With the initial cuts in state budgets on the horizon across the country, 2011 has been a landmark year for political machines everywhere to flex their muscles. By now we are all familiar with the state employees’ unions staging mass protests in Wisconsin, Ohio, and elsewhere, all in an extremely well organized attempt to keep state money flowing into their coffers.
North Carolina, on the other hand, has been largely immune to such organized protests from special interests—or has it?
Over the course of the past few months the halls of the General Assembly have been flooded with Smart Start administrators and supporters – often towing along an unwitting child – desperately lobbying legislators to keep funding their programs and painting an extremely dire picture of what would happen if they didn’t.
Civitas has acquired Smart Start’s internal lobbying documents that detail every minute aspect of the Smart Start lobbying effort, throwing open the curtain on a sophisticated political machine masquerading as a grassroots support effort.
In these documents the North Carolina Partnership for Children (NCPC) directs local partnerships in a well-coordinated PR campaign to penetrate all levels of North Carolina’s media in order to prop up a glorified image of the Smart Start infrastructure, and to unleash a relentless assault of lobbying on state senators and representatives.
Highlights of the documents include:
- Letter Writing Campaign:
- Directing all 77 Local Partnerships to fill out 100 testimonial postcards and send them to legislators. This effort, if successful, would send nearly 8,000 letters to state legislators.
- NCPC has directed its partnerships to lobby parents into participating in their political machine. The document states, “Ask parents to handwrite a note to their legislator telling them what Smart Start means to them and asking them to preserve Smart Start.”
- Commenting on Articles in the Media:
- NCPC is concerned that a large number of honest opinion comments on online newspaper articles discussing Smart Start (left by ordinary people) are too negative, and thus directs the Local Partnerships to plant artificial positive comments in each article to give an appearance of support for Smart Start.
- NCPC’s goal is to have 10 “positive” comments per article discussing Smart Start and selects various regions of partnerships to be responsible for positing these planted comments at various dates from March through May.
- Convincing Local Papers to Produce Pro-Smart Start Editorials:
- NCPC has instructed the Local Partnerships to meet with the editorial boards of all the local papers throughout the state. As they describe it, the “goal is to have an editorial calling on legislators to preserve Smart Start.” The document then lists the major local papers and the local partnership in charge of lobbying them.
- Tuesdays for Tots:
- This is NCPC’s ongoing lobby day at the General Assembly. Parents, providers, and even children are bused in from different locations around the state to lobby legislators to keep Smart Start.
All of these efforts are focused to put forth the public appearance of a grassroots movement for Smart Start, but this document strips that illusion away. Orchestrated in the top-down fashion that Smart Start is built upon, these efforts are directed by the very people who would be losing their highly paid and often redundant positions, not concerned citizens or parents. Furthermore, these people are paid with taxpayer money; the time and effort put into this lobbying machine is taxpayer dollars going out the window. Instead of serving the children, administrators are serving themselves, putting an awful lot of effort into preserving the status quo of their already ineffectual bureaucracy.