A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing

Posted on April 14, 2015

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That politician has a nice smile, and an easy-going nature. I bet they are moderate – just like me. We could have a light-hearted chat about a water-cooler topic and then grab a beer to discuss our favorite sports team. They can’t support extreme policies… just listen to their mellifluous voice and personable demeanor.

This only slightly exaggerated version of the American voter’s decision-making process is often perpetuated by mainstream media who concern themselves more with superficial likeability than with checking the veracity of the claims made by both political parties.

In Monday’s NY Times Op Ed, Paul Krugman describes how this “personality-based political analysis” is a “dubious venture” which led political pundits to conclude that George W. Bush was a nice, moderate guy with whom you’d like to grab a beer. Krugman follows that the electorate should be wary of how the GOP candidates are depicted by the media. Essentially, a “moderate” GOP candidate will be forced to make more conservative claims than what they really believe. In turn, that GOP candidate, if elected, will govern in a more moderate and less conservative way than they campaigned.

This was the narrative some in the media embraced in the days before the 2012 election regarding Mitt Romney.  Although Romney wasn’t elected in 2012, this “Campaign and Govern Dichotomy” theory was put to test in 2012 in North Carolina – with the election of Governor Pat McCrory, a supposed Moderate Republican.

Elected on a platform of bettering the state’s economy and education, Pat McCrory took office on January 5, 2013. Despite aligning with the likes of Tea Partier Art Pope and the Koch Brothers funded Americans for Prosperity, there was hope that this once moderate-conservative mayor of Charlotte would not govern as a far right or tea party conservative. However, very shortly after entering the Governor’s mansion, McCrory’s folksy demeanor would be overshadowed by his far right policies.

Pat’s Administration

Prior to taking office, Governor McCrory appointed a Cabinet that indicated he would not stray far from his donor list. Among the appointments, Art Pope, aka “the Knight of the Right” and Koch Brother’s clone was put in charge of the state budget, Tony Tata, a failed Wake County School Superintendent was to head up the state’s Department of Transportation, and John Skvarla, a noted science skeptic, was appointed to head the state’s Department of Environment and Natural Services.

Art Pope is a multimillionaire that owns Variety Wholesalers discount retail chain, is a close associate with the Kochs – including being the second-largest backer after the Kochs in Americans for Prosperity. Both groups were major funders of the McCrory campaign. Pope ultimately resigned in August, 2014.

Tony Tata is a retired brigadier general in the U.S. Army that was put in charge of the Department of Transportation after being fired as Wake County’s public school superintendent due to his “bullying” management style, and his decision, once school started, to take 52 school buses off the road to save money which resulted in chaos.

McCrory appointed science skeptic, John Skvarla, to head the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources. The Institute for Southern Studies described Skvarla as follows:

For one thing, Skvarla rejects the scientific consensus on the reality of human-caused climate change, dismissing Leslie’s observation there was such a consensus as “misleading.” The problem of climate change is a major concern for the North Carolina, which is in a hotspot for sea-level rise related to global warming.

“I have studied this every day for almost 10 years, and I know there’s great divergence of opinion on the science of climate,” Skvarla said. “I’m not ready to say which is right and which is wrong.”

Skvarla also questions whether oil — which McCrory wants to drill for off North Carolina’s coast as soon as possible — is a finite resource. He pointed to the discredited Russian theory of abiotic petroleum, which holds that oil is not a fossil fuel formed from ancient zooplankton and algae but instead comes from deep carbon deposits that date back as far as the earth’s formation. It’s a theory popular among creationists who want to believe the earth is only 6,000 years old.

But at the same time Skvarla has been studying fringe ideas about climate and oil, he was ignoring a very real problem facing coal-dependent North Carolina: poorly regulated disposal of coal ash waste, which has resulted in groundwater contamination at 14 power plants across the state owned by Duke Energy, where McCrory worked for 28 years.

Asked about coal ash by Leslie, Skvarla replied, “It’s not something that I’m overly familiar with at this point, so to opine on it would not do justice to the topic.”

These three high-level appointees along with the 35% pay increase for state Department of Health and Human Service workers, and former campaign staff, show McCrory cronyism at work. Despite McCrory’s likeable demeanor is a person virtually owned by Art Pope and the Koch Brothers, and willing to pay them back with jobs and bad policy.

Abortion Restrictions: The Motorcycle Vagina Bill

Two weeks before the November, 2012 election, Candidate McCrory was asked, “If you are elected governor, what further restrictions on abortion would you agree to sign?”

McCrory’s one-word reply: “None.”

Fast forward nine months.. the now Governor McCrory signed Senate Bill 353, a piece of motorcycle safety legislation that was amended just before the vote to include numerous abortion restrictions.  Although McCrory denied this bill would “further restrict abortions” it does the following:

  • Prohibits individuals and families from obtaining abortion coverage through the health-exchange, even if they buy their insurance plan entirely with their own money.

  • Strips comprehensive reproductive healthcare coverage from thousands of city and county employees, coverage that the majority of private insurance plans offer.

  • Allows any health care provider—from pharmacists to janitorial staff to a receptionist—to refuse care for abortion services, without an emergency exception or referral requirement.

  • Directs the Department of Health and Human Services to create new restrictions that apply only to facilities that provide abortion care, commonly know as Targeted Regulation of Abortion Provider laws or TRAP.

  • Threatens health care providers with severe fines of up to $100,000 for performing an abortion where a third-party claims that sex-selection was a “significant factor” in a woman’s decision

McCrory campaigned on his moderate-conservative record as Mayor of Charlotte, however he has governed as anything but a moderate. From cronyism to abortion restriction legislation to voter suppression to environmental policy to education policy, McCrory’s policies have been far from the moderate-conservative he campaigned as. Rather, McCrory has governed as a  far right governor. A 2013 analysis by Nate Silver shows McCrory as the ninth most conservative Governor, just behind Texas Governor, Rick Perry.

Don’t be fooled by the moderate moniker that the press may place on a delightful looking and sounding candidate. Neither can you rely on their record on a smaller stage. To understand the candidate in this age of unlimited money, one must examine the donors and their beliefs. The candidates are simply a highly polished and aesthetically pleasing mouthpiece for what the donors believe. Governor Pat McCrory is a perfect example.

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Posted in: North Carolina