Thursday News: Union!


DEM LAWMAKERS FILE COMPANION BILLS TO ALLOW COLLECTIVE BARGAINING FOR PUBLIC EMPLOYEES: Two first-term Democratic state legislators have filed bills hoping to overturn a 1959 ban on collective bargaining by public-sector employees. That means labor unions would have negotiating power. In North Carolina, instead of through collective bargaining, government workers’ wages are set by the legislature or a local government. So workers lobby for what they want rather than negotiate a union contract. Rep. Zack Hawkins said overturning the ban would help grow the middle class. “North Carolina’s a state on the rise ... moving our state in this direction helps our economy,” the Durham lawmaker said at a news conference Wednesday, and repeal would “once again make North Carolina a beacon in the South.”

GOVERNOR COOPER MEETS WITH RURAL HOSPITAL LEADERS IN EFFORT TO EXPAND MEDICAID: Gov. Roy Cooper and his health secretary encouraged rural hospital executives Wednesday to push their area legislators on Medicaid expansion, saying House leadership is holding back on a vote that would probably pass in that chamber. Cooper and Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen also heard from hospital leaders worried about their bottom lines, doctor deserts and the domino effect that hospital problems have on a community. Their boards are passing resolutions calling on the General Assembly to expand Medicaid. The Cooper administration invited the executives to Raleigh for a roundtable Wednesday and invited the press as the legislature returns from spring break to take up the state budget. Cooper told executives that, if House leadership would let a modified expansion plan proposed earlier this year come to the floor, it would pass.

HOMOPHOBE FRANKLIN GRAHAM ATTACKS PETE BUTTIGIEG FOR BEING OPENLY GAY: One of the country’s most well-known evangelical Christians, Franklin Graham, said Pete Buttigieg, an openly gay 2020 presidential candidate, should “repent.” Graham called homosexuality a “sin” and “something to be repentant of, not something to be flaunted, praised or politicized,” in a tweet Wednesday. In a CNN town hall Tuesday, Buttigieg said, “I get that one of the things about Scripture is different people see different things in it.” “Mayor Buttigieg says he’s a gay Christian. As a Christian I believe the Bible which defines homosexuality as sin, something to be repentant of, not something to be flaunted, praised or politicized. The Bible says marriage is between a man & a woman—not two men, not two women,” Graham, the president of the Billy Graham Evangelical Association, tweeted.

JOE BIDEN MAKES IT OFFICIAL, HE IS RUNNING FOR PRESIDENT: Former Vice President Joe Biden formally joined the crowded Democratic presidential contest on Thursday, betting that his working-class appeal and ties to Barack Obama’s presidency will help him overcome questions about his place in today’s increasingly liberal Democratic Party. He made his announcement in a video posted on Twitter. Thursday’s announcement marks the unofficial end of the chaotic early phase of the 2020 presidential season. The field now features at least 20 Democrats jockeying for the chance to take on President Donald Trump next year. Several lesser-known candidates may still join the race. Biden, a 76-year-old lifelong politician, becomes an instant front-runner alongside Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who is leading many polls and has proved to be a successful fundraiser. Among Democrats, Biden has unmatched international and legislative experience, and he is among the best-known faces in U.S. politics.

TRUMP REFUSES TO COOPERATE (AT ALL) WITH CONGRESSIONAL INQUIRIES: On Wednesday, the Justice Department said a civil rights division official, John Gore, would defy a subpoena to testify on Thursday about its addition of a citizenship question to the census. This week, White House lawyers indicated that they would tell the former White House counsel Donald F. McGahn II and other former officials not to comply with subpoenas for their testimony, a person familiar with the legal strategy said. Mr. Trump has also sued to block a congressional subpoena of his accounting firm, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin missed a deadline to turn over Mr. Trump’s tax returns to lawmakers and the former head of White House personnel security, Carl Kline, ignored a subpoena ordering him to appear for a deposition about overriding recommendations to deny security clearances. Together, the events of the week made clear that Mr. Trump has adopted a strategy of unabashed resistance to oversight efforts by the House — reveling in abandoning even the pretense of trying to negotiate accommodations and compromise with the institution controlled by his political opponents.



Are Franklin Graham's attacks on Buttigieg a distraction?

News articles are starting to come out about a report by OpenDemocracy that found that US evangelical groups have spent over $50 million on "dark money" campaigns to influence elections in Europe, coordinating with far-right extremist groups connected to Trump and Steve Bannon.

Buried in this reporting (see here and here for example) is this little tidbit:

And it hasn’t taken long to determine that those activities continue. Not only have Russian propaganda outlets convinced some of the most prominent American voices among Russian-interference skeptics that appearing on RT is a good idea, but just last month leading evangelical Franklin Graham took a trip to Russia to have a sit-down meeting with with Russian Duma Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin, who is close to President Vladimir Putin and who has been sanctioned by the United States since 2014 for his role in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The trip followed other inroads recently evident between those close to sanctioned Russian officials and the fundamentalist reaches of the American right.

ThinkProgress had a fuller report on the trip, which Graham says was approved by Mike Pence.

If a NC news organization would like to pick up a new Pulitzer, join forces with some European news organizations and translators to start digging about Graham's involvement with Russia, the white nationalist far-right in Europe, and the Graham ministry's finances.

Follow the money.