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Long: Long ago

Insurance Commissioner Jim Long remembers when politicians just had to buy a few Cokes at the country store.

Nowadays, it can cost as much as $350,000 to run for his job.

Long and Schools Superintendent June Atkinson endorsed a bill that would create a pilot program for publicly financed campaigns for their jobs and that of State Auditor Les Merritt.

After 22 years in office, Long said he has seen a change from when candidates had to go door to door, get endorsements from county sheriffs and put up "lots and lots of yard signs."

"The current system is broken," he said.

Atkinson said the proposed program would force candidates to earn "sweat equity" and reward grassroots campaigning by lining up number of small donations to qualify for public financing.

Merritt has said he is interested in the proposal, but he made no public statement.

Paying for politics

State Insurance Commissioner Jim Long and state schools superintendent June Atkinson want a different way to pay for their campaigns.

So they are lending their voices to a group seeking a public-financing option for elections in North Carolina.

They are scheduled to speak at a press conference Tuesday in support of several reform measures that have been introduced at the legislature.

One of the bills would create a pilot program to provide a public-finance option for candidates running for insurance commissioner, state auditor and superintendent of public instruction in 2008.

Women winners

U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Dole wants women to win election.

Along with Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski and Texas Rep. Kay Granger, the North Carolina senator has started Women Impacting the Nation, or WIN.

It's a joint fundraising committee between the National Republican Congressional Committee and the National Republican Senatorial Committee, which Dole previously chaired.

The group will hold meetings in cities around the country in order to encourage businesswomen to support female candidates and offer advice.

It held a kickoff Wednesday at the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, D.C. 

On the calendar

The State Board of Elections will hold hearings on Rep. Mary McAllister's campaign finances at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday, June 27, at their offices at 506 N. Harrington St. in Raleigh. McAllister is a Democrat from Cumberland County.

A dollar for Cox

The Federal Election Commission has a nifty interactive map of campaign donations.

Using different-sized circles, it shows which ZIP codes in North Carolina have given to each of the presidential candidates, to Democrats and Republicans, and overall.

A sidebar shows that all candidates have received $2 million through March 31, with former Sen. John Edwards taking the lion's share at $1.4 million.

Perhaps the most interesting item is the smallest one: A $1 donation to fourth-tier Republican candidate John H. Cox from Kernersville blogger Nathan Tabor last July. It was Cox's only donation from North Carolina.

Tabor, who has run unsuccessfully for Congress and the state legislature, went to work for U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter's campaign earlier this year.

Hat Tip: Brooke Cain 

Small change

For the cost of two movie tickets, you can meet John Edwards.

Following on the heels of his low-priced birthday bash in Chapel Hill, the former North Carolina senator is hosting "Small Change for Big Change" events in Chicago and Austin.

The price to get in? Just $15.

The fundraisers attract a more casual crowd, many of whom say they haven't committed to a candidate.

On Monday, Edwards spoke to a group of 200 at the Rusty Pelican restaurant overlooking downtown Miami. He gave a shorter version of his stump speech to the diverse crowd, according to the AP.

"I wouldn't be able to afford $1,000 to see a political candidate," said Michael Grady, a 50-year-old priest dressed in jeans.

Coach Edwards

More than 500 people celebrated John Edwards' birthday Sunday.

With a $15 admission price, the fundraiser at the Best Western University Inn raised more interest than it did cash, including a number of students from nearby UNC-Chapel Hill, according to the AP.

Edwards, who turned 54, told the crowd that grassroots movements for civil rights, against the Vietnam War and against apartheid in South Africa began with young people.

"The great movements in the American history did not start in the Oval Office, they started out across America."

Introducing him was former UNC basketball coach Dean Smith, who referred to him as "Coach John Edwards."

In an interview, Smith said he liked Edwards' stance on poverty.

Perdue's fundraiser

Lt. Gov. Beverly Perdue held a fundraiser with federal lobbyists in Washington Friday.

Their state counterparts would not have been able to donate to her putative gubernatorial campaign under a state campaign finance law that went into effect Jan. 1.

Reform advocates said the event shows the limits of their efforts.

"I don't know how you would regulate it," said Louisa Warren, director of the N.C. Coalition for Lobbying and Government Reform.

Lobbyists for Rent-A-Center, Time Warner Cable and other companies met Perdue at the law firm of Oldaker, Biden & Belair. The fundraiser was expected to raise $20,000.

"Our campaign has raised almost every one of our dollars from inside North Carolina," said Peter Reichard, Perdue's finance director, "and it is well within the rules for us to have a fundraiser at a major Washington law firm." (Char-O)

Budget crew

House Speaker Joe Hackney appointed all House Democrats except two, himself and embattled Rep. Thomas Wright, to the budget negotiating committee.

Hackney also appointed eight Republicans to the negotiating crew, Lynn Bonner reports.

Theoretically, this mass is responsible for sitting down with a Senate group to agree to a final budget. But in practice, a small clutch of people, including Hackney, make the final decisions.

A bunch of big-time state Democrats, including Gov. Mike Easley, state party chairman Jerry Meek, and Hackney, have said Wright, a Wilmington Democrat, have said Wright should resign his seat because of suspected campaign finance violations.

Testimony at elections board hearings last month showed Wright spent thousands on nonpolitical expenses he didn't report, failed to report more than $200,000 in contributions, accepted prohibited corporate donations and persuaded a state official to write a bogus letter to help Wright close a real estate deal.

Behind enemy lines

Barack Obama is coming to John Edwards' backyard.

On June 14, the Illinois senator will host a big-ticket fundraiser in Chapel Hill, home of the former North Carolina senator.

The event is being hosted by Steve Lerner, an investor who previously supported Virginia Gov. Mark Warner's presidential bid.

Lerner was one of three principals in FGI Marketing Communications, which was bought by Capital Strategies in 1999.

Other hosts of the reception include CapStrat CEO Ken Eudy, jazz saxophonist Branford Marsalis and SAS co-founder John Sall.

Tickets are $1,000 for the general reception, and $2,300 for the host reception.

Correction: A previous version of this post misstated Lerner's occupation.

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