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Received this e-mail today from Senator Kay Hagan (D. NC):
The Koch brothers have turned North Carolina into an experiment in extremist politics.

They’re funding outside special interest groups to create, in their words, “earth shattering reform.” Here’s what I see: efforts to restrict voting rights, attacks on women’s health and higher taxes on hard-working North Carolina families.

This is only the beginning. If they succeed in North Carolina, they intend to take this model nationwide.

It’s up to us to stop them. But they’ve already made inroads, so we must act immediately. To counter the Kochs’ special interest groups, we need to raise $8,450 by Saturday.

Click here to rush $5 today so we can fight back. Let’s stop the Koch brothers’ extremist experiment before it’s too late:

The president of a Koch-backed extremist organization recently told the press, “A few years ago, the idea we had was to create model states. North Carolina was a great opportunity to do that…”

These guys don’t care about North Carolinians; they want to use our state as a launching pad for a new extremist movement. It could work if we don’t stop them now.

We can’t let them experiment on us. Click here to donate now so that we can stand up to the Kochs:

Let the Koch brothers know: this ends now.

Thanks for standing with me.


Senator Hagan is right, the Tar Heel State has become the Koch Brothers playing field:

The GOP lost big nationally in 2012, but may have found the key to future success in one southern state.

Cash from groups backed by the Koch brothers and others helped North Carolina Republicans build a robust conservative infrastructure and fundraising network, leading to the GOP winning both the governor’s mansion and the state legislature in the same year for the first time since Reconstruction.

That takeover didn’t come overnight, but it caught Democrats by surprise, especially since Barack Obama carried the state in 2008 and lost only by 2 percentage points last year.

The hope, say conservatives, is to replicate their successes elsewhere.

“Getting dramatic economic change at the federal level is very difficult,” said Tim Phillips, president of the Koch-backed Americans for Prosperity. “A few years ago, the idea we had was to create model states. North Carolina was a great opportunity to do that – more so than any other state in the region. If you could turn around a state like that, you could get real reform.”

Since November, change has come quickly.

Gov. Pat McCrory appointed a Koch ally and major Republican donor, Art Pope, as the state’s budget director.

In the legislature, Republicans are expected to pass an overhaul of the state’s tax code, the public education system and election laws, including a controversial voter ID bill. The state House on Monday voted to allow concealed weapons on college campuses, at sporting events and in businesses that serve alcohol.

Several other measures, such as one that would establish Christianity as the official state religion, are not expected to pass but have made national headlines in recent weeks.

And last month, Pope proposed eliminating public financing for judicial races, and McCrory canned members of the State Board of Elections just as the board announced an investigation into contributions made to governor’s campaign. - Politico, 5/11/13

And Art Pope has been doing both the Koch Brothers and ALEC's bidding:

An array of right-wing organizations in North Carolina are arguing loudly for Governor Pat McCrory to radically alter how corporations and people pay taxes in the state -- and the not-so-hidden hand behind the effort is North Carolina millionaire Art Pope, a close ally of the Koch brothers, who funds the groups and has been appointed as North Carolina's Budget Director.

The John William Pope Civitas Institute, the John Locke Foundation, and the North Carolina chapter of Americans for Prosperity (AFP), have been loudly calling for cuts to shift the tax burden away from rich folks like Pope and onto the backs of the working poor and middle class. Pope created and almost entirely funds Civitas, was the founding chairman of the John Locke Foundation (providing 80 percent of its funding in 2011), and until recently was on the national board of AFP, only stepping down from all three organizations after his appointment as budget director.

Recently Pope criticized elements of the Civitas plan, but his attempt to distance himself from organizations he has founded, funded, and helped run are a little too politically convenient for many.

