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A roundup of scuttlebutt in the Triangle



The Americans for Prosperity Foundation ice cream van that had been malingering in the District Drive Park-and-Ride lot in Raleigh for nearly three months is finally gone—and so is the state director of the conservative Americans for Prosperity North Carolina.

There's no connection between the two that we know of, but Dallas Woodhouse, state director since 2007, is resigning to "pursue business opportunities in the political arena," according to an AFP news release. Does this mean all Republican lawmakers will get ice cream with hundred-dollar bills stuffed in the bottom of the cones?

Deputy State Director Chris Farr is temporarily in charge. Her political experience includes serving as grassroots coordinator at the AFP Foundation and a member of the state executive committee for the N.C. Republican Party.

Art Pope was on AFP-NC's board until he joined the McCrory administration as deputy budget director. AFP was founded—and is largely funded—by the Koch brothers.

According to The National Review, in 2012 the White House asked for AFP to disclose the full list of its donors, to which Farr replied, "Petition away. It's not going to happen."

As for the ice cream van, after INDY Week called the state Department of Transportation inquiring about the flag-emblazoned vehicle with Missouri plates parked illegally in the lot, the DOT contacted the owner. Within a day, the truck and its idle freezer had been driven away. Park illegally in a taxpayer-subsidized lot? It's not going to happen.

Political machinations: The N.C. Rural Economic Development Center board is meeting Wednesday, Aug. 28, to discuss the work of the transition team, charged with working with state government on a new framework for the center.

In July, the McCrory administration, citing rampant mismanagement and pointing to a state audit critical of the center, decapitated the group of its leadership, stripped it of its funding and moved its functions under the state commerce department. This is the same commerce department headed by Sharon Decker, who is hungrily eyeing the so-far-imaginary fracking revenues to boost economic development.

The center clearly had issues, although it's arguable that other organizations receive critical audits yet continue to operate unfettered with taxpayer money.

McCrory and Pope also deemed excessive the $214,000 annual salary of center Executive Director Billy Ray Hall, who had held the position for 25 years.

Note that McCrory is paying one of his former campaign staffers, Ricky Diaz, $85,000 annually in his first year a policy advisor to the state health and human services secretary. At age 24, with no health care experience, Diaz earns $50,000 more than someone with his experience would at a private public relations firm. At that rate, it's likely Diaz would far exceed Hall's pay after a quarter-century on the job.

So what could be at the heart of this controversy?

Here's the flow chart: Conservative Bob Luddy contributed $8,000 in the 2012 election cycle to campaign of Senate Majority Leader Phil Berger. In turn, Berger appointed Luddy to the rural center board. This is unusual in that nine of the 50 board members are appointed— three each by the governor, the lieutenant governor and the House Speaker—but none by the Senate Majority Leader. The rest of the board is elected by fellow board members.

Luddy also is board chairman of Civitas, a Pope Foundation-funded think tank. Art Pope, who also contributed $8,000 to Berger, sat on the Civitas board until joining McCrory's team.

Shortly afterward, with Luddy's prodding, Pope and McCrory put the kibosh on the center.

Check the INDY's Triangulator blog for information from today's meeting.

Pay 'til it hurts: Soon you'll have to pay to read The Herald-Sun online, as the Paxton-owned newspaper plans to head behind a pay wall next month. The terms have not been disclosed, although it will be a "tiered service," similar to that at The News & Observer, in which readers will have access to a limited number of articles before being required to pay.

H-S publisher Rick Bean, not honoring the code of media calling back other media, did not respond to calls or emails seeking comment.

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