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Senate Republicans Grill Board of Elections Director Over 2020 Election Rules Changes PDF Print E-mail
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Wednesday, 24 March 2021 13:08

Republican legislators on the Senate Elections Committee this afternoon grilled N.C. State Board of Elections Executive Director Karen Brinson Bell on her conduct during last year’s election.

After voting began, Ms. Brinson Bell and Democratic Attorney General Josh Stein secretly negotiated with the national Democratic Party’s top lawyer, Marc Elias, to reach a “settlement” deal that changed election laws after voting began.

Simultaneous to their secret negotiations after voting began, the Board of Elections told a federal judge that they could not act to assist visually impaired voters in a different lawsuit because, “These changes would need to be made while voting is actually happening which presents particular risk that could jeopardize the ongoing election process.”

Sen. Paul Newton (R-Cabarrus), who co-chairs the Senate Elections Committee, said, “Legislators and many voters have no confidence in Ms. Brinson Bell’s impartial administration of the election, and her testimony today did nothing to change that. That the Board of Elections would bend over backwards to settle a case for Democratic Party lawyer Marc Elias while simultaneously denying relief for visually impaired voters further cements how improper her behavior was.”

Sen. Warren Daniel (R-Burke), who co-chairs the Senate Elections Committee, said, “Ms. Brinson Bell refuses to even concede that she changed state law. Multiple federal judges issued blistering rebukes of the Board’s conduct under her tenure and overturned much of the settlement deal, yet Ms. Brinson Bell told us today that she only changed ‘rules,’ not ‘laws.’ There is a severe lack of trust in the partisan Board of Elections, and Ms. Brinson Bell is only making it worse.”

Ms. Brinson Bell revealed to legislators today that the person in charge of negotiating the “settlement” with Elias’s team was Swain Wood, who is Attorney General Stein’s top political lieutenant. He is not a career civil service attorney as Ms. Brinson Bell claimed during the hearing. He is a political hire.

Attorney General Stein was on the ballot in 2020. His top political lieutenant negotiated in secret with the national Democratic Party’s top lawyer to change the rules of his own election after voting began.

When pressed about why she kept the negotiations with Elias secret, Ms. Brinson Bell said, “That was not a point for me to be concerned about.”

A previous chair of the State Board of Elections resigned because of politically charged tweets that called into question his ability to act impartially. Before Ms. Brinson Bell’s hiring was publicly announced, she made all of her tweets inaccessible to the public by deactivating her Twitter account. In light of the distrust surrounding Ms. Brinson Bell’s conduct for the past year, lawmakers today pressed Ms. Brinson Bell on whether her past tweets would reveal her to be a political activist.

Ms. Brinson Bell repeatedly declined to share her past statements, calling the matter “irrelevant” even though a previous Board chair faced scrutiny over the exact same topic.

Ms. Brinson Bell also doubled down on the debunked claim that she didn’t change state election laws in the secretive settlement deal, saying, “The rules were changed but the law was not changed.” Multiple federal judges disagreed. Here are a few excerpts from the multiple opinions against Ms. Brinson Bell’s conduct:

  • “For the second time in this case, this court has serious concerns about the conduct of the North Carolina State Board of Elections.” – Judge William Osteen
  • The State Board’s behavior was “a flagrant misuse of this court’s injunctive relief” and the Board’s actions “appear to ignore the rule of law.” – Judge William Osteen
  • “In all candor, this court cannot conceive of a more problematic conflict with the provisions [the law] than the procedures implemented by the [Board of Elections’] Revised 2020–19 memo and the Consent Order.” – Judge William Osteen
  • “At bottom, the [Board of Elections] has ignored the statutory scheme and arbitrarily created multiple, disparate regimes under which North Carolina voters cast absentee ballots.” – Judge James Dever
  • “When, as here, the plain wording of those [legislative] enactments is transgressed, the entire body politic pays a grievous price.” – 4th Circuit Court of Appeals

