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Emails, Texts Shed New Light on How Inept State Officials Were in Responding to Flood of HB2 Critics



North Carolina Commerce Department Officials, Governor’s Office Struggled to Defend HB2 in the Days Following Passage of the Anti-Trans ‘Bathroom Bill’

Recently released emails from the North Carolina Department of Commerce show officials struggling to counter intense criticism in the days following passage of HB2, a state law banning transgender individuals from using public facilities consistent with their gender identity.

In an effort to calm negative reaction to the law, state Commerce Department officials sent out an email titled, “Myths vs Facts: What New York Times, Huffington Post and other media outlets aren’t saying about common-sense privacy law.” The document attempts to minimize the impact and implications of the law, telling business that they “are not limited by this bill. Private individuals, companies and universities can adopt new or keep existing nondiscrimination policies.”

One displeased recipient responded, “This type of message should be sent by political campaigns, not taxpayer funded agencies,” according to the Charlotte Observer, which obtained the emails through an information request.

In a March 29 email to North Carolina Commerce Secretary John Skvarla (photo, second from right), NCDC Chief of Staff Cecilia Holden recommended this approach when addressing the concerns of PayPal. The financial services tech giant had recently announced plans to base their new global operations center in the Tar Heel state. Holden wrote, “Each company can decide what works best for it as a company so nothing has changed for them. Did you share that with them? If not, maybe you should.” Holden concluded by adding a smiley face emoji.

The email blast and other attempts at damage control failed. On April 5, PayPal announced they had canceled the planned expansion. No formal notification was given to blindsided North Carolina officials, who had hawked the jobs growth on the governor’s website. State officials learned about the decision only when news broke on the internet, which us unsurprising given Paypal’s prior attempts. The day of the HB2 vote, Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts (photo, second from left) desperately tried to get someone in the governor’s office to talk with Paypal, which was very concerned about the anti-LGBT legislation. “PayPal wants to call Gov. McCrory but no one is picking up phone,” she ultimately texted the city’s lobbyist. No one ever spoke with them.

In mid April, NC Commerce Dept. Secretary Skvarla told reporters, “HB2 will not impact job growth.” He added, “At the end of the day I don’t see a concern.” A recent Williams Institute study shows HB2 will cost North Carolina well over 1250 jobs and $5 billion annually.

Criticism flooded in from all over. James Blair, a managing director for site selection firm Navigator Consulting wrote to officials, “We are concerned about any legislation that North Carolina would put in place and defend by calling it ‘common sense’ privacy law,” adding that the North Carolina General assembly “continues to legislate its interpretation of moral values rather than to defend the individual rights of your state’s citizens.”

Novelist Robert J. Crane, known for the popular book series “Girl in the Box,” wrote an email on March 26 voicing his intention not to do business with the state. “If this is the law the people of NC wanted passed it’s unfortunate due to the dramatic job loss and economic toll it will take on your state’s economy.”

Intense pressure to repeal the law has been building steadily since passage of the bill on March 23. Deutsche Bank canceled a planned North Carolina expansion. Hulu, Fox and A&E announced they would no longer produce programming in the state. Several musicians, including Pearl Jam, Bruce Springsteen, and Ringo Starr have canceled scheduled concert appearances in protest.

The U.S. Justice Department has filed suit in federal court to block enforcement of the bill, calling it a clear violation of the Civil Rights Act.


Photo: March 13, announcing PayPal’s move to North Carolina, left to right: Mecklenburg County Commission Chairman Trevor Fuller, Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts, Senior VP Global Ops for PayPal John McCabe, Gov. Pat McCrory, Commerce Secretary John Skvarla, and NC Chamber of Commerce president Bob Morgan.
Image via Facebook

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Lindsey Graham Admonished by Senate Ethics Committee



U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) has been formally admonished by the Senate Ethics Committee for violating ethics rules and standards by repeatedly soliciting campaign donations during an interview at the Capitol.

The bipartisan committee issued Graham a Public Letter of Admonition after the South Carolina Republican solicited donations for Georgia GOP Senate nominee Herschel Walker.

“Based upon all available information, the Committee concluded that on November 30, 2022, you conducted a media interview with Fox News in the rotunda of the Russell Senate Office Building and that your interview was slightly over nine minutes, with over four minutes devoted to a discussion of the 2022 senatorial run-off election in Georgia. The Committee further concluded that during your discussion of the senatorial run-off election, you directly solicited campaign contributions on behalf of Mr. Walker’s campaign committee,, five separate times.”

The letter notes that Sen. Graham had previously violated the same standards when he solicited campaign donations in a federal building in October of 2020, but said it was an “unplanned media interview.” When a reporter had asked him about fundraising, Graham “directly solicited campaign contributions” for his re-election campaign.

READ MORE: Watch: GOP Lawmaker Orders Grieving Parkland Parents Removed From ‘ATF Overreach’ Hearing

The Committee noted “mitigating” circumstances and did not cite him for that violation.

“The public must feel confident that Members use public resources only for official actions in the best interests of the United States, not for partisan political activity,” the letter concludes. “Your actions failed to uphold that standard, resulting in harm to the public trust and confidence in the United States Senate. You are hereby admonished.”

CNN’s Manu Raju posted the letter to social media.