Progressive advocates say Pope is playing a shrewd political game, utilizing his numerous proxies to voice extreme ideas that will provide political cover for the governor to gradually push major tax changes between now and his reelection in 2016. If McCrory's future tax plans contain major giveaways to corporations and the rich -- which many expect is likely -- those giveaways could appear moderate and reasonable in comparison with the plans advanced by Civitas, AFP, and the John Locke Foundation. - PR Watch, 4/29/13

Here's a list of things Pope's been trying to get pushed through the North Carolina State House and Senate:

Voter Suppression : It’s a sad commentary on the state of American politics that once Republicans take over a state, they almost immediately begin enacting laws to make it harder for Democratic-leaning groups to cast a ballot. North Carolina Republicans, however, have embraced voter suppression with unusual enthusiasm. They’ve introduced voter ID, a common GOP method of reducing turnout among minorities, low-income voters and students. They’ve introduced Florida-like restrictions on early voting, cutting early voting hours and eliminating voting the Sunday before election day in order to thwart voting drives at African-American churches. And they want to punish parents whose children vote from their college addresses.

Reverse Robin Hood: A GOP bill in the North Carolina Senate would eliminate all individual and corporate income taxes, and largely replace it with higher sales taxes. Sales taxes disproportionately burden lower-income taxpayers, because they spend a larger percentage of their income on basic needs. It is also far more difficult to create a progressive sales tax than to enact a progressive income tax code that places a lesser tax burden on those who can least afford it. As a result, a similar tax plan in Louisiana would raise taxes on 80 percent of residents, while giving Louisianans in the top 1 percent of income earners an average tax cut of $25,423.

Shutting Down Abortion Clinics: Another bill in the state senate would add new restrictions to abortion clinics in an attempt to force them to close their doors. Among other things, the bill requires doctors to have admitting privileges in a hospital located within 30 miles of the clinic, an unnecessary restriction that serves little purpose other than to limit the pool of doctors available to clinics.

Anti-Worker Constitutional Amendment: A so-called “right-to-work” law, which depresses worker wages by cutting back unions’ ability to collectively bargain for wages and benefits, is already the law in North Carolina, effectively cutting both union and non-union wages by $1,500 a year. Nevertheless, 34 Republican lawmakers (and one Democrat) sponsored a state constitutional amendment that would lock this anti-worker policy into the state Constitution. The same amendment would strip public sector workers of their right to collectively bargain, and lock in policies making it easier for companies to pressure their workers against unionizing to boot.
Subsidizing Home Schooling: Eight Republican lawmakers sponsored a bill giving families a $1,250 per semester tax subsidy if they home school their children.

Judges For Sale: A pair of bills in the state senate would eliminate the state’s successful public financing system for judicial elections. Prior to this system’s enactment in 2004, “73 percent of campaign funds for judicial candidates came from attorneys and special interest groups,” according to the Brennan Center for Justice’s Alicia Bannon. Now, it’s 14 percent. So public financing was successful in rolling back moneyed interest groups’ ability to buy and sell judges through campaign donations, and these GOP bills would throw judicial elections back to the old ways.

State Sponsored Religion: Eleven Republicans, including the state’s House Majority Leader, backed a resolution proclaiming that the Constitution “does not grant the federal government and does not grant the federal courts the power to determine what is or is not constitutional,” and then decreeing that North Carolina could establish its own state religion. On the bright side, state house Speaker Thom Tillis announced that he would not advance this resolution after it was widely panned. - Think Progress, 4/8/13

And Pope has been using all his power and money to buy North Carolina for the GOP:

As Facing South reported, three Pope-backed organizations accounted for 75 percent of the outside money that flooded into North Carolina's legislative races, helping propel Republicans to a historic takeover of the General Assembly.

Investigations by Facing South and the Independent Weekly led to national attention by The New Yorker and MSNBC, and then Pope soon faded from the headlines. But now, after being appointed the most powerful position in N.C. Gov. Pat McCrory's cabinet -- director of budget policy -- Pope is again the target of national scrutiny.

In April, The Huffington Post drew attention to the budget Pope and McCrory proposed for 2013. The budget wasn't as draconian as many progressives feared, but there was one program Pope sought to eliminate completely: North Carolina's landmark system of "clean elections" to keep courts independent of special interest money.

Since 2004, the N.C. Public Campaign Fund has been used by 80 percent of the state's qualifying judicial candidates, who agree to raise money from 350 small donors in exchange for a public grant to run their campaign. By leveling the playing field, the program has increased the number of African-American and women judges serving on N.C. courts. With Republican support, West Virginia just passed a similar program -- using North Carolina as a model.

