3rd Shift

Third Shift: The Peter Principle at Work, the Berger Dynasty Rises

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by Camel City Dispatch

There is No Enemy Like a Friend… Where the Buffalo Roars…


By Chad Nance

“When the swine have eaten every bit of the slop they have nothing to feast upon save one another. The hog that survives the slaughter will have nothing to eat save himself.”

– Fred Rogers

“Rumble, Young man, rumble!”

– Drew “Bundini” Brown

“Man! this tune is funkier than 19 yards of chitlins, with onions and sardines on the side… now that’s funky!”

– Rudy Ray Moore

It was inevitable like the wind. Unavoidable like the grave and as sure as the turning of the earth. With no one in Raleigh left to beat on, the Republicans have begun turn on one another. Treating Democrats like Citadel plebes in a Pat Conroy novel has gotten to be weak sauce. These boys are big game hunters now and picking on the crushed and dispossessed is only good for a laugh when you’re ripped on expensive scotch, $12 cigars, and the fresh blood of young virgins. The big game hunters understand that the real high-risk sport is in taking down a cape buffalo like President Pro Tem of the North Carolina Senate (and the most powerful man in NC politics) – Phil “Karamojo” Berger.

big enos & little enos
big enos & little enos

“Senator Phil Berger is the president pro tem of the Senate. He can make a bill disappear into committee and never be seen again. Should I come out against the son of that powerful man?” said state Representative John Blust (R-NC62) at a press conference in Greensboro on Wednesday. In that same press conference, Blust, BJ Barnes, the Republican Sheriff of Guilford County, and Little Phil’s primary opponent for the 6th Congressional District, Mark Walker, called for an ethics committee and Federal investigation into possible campaign violations, including direct co-ordination between a campaign and a PAC. Little Phil and his daddy are in the same trap that Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has found himself in following his shadier-than-a-back-alley-in-hell recall election.

According to these three Republicans, Daddy Phil has leveraged his stranglehold on North Carolina politics in order to funnel contributions to a super PAC that since January 2014 has rolled out a wallet of $200,000 for his son. The money was spent on ads in praise of Little Phil and his superior white, male, Christianess while attacking his opponents with the kind of mudslinging vitriol that Republicans reserve for godless Hollywood celebrities and black guys who have the nerve to get themselves elected President of the United Sates.  The PAC even uses footage shot by Little Phil’s campaign in their ads.

The SuperPAC, which with Orwellian perfection is named Keep Conservatives United, has been on the full bums-rush against Mark Walker for months now. Mostly they accuse Walker of being soft on brown people. Apparently, in their estimation, Mark Walker has somehow “flip-flopped” on giving amnesty to undocumented workers who are already in country. According to this PAC, which also happens to benefit mightily from Daddy Phil, Walker is soft on immigration and won’t sign one of those dumb ass “no taxes” pledges pushed by the checkers playing set within the GOP.

At the press conference and in a press kit I got from the Walker campaign, there are some ethically questionable donations to Keep Conservatives United as it relates to Little Phil and his Congressional hopes. One major and ultimately problematic $75,000 contribution from the Republican State Leadership Committee smells like raw, un-filtered nepotism. The optics are pretty rotten considering that in 2013 Daddy Phil served as the chairman of the RSLC and currently sits on its executive committee. Apparently the North Carolina Senate (or at least their leadership) has picked their winner.

Then there’s that 50 grand that Charter School magnate Robert Luddy dropped into Keep Conservatives United (I still smile every time it comes time to type that) that served as their seed money. I’m sure that the fact that Luddy has a vested interest in two pieces of legislation that are currently working their way through the North Carolina Senate had nothing to do with his generosity. Because SB 793 and SB 744 are still in play, Luddy is not legally allowed to contribute directly to any North Carolina legislator during the session when his legislation is on the table. According to Daddy Phil’s fellow Republicans, what Luddy did instead was donate the maximum allowed by law to Little Phil’s congressional campaign in June of 2014 and also provided the 50k to the boys over at Keep Conservatives United which they have used to exclusively campaign for Little Phil and go at Walker and the other primary opponents hammer & tongs. When you’re creating a family based political dynasty the next generation has to be put together, and no one on the ground in NC except Little Phil has a daddy with that kind of juice in North Carolina.