You can read the letter below or at this link.

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Watch: GOP Lawmaker Orders Grieving Parkland Parents Removed From ‘ATF Overreach’ Hearing



U.S. Rep. Pat Fallon (R-TX) is being criticized for having the parents of a victim of the Parkland school massacre removed from a GOP-led House committee hearing on “ATF Overreach” after he deemed them “out of order” for remarks they made while a Member was speaking. Minutes later, Capital Police pinned the father to the ground in the hallway and arrested him.

“See this is, exactly what we have to avoid!” Rep. Fallon, chairing the joint hearing, angrily declared as he pointed his finger after the father, Manuel Oliver, made a remark that was inaudible. “Which is some minority of folks trying to silence dissent. Dissent shouldn’t be kryptonite.”

“There’s a decorum that should be adhered to,” Fallon, who recently refused to sign a statement denouncing white supremacy, said as he chastising Oliver.

After another, louder outburst, Fallon mockingly asked, “Is this an insurrection? So will they be held to the same — I don’t want another January 6.”

READ MORE: ‘Unlawful Incursion’: Manhattan DA Schools Jim Jordan for Demanding He Testify in Ongoing Trump Investigation

Congressman David Cicilline (D-RI) responded, “If they’re trying to overthrow the government, they oughta be held to the same standard, but I think they’re trying to express their frustrations.”

Angrily again, Rep. Fallon interjected.

“Whoa whoa whoa whoa,” he shouted as he banged the gavel.

“Member’s out of line,” Fallon said (incorrectly. The term is “out of order.”)

Shortly thereafter, Rep. Fallon had both Manuel and Patricia Oliver removed.

ABC News reporter Will Steakin, who was in the hearing, tweeted video and said bot Manuel and Patricia Oliver “appear to leave without resistance… moments later there was a loud thud outside the hearing room and I found Manuel being pinned to the ground by multiple officers.”

“Manuel Oliver, the father of a 17-year-old Parkland shooting victim, was arrested Thursday on Capitol Hill after he appeared to shout at a Republican lawmaker who was speaking during a hearing on gun regulations,” NBC News reports. Patricia Oliver, his wife and the mother of their 17-year old son, Joaquin Oliver, who was one of 17 people who died in the 2018 Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School massacre, was not arrested.

READ MORE: ‘National Security Implications’: Former DOJ Official Speculates on Ruling Ordering Trump Attorney to Hand Over Docs

On social media critics expressed anger at Fallon.

“Rep. Pat Fallon (R) thinks parents of slaughtered children should just sit down & shut up as Republicans maintain outrageously dangerous gun laws. He had this parent expelled rather than just giving a warning, which is the usual,” wrote one Twitter user.

“Texas Rep. Pat Fallon: You are the EXACT problem with the gun violence and why it keeps being the leading cause of death in children today,” wrote another.

According to the NIH, gun violence is the leading cause of childhood death.

Still another Twitter user blasted Fallon: “What disgraceful & despicable behavior by Representative Pat Fallon. Exercising your right to free speech is being an insurrectionist? The man lost his son. Have you no compassion? I think he has more than earned the right to be heard by Congress. Such an abuse of power.”

And one called Fallon “feckless.”

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‘Repercussions’: Biden White House Warns Uganda ‘Kill the Gays’ Bill Could Force US to Cancel $950 Million in Annual Aid



The Biden administration may cancel the $950 million in annual assistance the U.S. provides to Uganda if President Yoweri Museveni signs into law its latest “Kill the Gays” bill, which calls for the death penalty for “aggravated homosexuality” and between ten and 20 years in prison for other LGBTQ “acts.”

National Security Council Coordinator for Strategic Communications John Kirby on Wednesday made clear if Uganda further criminalizes homosexuality and the LGBTQ community there could be “repercussions that we would have to take.”

“That would be really unfortunate because so much of the economic assistance that we provide Uganda is health assistance,” Admiral Kirby said at a White House press briefing.

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre also told reporters Wednesday the Biden administration has “grave concerns” over the Anti-Homosexuality Act (AHA), and “increasing violence targeting LGBTQIA+ persons.”

READ MORE: Florida GOP Lawmaker Who Wrote ‘Don’t Say Gay’ Bill Facing Up to 35 Years After Pleading Guilty in COVID Fraud Case

“If the AHA is signed into law and enacted, it would impinge upon universal human rights, jeopardize progress in the fight against HIV/AIDS, deter tourism and invest in Uganda and damage Uganda’s international reputation,” Jean-Pierre warned. “The bill is one of the most extreme anti-LGBTQI+ laws in the world.”

Kirby and Jean-Pierre’s remarks came on the same day as U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken denounced Uganda’s “Kill the Gays” legislation, saying it “would undermine fundamental human rights of all Ugandans and could reverse gains in the fight against HIV/AIDS.”

“The United States provides more than $950 million in aid to Uganda each year, according to the State Department. The money supports development and health care measures, such as combating HIV/AIDS,” Courthouse News reported Wednesday. “Uganda is already among 30 African countries that ban same-sex relations. The new proposal would broaden penalties and appears to be the first to outlaw identifying as LGBTQ+, according to Human Rights Watch.”

Watch the videos above or at this link.

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