Thursday, April 24, 2008

Consider the Source-

Voters: Please “Consider the source”
of news, endorsements and
effectiveness” ratings!"

By Fern H. Shubert

For years, when told of an outrageous misrepresentation of facts in The Charlotte Observer, my standard response was “Consider the source.”

The Charlotte Observer and I have been on opposite sides of an amazing array of issues, including Jim Black. They praised his “effectiveness” and badmouthed his opponents, while I started criticizing Black’s abuse of power during his first term as Speaker and openly opposed his re-election.

Thanks to the FBI, everyone knows I was right and the Observer wrong about Black. I’m not holding my breath waiting for the “Progressive” media to acknowledge my accuracy, because they’re too busy praising Black’s so-far unindicted co-conspirators.


The Observer’s bias is well-documented, as is their supporting role in the misleadingly named Wilmington Riot of 1898, when Democrats committed murder to advance their political cause.

The Observer’s ties to the Democrat Party, although well over a century old, are undimmed by time, as I’m reminded regularly by their candidate endorsements and misuse of “defectiveness ratings.”

A comment that ran in this week’s Charlotte Observer indicates the current editors are at least aware many recognize their bias. “The Observer’s agenda isn’t “hidden.” For a printed copy, write: Democratic National Committee, Washington, DC 20003.” (The Buzz, April 22, 2008)

Actually, that day’s Buzz had several gems, including “Negotiating with someone who wants to destroy you is like helping them reload, aim and shoot you between the eyes,” and “DejaMoo: The feeling that you’ve heard this bull before.”

The abuse of “defectiveness ratings” by the Observer and other papers is certainly “DejaMoo.”

Like the Observer, many papers are eager to support “effective” Democrats like Jim Black and Marc Basnight, and RINO Republicans (Republican-In-Name-Only), but quick to criticize real Republicans.

A typical article begins “A report on state law-makers’ sway blasts two local legislators and lauds another. The study, conducted by the nonpartisan (sic) North Carolina Center for Public Policy Research, ranked” and goes on to praise the Democrat insider and trash good Republicans.

The supposedly “nonpartisan” study is so partisan that, before the Morgan "co-speakership" confused loyalties, the Republican caucus boycotted it. Honest legislators should boycott it, because the deck is stacked against them. Highly rated Republicans are deservedly viewed with great suspicion by those who know how the survey really works.

Despite the Republican boycott, Ran Coble, who headed the “nonpartisan (sic) Center,” claimed his survey was still a valid measure of effectiveness. House Republican Whip Frank Mitchell responded, “I try not to be shocked any more these days, but I was surprised at your audacity in claiming that the North Carolina Center for Public Policy Research Center's "Effectiveness Rating" "was well above accepted standards of statistical validity." “No survey in which responders are self-selected, and where one major group boycotts it, can be considered valid by anyone's standards, except I guess by your partisan standards in favor of the Democrats.

You claim in your May 28, 2002 letter that the "response rate from House was 60% this year." But, as you were previously informed, the Republican Caucus boycotted your biased survey. Attached to this letter is a list of fifty-two Republican members of the House who boycotted your biased survey. Where is your 60% response rate if at least 52 House members boycotted your survey? And where is your disclosure to the public and the news media when you do not reveal that virtually all of your respondents were Democratic members of the House?

Even without one-sided input from the Democratic members of the House, your survey is fatally flawed when it relies on ratings from the lobbyists. I understand that your lobbyist survey includes the employees of the Easley Administration, who are of course advocates for the Democratic Party's agenda, and not very kindly inclined to Republican legislators who voted against Easley's busted budgets and tax increases.”

Later, two more Republicans reported they had boycotted the survey, meaning that even if every Democrat participated (unlikely), the maximum response was 55%, not 60%. So does the Center have a problem with math or integrity? How can anyone suggest the “defectiveness” survey is “nonpartisan?”