Pope and his network have fought these programs from the very beginning. The Pope-backed John Locke Foundation made elimination of public financing one of its top priorities for the GOP legislature in 2011. The Civitas Institute, also largely backed by Pope, labeled it "welfare for politicians" (although its sister group Civitas Action supported a candidate -- conservative N.C. Supreme Court candidate Paul Newby -- who used the program for his own campaign). - Southern Strategies, 5/15/13

The GOP was going to spend big in 2014 to get rid of Hagan.  Pope and Koch Brothers will help fund their efforts on a massive scale to defeat Hagan.  Plus they have two potential candidates in this race.  There's House Speaker Thom Tillis (R. NC):

Curious, it seems. N.C. House Speaker Thom Tillis headed off recently to the spring conference of the American Legislative Exchange Council in Oklahoma City. It’s a national group funded mainly by large corporations that advocates for conservative causes and even takes the step of helping lawmakers of a like mind in various states draft laws.

ALEC, as it’s known, has provided language for bills that’s even been used this session in North Carolina, ranging from creating an independent board to take charter school governance away from the State Board of Education to protecting a Philadelphia-based company from lawsuits involving asbestos exposure to installing an anti-union amendment in the state constitution. Closer to home, the Civitas Institute, a conservative group, used ALEC literature in an, training...session for freshman lawmakers.

The organization is, in other words, going to pass any litmus test for arch conservatives. For his part, Tillis is national board member and Gov. Pat McCrory’s legislative lobbyist, Fred Steen, is a past state chairman of ALEC. - Charlotte News Observer, 5/7/13

And of course there's President Pro Tem, State Senator Phil Berger (R. NC):

Nothing has been set in stone yet, but a tax reform package that state Sen. Phil Berger, president pro tem, and other tax writers are discussing would cut individual and corporate tax rates, but extend sales taxes to more goods and services, according to news reports. Arts North Carolina, a nonprofit arts advocacy organization, stated in a recent newsletter that the proposals “would have negative consequences for nonprofit organizations.”

This week, Arts North Carolina issued a call to action, urging leaders of arts nonprofits to call their legislators to oppose the measures, said Karen Wells, the organization’s executive director.

Sherry DeVries, executive director of the Durham Arts Council, quickly followed up with a call to action on that organization’s website.

Arts North Carolina, in partnership with the N.C. Center for Nonprofits, has raised red flags about three major proposals. Refunds on sales taxes that nonprofit groups pay would be phased out. That proposal “would be a real hit for the sector” and have “a real impact on arts organizations to be able to do what they currently do,” said David Heinen, director of public policy and advocacy at N.C. Center for Nonprofits. - The Herald-Sun, 5/16/13

Neither men has declared their candidacies but they have both long been speculated to run against Hagan next year.  But Art Pope having two dogs in the race tearing each other part would be disastrous.  It would be very much like the 2012 Wisconsin GOP U.S. Senate primary where the Club For Growth and the Tea Party had Eric Hovde and Mark Neumann go up against each other, splitting the conservative vote and helping former Governor Tommy Thompson win the nominee.  Thompson then went on to lose in the general election to current U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin (D. WI).  If Berger and Tillis square off against each other, they could cause a riff with GOP voters and allow a wild card candidate to become the victor:

The pastor of a large Charlotte church who is also president of the North Carolina Baptist State Convention says he's prayerfully considering a 2014 bid for the U.S. Senate seat held by Democrat Kay Hagan.

The Rev. Mark Harris of First Baptist Church told The Charlotte Observer on Monday ( ) he's listening to those who want him to run for the Republican nomination. Hagan is seeking re-election.

About 70 people from 20 counties backing Harris met last week in Charlotte. - WBTV CBS 3, 5/6/13

Berger and Tillis have been ranking poorly with North Carolina Republican voters as their ideal nominee.  So they have their work cut out for them.  Holding onto this Senate seat isn't just about keeping the Senate in the Democrats' control, it's also about making this race a referendum on the North Carolina's GOP agenda.  We can't let Pope, the Koch Brothers and ALEC win this race.  Click here if you would like to donate to Hagan's campaign:

Originally posted to pdc on Fri May 17, 2013 at 03:00 PM PDT.

Also republished by North Carolina BLUE and The Democratic Wing of the Democratic Party.

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