by Keith T. Barber and Jordan Green

Incumbents enjoy fundraIsIng advantage, report fInds

A recent report by election watchdog group Democracy North Carolina finds that despite the sour political mood this year, political donors favor incumbents over challengers by a 5-to-1 margin in Congressional races across the state, with Republican incumbents demonstrating more impressive margins than their Democratic counterparts. The report found that the 13 incumbents have raised $8.2 million, compared to $1.8 million by the challengers. That advantage is “largely due to the money they raise from political action committees sponsored by business, labor and other special interest groups,” Democracy North Carolina concludes.

“Big money from special interests has become such a dominating force that it distorts the whole democratic profess,” said executive Director Bob Hall in a prepared statement. “The Tea Party activist, social reformer and ordinary citizen all feel frustrated and ignored, because lawmakers in both parties are preoccupied with raising money and wealthy interests get special access to shape legislation for their benefit at the public’s expense — on taxes, pollution, food safety, you name it.”

The advantages of incumbency are apparent in the four congressional races that affect Triad voters. Democracy North Carolina found that Virginia Foxx, the Republican who represents the 5 th Congressional District is among three representatives who enjoy the largest gap between themselves and their opponent. The Foxx campaign reports $1.2 million in bank.

Among Republican incumbents, Howard Coble, who represents the 6 th Congressional District, relies the most heavily on PAC funds, which account for 63 percent of his total. But Mel Watt, who represents the safe Democratic 12 th Congressional District, takes the cake, with 84 percent of his funds coming from PACs. Watt, who holds a seat on the House Financial services Committee, has acknowledged that the Office of Congressional ethics is investigating several contributions to his campaign committee. Bill Randall won a Republican primary runoff against a better-funded opponent, and now faces Democratic incumbent Brad Miller. As of June 30, the Miller campaign reported $348,000 in cash on hand, while the Randall camp had only $5,000. — JG

cIty and county oKay $23.5 mILLIon for caterpILLar

The Winston-salem City Council unanimously approved a $13.3 million economic incentive package to entice Caterpillar — the world’s largest manufacturer of earthmoving equipment — to the area during its regular meeting on July 19. The city council’s offer, combined with a $10.2 commitment from the Forsyth County Commission, brings Forsyth County’s total economic development offer to $23.5 million. Caterpillar promises to bring 510 full-time and contract jobs to the area with an average wage of $36,725 plus benefits. The company is proposing to build an 850,000 square-foot facility for the machining, assembly, test and painting of axle assemblies for large mining trucks at a price tag of $426 million. Caterpillar’s site selection process began with nine southern states and has been narrowed down to Winston-salem; spartanburg, sC; and Montgomery, Ala. If Forsyth County is selected, the city would provide Caterpillar $3.8 million up front to help with the land and acquisition costs, and the remaining $9.6 million would be disbursed over the next 10 years. The $3.8 million will come from a portion of the Dell repayment funds. For the first five years, Caterpillar would receive annual payments equaling 33 percent of the city property taxes paid on the project. For the second five years, the company would receive annual payments equaling 90 percent of the city property taxes paid on the project. Based on the company’s proposed investment of $426 million, the city could expect to collect $14.4 million over the next decade. — KTB