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Dome Memo: Home movies, late budgets

OF COURSE THERE'S VIDEO: The least surprising thing that Andrew Young, former close aide to John Edwards, had to say in his book proposal: there's a sex tape. A year ago, that news might have been shocking. But a sex tape now fits comfortably along the downward trajectory Edwards' public image has been following since he begrudgingly acknowledged an extra-marital affair. Of course, we don't think Young visited the federal courthouse this week to talk about film.

BERGER UNLEASHED: Senate minority Leader Phil Berger ran wide open this week. He blasted North Carolina Democrats at home in the usual outlets, and then let 'em have it in the Wall Street Journal. We're not sure, but we think Berger wants people to know he's unhappy with the majority party.

THAT WAS CLOSE: The House and Senate agreed at the last minute to a bill to keep the state running while they wrangle over the budget. The House got its way and the temporary bill sets a two-week deadline for the chambers to agree. Gov. Beverly Perdue says to hurry up.

IN OTHER NEWS: House Republicans don't like the way Democrats name important bills. No charges will be filed in a case where a Blue Cross and Blue Shield lobbyist was accused of attempted bribery. Former auditor Les Merritt has launched a foundation to expose public corruption. The Republican Party is gearing up to go after freshman Democrat U.S. Rep. Larry Kissell in 2010. And the recession has prompted a drop in the prices of premium liquor, so at least there's some good news.

Spokesman's role

Auditor Les Merritt's spokesman played a key role in briefly halting a voting bill, according to e-mails received under a public records request.

At 10:12 a.m. on June 5, Chris Mears forwarded a Dome item on a bill to allow North Carolinians to register to vote the weekend before an election to Merritt, Chief Deputy Kris Bailey, Executive Assistant James Forte and legal counsel Tim Hoegemeyer.

"If we want to have an impact on voter registration legislation, we should get Sen. Berger information sooner rather than later," he wrote. "This is a significant opportunity to safeguard our democracy that I don't think we should pass-up."

Merritt agreed, saying that "time will pass us by." In a reply sent at 10:17, he wrote, "We may need to speak even if our audit is not complete."

At 2:34 p.m., Merritt e-mailed Sen. Dan Clodfelter to ask him to pull the bill. Senate leaders agreed, but they put the bill back up for a vote after a hearing with Merritt. It passed and is now back in the House.

Not done yet

State Auditor Les Merritt stressed that a report on voting rolls is still preliminary.

During a meeting with a Senate committee, he said that early findings of invalid driver's licenses and dead voters may have innocent explanations when the report is finished.

"We'll eventually get to a correct, final report," Merritt said, "and that final report, it could very well say there isn't anything here, that everything's fine, we're doing a super job." (Char-O)

He also repeatedly denied that his request to delay a voter-registration bill was motivated by partisan politics. Some Democrats on the committee were not reassured, noting that his spokesman is the former political director for the state Republican Party. (W-SJ)

The bill now heads back to the Senate floor for a vote. Senate Republican Leader Phil Berger was one of the only committee members to vote against it.

"I don't think anyone could say the auditor's questions are illegitimate," he said. (GN-R

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