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Morning Memo: McCrory's taxing pledge; Tillis super PAC money questioned

TAX BILL NOW PUTS FOCUS ON McCRORY: Gov. Pat McCrory pledge in his campaign to make any tax overhaul revenue neutral. It was the only specific detail he offered and came under pressure from Democratic candidate Walter Dalton who warned such a tax bill, if not revenue neutral, could lead to huge cuts in government spending on popular services.

With legislative approval Wednesday, the two-billion tax bill goes to the governor. Will he meet his pledge, one he repeated just months ago in his State of the State address? It depends. The governor's office called the bill fiscally responsible and essentially revenue-neutral in the first year at about $35 million in less revenue. From there, the bill is nowhere close to bringing in as much state revenue as projected. And McCrory is moving the goalposts and redefining what he meant. (Read below to see how the governor's office is positioning itself.)

TILLIS SUPER PAC GETS BIG CHECKS FROM 3 HE HELPED PUT ON UNC BOARD: A super PAC for House Speaker Thom Tillis recently raised $105,000 from five donors for his U.S. Senate race, including $70,000 from three men the House appointed to the University of North Carolina Board of Governors.

The contributions raise more questions about whether donations to the Republican candidate’s bid are connected to legislation in the chamber he controls. They also highlight Tillis’ ability to raise money when other lawmakers are limited in soliciting campaign contributions. W.G. Champion Mitchell said his $25,000 contribution had nothing to do with his recent appointment to the university’s governing board. “I want to see him be our next senator,” Mitchell said. “That is the answer.” Read more here.

***Get a full roundup of North Carolina political news and analysis below in the Dome Morning Memo.***

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.

Saturday roundup: Shanahan moonlighting, Ellmers faces uncertain future, public school advocates, more trouble at Central Prison

Department of Public Safety Secretary Kieran Shanahan still has some clients from his law firm, despite a full plate running a state agency.

Republican U.S. Rep. Renee Ellmers was elected as an outsider. But she faces a competitive field if she runs for Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan's seat in 2014.

Public school advocates form to stop legislative proposals they contend would undermine public education.

A federal lawsuit says 21 correctional officers at Central Prison beat handcuffed and shackled prisoners, The Associated Press reports.

1368286046 Saturday roundup: Shanahan moonlighting, Ellmers faces uncertain future, public school advocates, more trouble at Central Prison The News and Observer Copyright 2011 The News and Observer . All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Proposed new GOP voters laws denounced

A coalition of groups, led by the NAACP, Friday denounced legislation that would make it harder to vote in North Carolina, promising to wage a vigorous campaign against the proposed new restrictions.

The group criticized GOP bills that would cut early voting by one week, would end Sunday voting, and would end same day registration at early voting sites and end straight-party voting.

“These bills are about politicians manipulating elections for their own partisan gains,” said the Rev. William Barber, the state NAACP president. “These bills will block hundreds of North Carolinians from voting.''

He said a similar law in Florida last year, lead to eight-hour lines for voters and according to one study 200,000 people giving up and not voting.

Allison Riggs, an attorney for the Southern Coalition for Social Justice said a similar law was struck down in Ohio.

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.''

Redistricting plaintiffs ask for Newby recusal

Democrats, the state NAACP, and other nonprofits who are suing over redistricting plans want Supreme Court Judge Paul Newby to recuse himself from participating in the case.

They filed a motion Wednesday saying that individuals and political groups with a direct stake in the outcome of the redistricting case spent heavily to support his re-election, and their support "had a significant and disproportionate influence in Justice Newby's victory."

Tens of thousands of N.C. teens eligible to vote this November

More than 60,000  North Carolina teenagers will be eligible to vote this November thanks to a state law allowing people to pre-register as young as 16 years old.

An analysis by Democracy N.C. indicates 30 percent are affiliating with the Democratic Party and the same amount are signing up with the Republican Party. One percent is aligning with the Libertarian Party, and 39 percent are choosing none.

GOP legislative leaders milk special interest PACs for campaign cash

UPDATED: A fundraising invite for House Speaker Thom Tillis sent earlier this month announced a special "appreciation" event for the special interest political committees that lobby at the statehouse. The cost: $4,000, the maximum contribution.

It underlines Republican legislative leaders huge reliance on PACs for campaign money. According to a Democracy North Carolina report released Thursday, GOP leaders Tillis and Phil Berger raised more money from the special interest groups than their Democratic predecessors.

About 36 percent of Tillis' $946,000 raised so far this election cycle came from PACs. For Berger, the Senate leader, PACs contributed one-third of his $974,000, according to the advocacy group, which supports public campaign financing. In their last term in power, Democratic House and Senate leaders raised no more than one-quarter of their money from PACs, the report said.

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