institute Political Parties NC poll (N=600) — the most recent statewide poll — when asked, “If the election for North Carolina State Legislature were held today, would you be voting for the Republican candidate (32%), the Democratic candidate (47%), Neither one/Other/Independent (8%), or Don’t Know/Undecided/Need More Info (13%). These are the highest percentage for Democratic candidates (47%) for the State Legislature and the lowest percentage for the Republican candidates (32%) in the 34 polls conducted for Civitas since October 2010.

The stakes in 2018 are staggeringly high. That, too, is no secret.