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Climate change figure Droz cries foul

John Droz, the Morehead City physicist who has helped shape state legislators’ view of the controversial issue of sea-level rise due to climate change, takes issue with criticism of a presentation he made to lawmakers and others last week.

The thrust of his presentation was that special-interest groups are manipulating science for their own agendas, and that public policy is suffering as a result. Liberal and environmental groups have mocked him for his position in opposition to the majority of scientists that global warming is real and the world’s use of carbon dioxide and methane play a big role in that. Droz says consensus doesn’t mean proof, and that the question remains unsettled.

Dome reported that the Institute for Southern Studies Facing South project’s criticized his presentation because of some of the source material, which included a number of fringe publications. Droz says it’s not fair to cherry-pick a handful of articles out of the hundreds of sources quoted in his presentation, just because someone might not agree with everything those publications print.

“If something is false or wrong, let’s hear what it was,” Droz said.

Outside spending in last year's races passed $14.5 million

The Institute for Southern Studies has tallied up the final spending by outside groups in North Carolina political campaigns last year. The results are pretty much the same as the nonprofit public policy group came up with in November, but some of the updated numbers are worth noting:

The N.C. Supreme Court race drew more than $2.8 million in spending from independent groups. Eighty-nine percent of it was spent to elect Justice Paul Newby over appellate court Judge Sam Ervin IV. The N.C. Judicial Coalition spent $1.9 million to help Newby.

The governor’s race attracted more than $8.1 million in outside spending.

The biggest outside spender of all was the Republican Governors Association, based in Washington, D.C., which spent more than $4.9 million to elect Pat McCrory governor. National corporations are the big contributors to the RGA, along with North Carolina-based businesses such as Reynolds Tobacco, Duke Energy and Variety Stores (owned by state budget director Art Pope).

In all, more than $14.5 million was spent by independent groups. The Institute for Southern Studies has its numbers online at its website.

UPDATE:The liberal group Common Sense Matters spent close to $1 million. As previously reported, that group gets its money from the N.C. Futures Action Fund (which was involved in the Wake school board elections in 2011), the N.C. League of Conservation Voters, N.C. Advocates for Justice (the trial lawyers), America Votes Action Fund (a national liberal group), the N.C. Association of Educators, and a couple of Planned Parenthood entities. .

N.C. GOP files IRS complaint against cadre of liberal groups for electioneering

The N.C. Republican Party sent a complaint Wednesday to the IRS alleging five liberal-leaning nonprofits are violating federal tax law by advocating for political candidates.

The named groups: Democracy North Carolina, the Institute for Southern Studies, N.C. Justice Center, Progress North Carolina and Project Ricochet Inc. of North Carolina. All are 501(c)3 charities that can accept tax-exempt donations under the law but are not allowed to voice support for or against a particular candidate.

"The groups that you see listed ... have clearly broken the letter and the spirit of the law by directly injecting themselves in a political campaign," said GOP Chairman Robin Hayes in a press conference. (See complaint below.)


Art Pope considers going to 'teach-in' exposing him

It's being called "Art Pope Exposed, a community teach-in," and scheduled for Tuesday night in downtown Raleigh.

The event is sponsored by the Institute for Southern Studies and includes a panel with representatives from Democracy North Carolina and the N.C. AFL-CIO.

"Want to know what all the Art Pope buzz is about?" a press release asks. "Curious to know more about his political network and its influence on everything from cuts to North Carolina schools to the state's anti-gay marriage amendment?"

Pope is a wealthy Raleigh retailer who has helped bankroll conservative causes and candidates throughout the state to the tune of $40 million according to one study. In October, the New Yorker ran a lengthy profile of him headlined, "State for Sale."

The story brought national attention on Pope, who had already become a sort of public enemy to liberal groups throughout the state. He's become a target of Occupy groups, who wave signs bearing slogans like "Say Nope to Art Pope." The North Carolina Association of Educators has called on shoppers to boycott stores in his Variety Wholesalers retail chain.

Pope knows about Tuesday's teach-in. "I haven't been invited but maybe I'll go, I don't know," he says.

Anti-Art Pope website created

First there was The New Yorker magazine article “State for Sale.”

Now there is the website: “

The Institute for Southern Studies, a liberal media and research group based in Durham, has started what it calls “investigative website” to track the influence of Pope, the Raleigh businessman who has contributed millions to conservative and Republican causes.

“There are a handful of big political donors, but no one person in North Carolina has Pope's level of influence,” said Chris Kromm, the Institute's executive director who has authored a series of critical reports about Pope. “Yet because he works largely behind the scenes, many don't know how big of a role he plays in the state and nationally.”

