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Carolina Journal News Reports

Groups Backing Tax Extensions Dominated by Democratic Donors, Government Contractors

Advocacy organizations, public employee associations also have key roles in campaigns

Feb. 4th, 2011
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RALEIGH — Two high-profile public relations campaigns urging Gov. Bev Perdue to extend more than $1 billion in temporary taxes are dominated by Democratic Party donors, left-leaning advocacy groups, unions, government contractors, and nonprofits that receive taxpayer funding.

The PR messages have been launched as the new Republican majority in the General Assembly has vowed to close a multibillion-dollar 2011-12 budget deficit by not raising taxes and by allowing $1.3 billion in temporary tax increases to sunset as scheduled in June.

The organizations behind these campaigns largely endorse liberal causes and Democratic candidates, or are nonprofits and government contractors that receive taxpayer funding.

One group, TogetherNC.org, styles itself as “a broad and diverse collection of nonprofit organizations, service providers, and professional associations who have come together to promote wise choices for shared prosperity for all North Carolinians.” It has produced a YouTube video urging the General Assembly not to cut spending. The News & Observer of Raleigh published an op-ed this week by representatives of two member organizations, saying the state’s budget concerns are “a revenue problem” — suggesting that current tax collections are not sufficient to cover essential services — and that “a cuts-only approach [to deficit reduction] would cut out our state's economic heart.”

Any diversity within the group is not ideological, however. According to whois.net, the group’s website is registered to Debra Tyler Horton of the N.C. Justice Center, a left-wing advocacy group based in Raleigh. The list of Together NC’s “endorsing organizations” includes more than 100 groups. Among them:

• Every major public employee organization and labor union in North Carolina, including the North Carolina Association of Educators, the State Employees Assocation of North Carolina/Service Employees International Union, UE 150 – NC Public Service Workers Union, the National Association of Social Workers - NC Chapter, NC AFL-CIO, and Teamsters Local 391.

• Social service agencies or other nonprofits that receive public funding, including United Way of North Carolina, North Carolina Community Action Association, Legal Services of Southern Piedmont, Self-Help Credit Union, Community Reinvestment Association of North Carolina, and NC Conservation Network.

• Liberal groups that lobby for higher taxes and more government spending, such as NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina, Planned Parenthood of Central NC, NC NAACP, Capital Area Friends of Transit, Common Cause NC, Democracy North Carolina, NC Social Justice Project, NC Justice Center, North Carolinians Against Gun Violence, and North Carolina National Association for Women.

Meantime, one dozen businesspeople sent a letter to Perdue, urging her to “to put all options on the table to deal with the budget shortfall, including revenue,” to balance the budget.

The list of signers is dominated by Democratic Party donors and government contractors. (Campaign donation records were found at opensecrets.org.)

• Jim Goodmon, general manager of WRAL and president of Capital Broadcasting, and his wife Barbara have given more than $75,000 in political donations over the past three election cycles — 86 percent to Democratic candidates or committees.

• Dean Debnam runs the Democratic opinion firm Public Policy Polling.

• Ann Goodnight is director of public relations at SAS Institute, the Cary software giant that is a major government contractor for human resources, data analysis, and defense services.

• Kelly Williamson is senior vice president of the Raleigh office of APCO International, a trade association for agencies handling 911 and other emergency response communications services.

• Mitchell Gold, Roddy Jones, Mack Pearsall, and Lyman Welton have given thousands of dollars in political contributions, with the overwhelming percentage going to Democratic candidates and committees.

Rick Henderson is managing editor of Carolina Journal.