A recent letter from a resident of Moore County provided convincing proof the survey is still partisan. He asked how it was possible that their local representative, a Republican, received a 92% attendance rating for attending 115 days of sessions while Speaker Hackney, a Democrat, scored 98 percent for attending exactly the same number of days?

According to Frank Carrara, “The writers tried to explain this as "differences between their separate schedules." I do not know where they learned math. At my school, if we both were present for the same number of days of business, our attendance record would be identical.

“Next, let's look at those who were queried by this survey. It polled all 119 state representatives (78 responded), 614 registered lobbyists (184 responded), and 12 state capital news correspondents (6 responded).

“Let's see if I have this right. Our representatives were called ineffective because a sample of 268 respondents, 69 percent of whom were lobbyists, said they were ineffective...

“If I had turned this caliber of work in to my editor, I would have been exiled to the copy desk to proofread stories for a very long time.

“I'm not a supporter of either legislator; but I think having lobbyists passing judgment on our representatives is a gross disservice to them and your readers.”

I was so intrigued by Mr. Carrara’s comments that I phoned him and learned he’s originally from upstate New York where he worked for the Associated Press, which gives his opening comment extra weight: “The Pilot's reporters, who wrote the story about the rankings of our Moore County state legislators, should go back to journalism school.”

At least one local paper didn’t stop with reporting the biased ratings, they added an editorial that not only used the biased ratings to trash Republicans they would like to replace, but also attempted to bully them into participating in the survey. They actually had the nerve to criticize Republicans for refusing to help give credibility to the Center’s partisan hatchet job by participating.

Refer back to the comment about “negotiating with someone who wants to destroy you.” Why would any honest paper try to bully legislators into participating in a game we all know is rigged?

The answer is fairly obvious . . . they support “effective” legislators like Black and Basnight and want to help eliminate those who won’t follow their lead.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

"First they came..."

By Fern H. Shubert
As printed in The County Edge (April 18, 2008)

When I ran for Governor, I carried with me a copy of a poem that once was well known but now seems unknown to far too many in Raleigh: 
First they came for the Communists, and I didn’t speak up, 
because I wasn’t a Communist. 
Then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak up, 
because I wasn’t a Jew. 
Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn’t speak up, 
because I was a Protestant. 
Then they came for me, and by that time there was no one left 
to speak up for me.

The poem, by Rev. Martin Niemoller, “was printed in Time magazine on August 28, 1989, commemorating the 50th anniversary of the start of World War II.” (From Wikipedia, the free online encyclopedia.) There are many variations on the wording of the poem, but all describe the way Hitler and his National Socialist Workers Party came to power.

Of course, in “Progressive” circles, mentioning Hitler was a socialist is unpopular, but the name of his party leaves little doubt of his politics. The methods he used remain popular in North Carolina politics. “Divide and conquer” is definitely still in vogue.

That is why, when a friend informed me he was told that my columns on Thomas Wright were ruining my reputation, my response was, “Says who? The people responsible for the media circus that denied Wright a fair trial may not like what I’m saying, but that’s their problem.” 

Some people apparently believe that because Wright was a Democrat, I should ignore the fact he was denied a fair trial. My response is to suggest they read and then reread the poem at the beginning of this article and then ask themselves the simple question, was Wright accorded due process? Was he treated as you would hope and expect to be treated if accused of a felony? Did he get a fair trial?

Campaign reporting is not the issue on which Wright was tried, but the charges were based on an investigation triggered by the State Board of Elections. Gee, I wonder how they decided to investigate Wright? Joe Sinsheimer has filed complaints about a lot of people who have not been investigated. What prompted Sinsheimer, right after the November 2006, elections to single out Wright and ignore bigger fish?