little enos & big enos
little enos & big enos

The Republicans also released information about food distribution mogul Steve Wodsworth (part of the owner of the Carolina Panthers) and his $35,000 donation in February 2014 which made him the second high-roller behind Luddy to throw cash at Keep Conservatives United. Like Luddy, Wodsworth has legislation pending in Raleigh that he as a stake in – HB 193 is a bill that would affect the operation of Bank of America Stadium, where the Panthers play ball.

Where the entire enterprise could move from being yet another sick example of pay for play politics on Jones St. to something along the lines of organized crime is the little matter of it being 100% against Federal elections laws for a Super PAC to co-ordinate directly with any individual campaign. Of course, this happens all of the time, because the last thing the vast majority of politicians ever consider is whether or not what they are doing is illegal. It’s simply irrelevant to them. The Guilford County Republicans wrote:

“It appears that Senator Berger has been raising funds for Keep conservatives United as part of a scheme to hide his influence over the race and enable those donors to make indirect contributions to his son’s election effort. Most troubling, several of these donors either have or have had legislation in the north Carolina Senate that would be of financial benefit to themselves and/or their family members. The major donors to this SuperPAC live outside of the 6th District and I find it interesting that they would invest so heavily in one Congressional race.”

For their part, Daddy Phil and Little Phil have responded exactly like members of a budding political dynasty whose patriarch happens to be the most powerful man in North Carolina politics. Daddy Phil is so secure that he put the Governor in his place on Thursday, proving that Art Pope doesn’t have the pull he probably thought he had and that Daddy Phil doesn’t have to give two shits about anybody at the point. In response to a veto threat from the Governor over Daddy Phil’s plan to eliminate thousands of jobs across North Carolina in one night of the long knives Phil simply stated:

“The governor has been unable to sustain any of his previous vetoes in the Senate. It would be more helpful for him to work with members of both chambers of the legislature, since his unwillingness to listen to those who have an honest disagreement with him on spending priorities in favor of staging media stunts and budget gimmicks is a major reason the budget has not been finalized.”

Yeah… it’s like that, North Carolina.

Little Phil isn’t as slick as Big Daddy, though. He’s already gotten caught in one lie to the Greensboro News & Record after first denying Walker’s charges then admitting that they are true, but insisting that he, Daddy Phil, and Keep Conservatives United (just like typing that) had little to do with one another. Little Phil’s campaign manager Peter Barnes told the News & Record, “How can a man who touts his Christian character in one breath bear false witness against his neighbor in his next breath?”

little enos & big enos
little enos & big enos

That’s the best you got, kid? You’re going to try to hide behind the cross? One of these days the money changers are going to be driven out of the temple, but for now they just run for office.

Little Phil is still the favorite in Tuesday’s primary. He and Daddy Phil can act arrogant for a reason… the old man is well on his way to being North Carolina’s answer to Huey Long. Like Rep. Blust said at the press conference, “There’s no advantage to this, and it’s dangerous. Whatever may come, I have to take the hit. But as an elected official, I believe I should be able to speak my mind without fear of retribution.”

He is definitely going to have to watch his back from now on. The way Daddy Phil has marginalized Governor McCrory and Thom Tillis has been a stunning display of bullying, adroit political tactics along with the firm and disciplined application of foot to ass. Make no mistake, pilgrims, North Carolina now has its own Boss and that particular hog has cleared the end of the tunnel… now we just have to watch him wallow in the slop. The Republican Party is at war with itself in North Carolina. Once you’ve defeated your enemies as completely as they have there isn’t much sport out there without engaging in some scorching and bloody friendly fire.

What comes next? Daddy Phil should probably find Jim Black and find out what the fall will feel like. He’ll find Black in Charlotte somewhere… last I heard he was out of jail.

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