Pope has never gotten so much national attention as he has this week, mainly as a result of The New Yorker article. He was featured prominently on The Huffington Post, the liberal Internet newspaper and on The Rachel Maddow Show on MSNBC.

The New South rising?

A Florida professor has weighed in on the definition of the South.

In a piece in the St. Petersburg Times Sunday, English professor Diane Roberts quotes Chris Kromm, director of the Institute for Southern Studies in Durham, on the litany of reasons people give for removing North Carolina from the South:

"Every time a Southern state starts voting for Democrats, people say, 'Oh, that's not the real South,' " says Kromm. When Barack Obama won North Carolina, Virginia and Florida, some "wanted to magically declare them somehow un-Southern."

The "Southern" parts of the South seem to be shrinking, at least to those who define "Southern" as white right-wingers who say "y'all." ...

North Carolina isn't Southern because it's attracting Midwestern retirees, Latinos and tech types. Plus, there's the Research Triangle, the constellation of great universities, labs and libraries so despised by Sen. Jesse Helms. Real Southerners don't cotton to book learning.

Roberts argues that North Carolina, Virginia and Florida are not aberrations, but the beginning of the "New South we've been promising ourselves since 1865."

Previously: Whistling Past North Carolina, parts 1, 2 and 3

Kromm: Obama can win N.C.

Chris Kromm says Barack Obama can win North Carolina.

In an interview in Harper's Magazine, the head of the Institute for Southern Studies argues that Demographic changes and turnout could hand the state to the Democratic candidate:

He could definitely pull it off and his chances are growing. If he wins, it will be for a number of factors, starting with the economy. Unemployment could hit 8 percent here and two key sectors of the economy, manufacturing and finance, have been devastated. That’s been critical in terms of Obama winning support from unaffiliated white voters and conservative Democrats who often vote for Republicans. Second, Obama has really mobilized the core Democratic base of African-Americans and urban voters, far more than Al Gore or John Kerry did. And third, core Republican voters here are just not exited about McCain. A lot of Christian conservatives don’t identify with him. The situation is really ripe for Obama to take the state.

He adds that economic problems in the mountains could depress the traditional Republican strength there.

Kromm: Barr may be spoiler

Chris Kromm revisits the potential spoiler.

In a post on Facing South, the executive director of the Institute for Southern Studies notices a trend in the presidential polling in North Carolina:

Libertarian presidential candidate Bob Barr, the former Congressman from Georgia, will be on the ballot in NC (despite the state's enormously restrictive ballot access laws). But most of the polls that showed double-digit leads for McCain in North Carolina didn't include Barr.

Since August, any poll that has included Barr has shown McCain with no more than a six point advantage, or even put Obama in the lead. The last two polls — from PPP (Democratic) and Civitas Institute (Repulican) — include Barr, and they show McCain and Obama exactly tied.

According to, Barr has received between zero and six percent support in polls done since May.

Earlier: Presidential spoilers in N.C. history. 

Kromm: Is Obama leaving the South?

Chris Kromm wonders if Barack Obama is leaving the South.

In a post on Facing South, the executive director of the Institute for Southern Studies points to a recent story in the Wall Street Journal that says Obama has focused on the traditional swing states of Pennsylvania, Ohio and Michigan this month.

Kromm wonders what effect a narrower map would have on North Carolina.

"A lurking question: if Obama pulls up stakes in North Carolina and other used-to-be-battlegrounds in the final weeks, what will that mean for down-ticket Democrats counting on his voter-turnout coattails?" he writes. "Or has the Obama base in those states already been energized?"

Kromm: Helms not a straight-talker

Jesse HelmsChris Kromm says the Jesse Helms obituaries missed the point.

In a lengthy post on the Facing South blog, the executive director of the Institute for Southern Studies said the mainstream media "down-played, ignored or even denied Helms' prejudices."

"To say Sen. Helms held deep prejudices against many — especially African-Americans and gays and lesbians — isn't a matter of opinion; it's all part of the historical record," he writes.

He attacks the idea that Helms was a "straight talker."

"Helms the strategic politician ... knew that by cultivating a straight-talk persona he could shift attention from the regressive content of what he was saying to a defense of his right to 'speak his mind' — but his fans and voters got the real message," he writes.

And he says Helms was not an "iconoclast."

"Helms' antics and positions did on many occasions put him at the far-right extremes of political debate. But he was by no means a marginal, fringe politician, and such a portrayal ignores Helms' ongoing popularity and his central role in U.S. politics for three decades," he writes.

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