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Civitas requests investigations of state elections agency

UPDATED: The Civitas Institute is requesting the North Carolina attorney general, state auditor, secretary of state and State Board of Elections investigate state election staffers for engaging in political activity, alleging possible criminal violations, in sweeping complaints filed Tuesday.

The conservative think tank also wants inquiries into the conduct of Bob Hall, the director and lobbyist for Democracy North Carolina, an advocacy organization that often butts heads with Civitas.

In the four letters, Civitas President Francis De Luca identifies three areas for investigation that it uncovered in more than 5,000 emails obtained through public records requests. (Read them below.)

Democracy NC calls for probe of lobbyists tied to McCrory, Shanahan

An independent government-watchdog group on Friday asked the state’s lobbying regulators to investigate lobbyists associated with the governor and the head of the public safety agency.

Democracy North Carolina wants to know if Gov. Pat McCrory’s former employer, the Moore & Van Allen law firm in Charlotte, and Department of Public Safety Secretary Kieran Shanahan’s former law firm in Raleigh violated lobbying laws.

The questions are related to Moore & Van Allen’s representation of the Internet sweepstakes industry, which donated more than half a million dollars to North Carolina political campaigns, much of it through the firm. The Associated Press reported on that in April. Other questions deal with the close relationship between the Shanahan Law Group and the CompassNC lobbying firm, as reported by The News & Observer.

Democracy North Carolina executive director Bob Hall sent the letter to Secretary of State Elaine Marshall. The Secretary of State’s office regulates lobbyists. A spokesman said the letter was being reviewed Friday.

Morning Memo: Another big day at the statehouse, gambling money purge continues

TODAY AT THE STATEHOUSE: Another big day at the legislature as the legislative session nears the half-way mark and the bill filing deadline. 10 a.m.: The Senate Education Committee considers a bill to take charter school oversight authority away from the state's Department of Public Instruction and loosen requirements on the schools. Noon: House Public Utilities considers bill to stifle the state's consumer advocacy group. 1 p.m.: House Elections Committee will discuss repeal of campaign finance matching money for candidates, a measure included in the governor's budget. The committee sent a notice that the voter ID measure is on hold temporarily so it can consider other legislation, a reversal from what lawmakers planned. At the same time, the Senate Finance Committee will begin talk about taxes with discussion of a bill to reduce the burden on businesses but no votes are expected. 2 p.m.: The Carolina Panthers bill is on the House calendar. The Senate convenes simultaneously with no major bills on the desk.

Today, Gov. Pat McCrory sticks to his comfort zone for another address to another business group, this one is the N.C. Chamber's annual conference in Greensboro. Later in the day, he'll meet privately with the N.C. Sheriff's Association.

GAMBING MONEY PURGE CONTINUES: As the Morning Memo reported Tuesday, McCrory forfeited campaign contributions from a second sweepstakes company executive charged in an gambling ring. And as AP found, the purge is likely to continue: McCrory received another $8,000 in October from John Patrick Fannin and his wife, who live in Little River, South Carolina, according to records reviewed by The Associated Press. Fannin is also among the sweepstakes operators indicted by Florida prosecutors in the Allied Veteran's case. (A McCrory spokeswoman) said McCrory's campaign will review those donations, too.

***Thanks for reading the Dome Morning Memo. Send tips and news to dome@newsobserver.com. Much more N.C. political news and analysis below.***

Internet sweeps industry not ready to give up

A group representing the internet sweepstakes industry is still hoping to convince the General Assembly to legalize and regulate the games, despite last week’s arrest of a major machine supplier in a Florida gambling investigation.

The Electronic Sweepstakes Coalition is trying to convince legislators to file a bill that would regulate and tax the games. A news release it issued Thursday says the bill should include criminal background checks, licensing procedures and strict regulations on the machine software and locations.

“Thousands of people rely on jobs provided by this industry and they should not be penalized for the actions of a few that happened in another state,” the release says.

Report: Burns' donations topped $235,000, linked to lobbying firm

The sweepstakes company owner caught in an illegal gambling ring gave more than $235,000 to North Carolina political candidates and parties in 2012, ranking as the largest individual donor to legislative contenders, according to a new analysis of state campaign finance records.

The total reported by Democracy North Carolina, a Raleigh-based elections watchdog group, is at least $60,000 more than previously known. Not all legislative candidates are required to file electronic campaign finance data, but Democracy North Carolina scoured the paper forms to find obscured contributions from Burns and his wife.

The lawmakers who received the most money, not surprisingly, were the legislative leadership: Senate leader Phil Berger received $8,000 and House Speaker Thom Tillis took $6,500. The report identified 63 lawmakers who accepted campaign checks, including 21 who received the maximum $4,000 per race (19 Republicans and two Democrats).

One nexus of the donations appears to be Moore & Van Allen, the law firm that lobbied for Burns' company, International Internet Technologies, and formerly employed Gov. Pat McCrory. The Republican governor received $8,000 from Burns and his wife (which he later donated to charity) but said he didn't know Burns.

Coalition vows to fight any voter ID bill

A coalition of groups on Wednesday renewed their call for the General Assembly to abandon any attempts at requiring voters have a photo ID or other additional documentation. They vowed to fight any such legislation through the upcoming session and into the courts, if necessary.

GOP, blacks, and women led November NC turnout

North Carolina Republicans turned out a slightly higher rate than did Democrats in the November election, according to a new survey of turnout figures.

The Republicans turned out 73 percent, while Democrats turned out at 70 percent, according to Democracy North Carolina, a Durham-based election reform group.

The two groups with the most enthusiasm were African-American women and white Republicans who both voted at a 74 percent, well ahead of the 68 percent rate.

“The presidential election was a polarizing, emotional experience for core supporters of both major candidates,” Bob Hall, the group's executive director. “Candidates, parties and interest groups invested in mobilizing voters and helped them understand that their vote was important for themselves and for society.''

Groups to fight voter ID

Civil rights and voting rights groups are launching a campaign against a proposed voter ID law that's sure to pass the legislature early this session.

The state NAACP, the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, Democracy North Carolina, and others will talk Wednesday about an opposition plan that includes public pressure, a public service announcement and a website.

The Republican-led legislature was not able to get a voter ID law past former Gov. Bev Perdue's veto, but Gov. Pat McCrory wants voter ID.

New data prompt motion to prevail in redistricting lawsuit

Confusion created by the new redistricting maps caused some voters in the May primary to be assigned to the wrong district and others given the wrong ballots, attorneys representing advocacy groups and others say.

Latino voter drive kicks off next week

A drive to register Latino voters kicks off next week at all Latino Credit Union branches in the state. Bilingual volunteers from the left-leaning watchdog group Democracy North Carolina and the advocacy groups El Cambio, El Pueblo, and the Latin America Coalition will register voters Monday through Friday.

They will be handing out voter rights information in English and Spanish.

 “Our goal is to provide a safe and easy way for members and non-members to register to vote,” said Erika Bell, vice-president of Strategy & Services at Latino Credit Union, in a news release. "If members of the community who are eligible to vote need to register or update their information, they can conveniently do so at their local credit union. It is another way to help encourage voters to exercise their right.”

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