At the end of the day, Senate Republicans made clear that the issue here is not whether the secret settlement worked to Democrats' favor. The issue here is how to ensure such secret settlements that change election laws without legislative involvement never happen again. The issue is about election integrity and the confidence North Carolinians deserve to have in the elections process.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 24 March 2021 13:11
Dr. Mike Walden: Are We Looking At A Test On Modern Monetary Theory ? PDF Print E-mail
The Campaign Trail
By Administrator   
Wednesday, 24 March 2021 10:28
Although the main principles of economics were established decades ago, the discipline is constantly evolving.  One of the most recent contributions has been a new field called “behavioral economics.”  Here, scholars have developed ideas explaining why – in some cases – individuals appear to go against their own self-interest in making choices.   I have found the insights of behavioral economics exceedingly useful.  Apparently, so too has the economics profession, as several leaders in the field have won Nobel Prizes in recent years.
There’s been another new development in economics that focuses on decisions impacting the big – or “macro” – economy rather than the individual – or “micro” – economy.  The new development is termed “modern monetary theory,” or MMT.  I’m sure the creators of MMT hope it will be as successful as behavioral economics.  And they may not have to wait long because a big test of MMT could be approaching.
The main focus of MMT is on federal borrowing.  Traditional economic theory states the federal government can pay for its spending in three ways.  It can tax income away from households and businesses to fund the spending.  Or, it can borrow money from private sources to pay for spending.  Last, the federal government can borrow funds from the country’s central bank, the Federal Reserve.
With the first method, the costs of the spending are immediately paid by taxpayers.  When borrowing from private sources, there are two costs.  The first is regular interest payments on the loans, and the second is payment of the principal (the amount borrowed) when the term of the loan ends, unless the loan is refinanced.
With the third method – borrowing from the Federal Reserve – there is a unique aspect.  When you or I pay taxes, we are sending money we’ve earned to the government.  Similarly, if we willing loan money to the federal government because we want to include federal investments, called Treasury securities, as part of our investment portfolio, we are again using money we’ve earned.
But when the Federal Reserve loans money to the federal government, it is not using money the central bank has earned.  Instead, the Federal Reserve uses money it has created.  That’s right, the Federal Reserve has the unique ability to print money, although in today’s economy the creation is done digitally.
In the past, the Federal Reserve was careful about how much money it created for fears of sparking faster increases in prices, that is, higher inflation.  In fact, there’s been substantial research from numerous countries showing a link between faster money creation and higher inflation.
But now enter MMT.   MMT questions the assumption of an automatic link between money creation and inflation.  Specifically, MMT says if the government spending financed by newly created money makes the economy more productive – thereby leading to faster economic growth and more jobs and income – then the inflation rate won’t rise.  In addition, a larger economy will make debt payments more affordable for the federal government.
In short, MMT supporters see government spending backed by newly created money from the Federal Reserve as a way to unleash the economy’s potential by investing in projects like infrastructure, education, and research.
Interestingly, MMT has the same goal as another macroeconomic theory, “supply-side economics” (SSE).   Both ideas seek to increase the growth of the economy.  But the ideas use opposite approaches.  MMT uses increased government spending, debt, and money creation to boost the economy, whereas SSE lowers tax rates to motivate more private spending and investments. 
SSE was applied as recently as 2017 when federal tax rates were cut to jump-start a sluggish economy.  As you might expect, economists differ over whether the policy was successful.
Now we may be looking at a test of MMT.  Over the past year the federal government has authorized $6 trillion to be spent addressing Covid-19 and the resulting recession. Of the funds raised to date for this spending, the majority has come from the Federal Reserve.  There will likely be more proposals forthcoming for additional federal spending, in areas like infrastructure, energy and climate, reductions of college student loans, and a basic income for households.  If these proposals become reality, and if most of the financing comes from the Federal Reserve, then this will be a big, big test of MMT.
One of the things I like about being a professional economist is there’s never a dull moment.  Economists are constantly developing and debating new ideas about how the economy works and can be improved.  Modern monetary theory is the latest in these ideas.   Will MMT work, or will it fail?   Soon, we may have a test to help us decide!
Walden is a Reynolds Distinguished Professor and Extension Economist in the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics at North Carolina State University who teaches and writes on personal finance, economic outlook, and public policy.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 24 March 2021 10:35
NC Democrats Run TV Ad Critical Of GOP Legislators PDF Print E-mail
The Campaign Trail
By Administrator   
Tuesday, 13 December 2011 15:14

RALEIGH - The North Carolina Democratic Party says it's started running a television ad criticizing Republican leaders at the General Assembly for passing laws that hurt women on issues from abortion and child care to Medicaid and the public schools.


The state party said Tuesday the 60-second commercial is running on cable TV in the Charlotte and Raleigh markets. A party spokesman declined to say how much money is being spent on the ad. An email sent to party supporters asked for more donations to keep the ad running.


The ad features Governor Beverly Perdue, state legislators and former Cabinet secretary and longtime party activist Betty McCain, who said "the GOP has declared war on women." The ad includes footage of Republican House leaders Thom Tillis and Paul Stam.


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