How many remember the case of Matt McWilliams who made the mistake of filing to run against Richard Morgan several years ago? I did not, but after I ran into Dave Burton at the John Locke Foundation’s Shaftesbury luncheon on e-mail scandals, he was kind enough to send me the following reminder:


After Matt announced he intended to run against Morgan, they hit him with seven felony charges because of $261 in mishandled campaign contributions in a prior school board campaign:

What's more, the reason his previous school board campaign was investigated was that Moore Co. BOE director Glenda Clendenin asked the State Board to investigate him BECAUSE she learned that he was running against Morgan... and we know that is true because SBOE investigator Marshall Tutor said it right out loud, to a reporter:

That may sound pretty strong, but the press links show that McWilliams was indicted “on seven felony charges — five counts of obtaining money by false pretenses and two counts of perjury. He was accused of filing false reports with the state board of elections in connection with his run for the nonpartisan school board in 2002.” (The Pilot, September 10, 2004)

McWilliams claimed his prosecution was politically motivated, which was, of course, denied. But the press reports give the charge considerable credibility.

The state elections board official who handled the case acknowledged “The investigation really began when he filed papers to run for the House here in Moore County.” (The Pilot, September 10, 2004) In other words, had he not filed to run for the House, no one would have cared what he did or did not do in the school board race.

McWilliams eventually reached a plea agreement in which he agreed to plead guilty to one count in return for a suspended sentence with 90 days of house arrest. I suspect his legal fees were a greater punishment than the sentence. Maybe he deserved the sentence. I did not sit through that trial, and I know better than to form final judgments based on press accounts. Still, it is interesting to consider who gets to decide who gets investigated. 

For example, while the public was entertained by the Thomas Wright circus, District Attorney Colon Willoughby decided the Centex contract with Jim Black's son wasn't worth his time to pursue, but it was too sensitive to even release the SBI report. An informant claimed Centex gave Black’s son a sub-contract for the prisons as part of the deal to get Centex the contract to build the prisons. The accusation sounds plausible enough that the public deserves more information than Willoughby has made available to date.

Wright was convicted of using a non-profit to steal from the foundation he helped establish because Willoughby thought that charge was worth investigating. Don’t get me wrong. I think those who abuse non-profits to line their own pockets deserve prosecution. But who decides who gets investigated and prosecuted? 

I supported Steve Monk’s run for DA in Durham against Mike Nifong before Nifong’s reputation crumbled, because Nifong’s handling of the Duke lacrosse case was offensive to me. Was I wrong then?

Nifong won the DA race because the majority of the public supported him based on what they had read in the papers, but remember what happened next? What happened in that case should be instructive of how public perception can be manipulated by the unscrupulous until reality intrudes.

In fact, it is somewhat ironic that earlier this week, U.S. District Court Judge James Beaty Jr., who is presiding over the suit brought by 38 current and former lacrosse players against Duke University, the city of Durham and others “ordered lawyers on both sides not to publicly discuss the case to protect a potential jury pool.” (Charlotte Observer, April 16, 2008)

How is it that Judge Beaty is aware of the problems posed by a tainted jury pool, while the highest public officials in the state seemed almost eager to insure that Thomas Wright would not receive a fair trial? 

Thomas Wright’s attorney ran out of challenges because so many jurors were well aware that Wright had already been found guilty by the House, but Judge Hight saw no reason to postpone the trial. A lawyer was even seated as a juror who had revealed she had family ties to the prosecutor, something Wright’s attorney said he would not have allowed if he had any challenges left.

How tainted was the jury pool? Questions should be being raised about why an attorney whose mother went to law school with the District Attorney was even seated.

Even more interesting questions could be being raised about why Colon Willoughby did not disclose he knew about the $4,900 interest payment Wright made on behalf of the foundation until Wright’s attorney raised the issue in court. Wright claimed he had reimbursable expenses. If the District Attorney knew that he had made payments on behalf of the foundation, was he not required to disclose them? I’m told he did not.

Maybe I am nuts, as some have suggested, but I'll stake my reputation as a CPA on the fact that a lot of our leading citizens act more like RICO targets than pillars of the church.

