BLOGS: Keeping Up With Jones Street

Tuesday, November 13, 2012, 3:05 PM

Read Directions Before Using

It sounds like a girl thing but it pays to read the directions first, in this case the North Carolina Constitution.

Our state went red on election day. But don't be confused by the leaderships' team colors; the House of Representatives, the Senate, and the Executive Branch are distinct players when it comes to making state policy. The Governor has different responsibilities and privileges than the Speaker of the House and the President Pro Tempore of the Senate. And the tensions between the branches of government, and chambers of the legislature are designed to provide the checks and balances that protect our democracy.

The powers of the Governor are prescribed by our Constitution: "The Governor shall from time to time give the General Assembly information of the affairs of the State and recommend to their consideration such measures as he shall deem expedient." And, "The Governor shall take care that the laws are faithfully executed."

As are the legislative powers:  "Each house shall be the judge of the qualifications and elections of its own members, shall sit upon its own adjournment from day to day, and shall prepare bills to be enacted into laws."

To sum up, the Governor proposes, the House and Senate enact, the Governor implements. And, the Legislature is the boss of its own self -- or selves.

Friday, November 9, 2012, 11:54 AM

I Wrote That Campaign Contribution For What??

A decade ago a candidate could do as he pleased with his campaign account. In fact, he could convert those funds to personal use under the old law. (Don’t forger to pay your “income” taxes). Herman Cain spent $100,000 from his campaign funds buying copies of his book from his publishing company. Some Texas legislators are reported to have visited the Beverly Hills Wilshire Hotel and taken a Park City, UT ski trip. Enough about those scandals outside of NC; we made some changes in the last decade to make contributors and the public feel better…..

Now a candidate can use campaign funds – the contributions you and your neighbors made – for the following purposes:

• Campaign expenses,
• Expenses that are the result of holding office,
• Donations to nonprofits so long as the candidate’s immediate family is not employed by the organization,
• Contributions to political parties or caucuses,
• Pay penalties for violations of election or campaign finance laws, or contribute to a Legal Defense Fund (maximum of $4,000 per year),
• Contribute to the Escheat Fund in the State Treasurer’s Office (the Escheat Fund deserves its own blog entry),
• Legal contributions to other candidate committees, or
• You can return the funds to the contributors.

My favorite statement about campaign funds is from §163 278.16B.  (c)  “Contributions made to a candidate or candidate campaign committee do not become a part of the personal estate of the individual candidate.”

Questions?

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Tuesday, November 6, 2012, 4:25 PM

Where Are We In Our Electoral History?


By 7:00 tonight those darned political ads will roll off tv.  Your phone calls from “private caller” will quiet.  And, given the polls released as late as yesterday, our nation will hold its collective breath as the swing states determine who will be president for the next four years.

In an interview last weekend on 60 Minutes with my favorite historian, David McCullough, we were reminded by him that mudslinging in presidential campaigns is the norm. It always has been.  And it’s been plenty nastier than this.  McCullough points to the presidential fight between Thomas Jefferson and John Adams in 1800 where Jefferson resorted to real mudslinging. “Well, Jefferson was paying a slander specialist, a journalist, to go after Adams, writing that he was mentally unbalanced. He was a hermaphrodite, all these things.”

And when asked to comment on this year’s election McCullough seems unimpressed with the campaigns of either side.  He says, “The shame of it is, the shame of it is they're spending all this unconscionable amount of money. And what is it producing? A not very good show.”  That’s true.  We’re not talking much about the real issues.  And it hasn’t made for good theater.

If you have some time today, and want to put this election in perspective, have a look at the 60 Minutes interview with David McCullough.


Full disclosure: I’m a McCullough groupie.

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