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Morning Roundup: N.C. companies prepare for the fiscal cliff

Some North Carolina companies are joining a growing number of U.S. firms paying out early dividends before the end of the year, as tax increases on dividends are seen as likely in 2013.

Dividend tax rates were reduced to 15 percent under the Bush-era tax cuts. But that rate is scheduled to expire in January, and taxes would likely then rise – although no one knows exactly how much yet. Full story here.

More political headlines:

--Four hundred people are expected at a forum Friday in Charlotte about the gridlock in Washington.

Morning Roundup: Gov. Perdue 'last hope' for Wilmington 10 pardons

Advocates for the Wilmington 10 are reviving their effort to get pardons of innocence, saying Gov. Bev Perdue’s lame-duck status offers their best chance.

“I personally believe that Gov. Perdue is our last hope,” said Cash Michaels, the coordinator of the pardon effort. “No offense to Gov.-elect McCrory. I don’t see a Republican governor with a Republican legislature looking at this issue with an unbiased eye. They would look at the potential political implications.” Where's McCrory on the issue? No response from his camp.

More political headines:

--Gov. Bev Perdue is expected to present a plan as soon as next week to convert the Dorothea Dix Hospital campus in Raleigh into a major urban park. 

Morning Roundup: Are you willing to you help payoff the nation's debt?

The nation's $16 trillion-plus debt has some Americans so worried that they've donated nearly $8 million outside of federal taxes - to help pay it off. Yes, it's less than a drop in the bucket, but every little bit helps, according to the Bureau of the Public Debt, which annually accepts such "gifts." Read the article here.

More political headlines you may have missed over the long weekend:

--State legislators say their upcoming proposal to deal with the unprecedented $2.8 billion unemployment insurance won’t eliminate the issue that has outraged the business community – the higher taxes being imposed on employers to pay down the debt.

Perdue gets plenty of national TV time in Washington

Former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell called North Carolina's Bev Perdue "one of the best governor's in the country" on MSNBC this morning.

Perdue appeared on "Morning Joe" to talk politics from Washington, where she is attending National Governors Association meetings. Rendell, a pundit on the program, made his remarks as he asked Perdue about President Barack Obama's chances in North Carolina this election season. "I think he can win the state," she replied. "He's resonating with middle class voters. ... They have a good shop on the ground. ... And there's just this sense of optimism about what his message is." 

Despite her lame duck status, Perdue was a hot commodity during her trip, appearing on at least three national cable TV news programs in four days. (Pictured with Republican Puerto Rico Gov. Luis Fortuno.) She appeared as chief Obama trumpeter and explain again and again her decision not to seek re-election. 

N.C.'s official state rock song?

North Carolina does not have a state rock song.

Sure, you're thinking, who does? As it turns out: Washington, Oklahoma and Ohio.

When Dome was a teen-ager, a local comedy sketch show staged a campaign to have the incomparable "Louie, Louie" declared the state song.

Legislators were loath to jettison the existing tune, so they named the Kingsmen's one-off hit the state rock song instead.

Recently, a group in Oklahoma held an online contest to determine that state's rock song.

The winning song — "Do You Realize??" — was referred to the legislature, though there were a few hiccups when a member of The Flaming Lips wore a T-shirt with a hammer and sickle.

Ohio also named "Hang on Sloopy" by the McCoys.

So, North Carolina, what would be your official state rock song?

Post your comments in the thread below or e-mail

Easley stops in D.C., Florida too

Gov. Mike Easley is on the road this week, but he won't say exactly why.

Easley took a state jet to Philadelphia yesterday for an economic summit with President-elect Barack Obama and other governors.

According to publicly available flight records, the Cessna Citation twin-jet plane left Philadelphia International at 1:33 p.m. for Reagan National Airport in Washington, D.C.

After a three-hour layover, the plane was scheduled to go to Hollywood International Airport in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., arriving later tonight. A flight plan filed with the N.C. Department of Commerce, also a public record, shows the plane won't leave Florida until 1 p.m. on Thursday.

Although the flight records are widely available on the Internet and through public records, spokeswoman Renee Hoffman would not discuss Easley's travel plans "for security reasons" and gave only a vague answer about his reasons for stopping in Washington and Florida.

"I can tell you that the governor is on a business trip to make a speech and attend a meeting," she said in an e-mail to Dome.

The flight plan shows Easley is traveling with executive counsel Ruffin Poole and a sergeant from the N.C. Highway Patrol.

Dole's 2006 stops for NRSC

Sen. Elizabeth Dole visited a number of states in 2006.

As head of the National Republican Senatorial Committee that year, Dole campaigned for Republican Senate candidates in a number of states, according to news reports:

Minnesota: In March, Dole traveled in Minnesota on behalf of Senate candidate Mark Kennedy, according to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. 

Montana: In April and August, Dole toured Montana with Sen. Conrad Burns, according to the Associated Press.

Washington: On Aug. 25, Dole appeared at a $100-a-plate luncheon with Washington Senate candidate Mike McGavick, according to The Columbian.

Tennessee: On Aug. 28, Dole toured Eastern Tennessee with Senate candidate Bob Corker, according to the Knoxville News-Sentinel.

Michigan: On Aug. 29, Dole went on campaign stops with Senate candidate Mike Bouchard, according to the Muskegon Chronicle.

Pennsylvania: On Aug. 31, Dole spoke at a press conference at the Omni William Penn Hotel in Pittsburgh, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Arizona: On Sept. 22, Dole headlined an entourage of female senators at the Arizona Inn in Tuscon, according to the Arizona Daily Star.

New Jersey: On Oct. 11, Dole traveled in New Jersey, according to The Hotline.

Ohio: On Oct. 16, Dole traveled to Ohio, according to the N&O.

Missouri: On Oct. 18, Dole headlined a breakfast for Sen. Jim Talent, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Virginia: On Oct. 31, Dole appeared with Sen. George Allen at the Omni Charlottesville Hotel, according to the Richmond Times Dispatch.

In addition, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee says an official e-mail from Dole shows she traveled to Nebraska in August.

D.C. debates pulling Smithfield hams

Will Smithfield hams get pulled from the shelves? 

The Washington, D.C., City Council today will talk about whether to ask area supermarkets to stop stocking bacon, ham and other foods from a North Carolina company that some say mistreats its workers.

Eight members of the 13-member council plan to introduce a Sense of the Council resolution accusing Smithfield Foods of creating an environment of “intimidation and fear for workers who desperately want a voice on the job” at its slaughterhouse and meat-packing plant in Tar Heel, N.C., Barb Barrett reports.

The City Council resolution will be referred to committee, which will later hold a hearing before casting a vote.

The resolution is part of a continuing public relations effort by the United Food and Commercial Workers union to criticize Smithfield. The union has been trying to organize the plant in Tar Heel for years and has been publicizing worker injuries and what it calls intimidation practices against workers there.

A similar resolution passed last fall in Prince George's County, Md., a Washington suburb. The union also has launched a $200,000 advertising campaign against Smithfield with ads on area buses and in the subway.

Smithfield defends its record and says it is the union, not the company, that has intimidated workers.

The company also owns a meat-packing plant in nearby Landover, Md., which is unionized.

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