I'm still quite willing to stake my political reputation on my longstanding assertion that Jim Black was the runt of the litter when it came to corruption, which means the big boys are still in business, does it not? The Parton Theater is pocket change compared to what I expect to be revealed over time.
Speaking of church, my church has a new minister and Sunday he told the story of a nosy neighbor who, watching the couple next door standing outside, saw the husband slap the wife on the side of her head and then run to the car and take off in a hurry. Obviously, from what he saw, a sad case of domestic abuse. 

Actually, the husband was hitting a wasp that had landed on his wife’s head. Despite his attempt to protect her, she had been stung and he was hurrying to the drugstore to get something for the sting. The scripture was on the blind man given sight, not current events, but it was timely, as always.
What you see depends on where you stand and what you know, as well as what you expect and what you hope to see. Auditors are trained to try to see more than the casual observer, which is why I keep wandering away from the herd. I’m looking for facts.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

High tech hanging continues sad history

In 1898, Democrat party leaders organized the murder of a number of black citizens of Wilmington and the burning of the only black daily paper in the country. The major North Carolina newspapers cheered them on. A century later, the News and Observer, the Charlotte Observer, and other papers apologized for their part in supporting the only successful armed overthrow of a lawfully elected government known to have occurred in this country.

No wonder the leaders of the North Carolina Democrat Party might be opposed to the idea of a museum commemorating the origin of their current power. The museum might make visitors aware of how misleading press reports that drive public opinion really can be. Black visitors in particular might begin to question their loyalty to a party rooted in slavery that has controlled our state's government for over a hundred years, thus controlling our public schools and our criminal justice system, areas of particular concern to most black citizens.

Some may find it strange that a white Republican is willing to suggest the trial of Representative Thomas Wright is race-related, but he says it is and the evidence supports his charge. After sitting in the courtroom all last week, I'm convinced Representative Thomas Wright was convicted of three felonies only because the jury was tainted by press accounts of the special session of the legislature held immediately before the trial, and he was tried, not because he committed felonies, but because he crossed the wrong people.

Wright might be guilty of doing many things wrong, but he was tried for doing things most Republicans and many Democrats would consider right. Wright's real crimes were refusing to back Senator Julia Boseman in the 2006 election, seeking to build a museum to commemorate the 1898 Wilmington Riots, and refusing to follow orders from the current rulers in Raleigh. It is hard to get the public to support jail time for those crimes or bad bookkeeping so he was charged with allegedly committing fraud on a bank and three corporations, none of which seemed to feel injured or even irritated with Wright.

How ironic that on the same day Wright was found guilty, April 7, 2008, the Wilmington Star had a related story that began "A few years ago at a Brunswick County Sheriff's Office department meeting, then-Sheriff Ronald Hewett drew a bull's eye on a dry-erase board. He said that if someone caused him trouble as sheriff "they would be the target. . ."

If a "lowly" (by comparison) Sheriff can target someone, what about the big boys in Raleigh like the Speaker of the House, the Democrat Majority Leader of the Senate, and the Governor? I've long said, in writing, that Jim Black was the runt of the litter when it came to corruption in North Carolina's government.

Even before Black's conviction, I said that I thought he was being tossed to the wolves by the big dogs. But Black was relatively easy to convict because he did so much wrong; Wright must have been a comparative angel, because the charges on which he was tried last week were so weak that I doubt the DA could have won a conviction with an unbiased jury.

The trial made it clear to me Wright was a target. For obtaining a letter that could not possibly have been used to trick the bank into approving a $150,000 loan, and for admittedly depositing $8,900 donated to the Foundation he headed into his bank account, Wright was sentenced to more years in jail than Jim Black was. Wright said the $8,900 was a reimbursement for funds he actually spent for the benefit of the Foundation (and he proved at least $4,900 was), yet he was sentenced to more jail time than many violent criminals.

Black helped steal the whole state government by using bribery to stay in power to execute a gerrymander; Wright didn't get a dime from the $150,000 loan and it seems likely that he lost money from his efforts to establish a Foundation rather than making money by stealing money due the Foundation. What's wrong in this picture?

Yet the same people who ignored me or made fun of me for years when I said Jim Black was guilty of unethical behavior as Speaker, long before the FBI proved I was right, now ignore any suggestion Wright might not be guilty. Just as the mainstream media praised Black when it was obvious to anyone willing to see that Black was abusing his power, they now condemn Wright with the same willful blindness.

I only became interested in Representative Thomas Wright's case because a complaint I had filed against Representative Pryor Gibson had been whitewashed and I'd been told nothing was done because Gibson's action in 2006 was too old to pursue. Since Wright was being pursued for much older events, I wanted to know how to get the same attention devoted to Gibson's multiple questionable activities that was being devoted to convicting Wright.

When this started, I was delighted to see Wright condemned, because he was an ally of Black. Now, I think Wright's convictions should be overturned on Appeal and I'm convinced Joe Hackney is far more dangerous than Jim Black as Speaker.

Jim Black's gang threatened legislators to round up votes, but they only threatened to use misleading mailings to end their political careers. (Under the Dome, May 20, 1999)

Under Joe Hackney the stakes are higher. Fail to follow orders and be charged with multiple felonies. When convicted, using whatever methods necessary, don't wait for an appeal before starting the sentence. When Black was convicted and no appeal contemplated, he was permitted to wait to start his sentence. Not Thomas Wright.

This is not written to defend Thomas Wright. He's a Democrat; I'm a Republican. He supported Jim Black; I quite clearly did not. I'm frankly surprised to find myself supporting him in any way shape or form. But I'm convinced he was railroaded.

This is not even about Thomas Wright; this is about the abuse of power by legislative leaders working in concert with individuals in the other branches of government. This is scary stuff.

If Wright can be threatened with retribution for not following orders and then convicted of a Class C felony that only a science fiction fan who actually believes in time travel could find plausible, no legislator is safe.

Being threatened with lies is an occupational hazard for anyone who seeks public office. While words can hurt, most voters know to consider the source of any accusation.

Being threatened with jail time is another matter altogether. Even if the legislator is not convicted, the damage done is beyond belief.

Thomas Wright was charged with a Class C felony, a very serious offense, for using a false letter to defraud a bank into making a $150,000 loan to purchase a building. The bank never filed a complaint, because they did not lose money. They made money.

Thomas Wright did not get a dime from the loan and the record shows he was trying to raise funds to pay the loan. Both he and Dr. Dan Gottovi paid interest to extend the loan to buy time to try and raise the funds to retire the debt. What an unusual fraud!

The fraud charge is based on the fact Wright asked Torlen Wade to prepare a letter they both knew was false and Wade did so. According to District Attorney Colon Willoughby, the letter was used to persuade the bank to make the loan.

There's one major problem: the record shows the loan was approved, with no contingencies, and the closing attorney notified of the approval before the letter even existed.

A document entered into evidence by the DA showed the bank approved the loan March 5, 2002, giving it the lowest possible credit rating which indicates they knew getting a grant was not a given. If they had seen the letter, a higher credit rating would be expected, but the letter was not prepared until March 15, 2002, so the lending officer who approved the loan could not have seen it.

Imagine for the sake of argument that Thomas Wright was so desperate for funds that he told a friend to get him a gun because he might have to rob a bank. Before the friend could get the gun to him, he got the money he needed. Could the DA charge Wright with armed robbery? Apparently he could, because that's what District Attorney Colon Willoughby, in essence, did.

When the jurors indicated they weren't buying the charge by asking if the charge included loan renewals, the judge said sure, if there was an ongoing scheme. In other words, just because Wright didn't have a gun when he got the money, he could still be guilty if he planned to get one when he obtained the money. Duh???

Democracy just took a big blow in Raleigh.

Fern Shubert is a former State Representative, State Senator, Town Manager and Candidate for Governer. She currently serves as the NC State Director of the National Right to Read Foundation.