T he Civitas Institute, a conservative think tank brought to you by the Pope Foundation empire, dropped a bombshell last week. It launched a new website, Mapping the Left, which, according to the group's press release, will for the "first time, expose the full extent of a vast, shadowy network of left-wing activist groups."
Among those 140 leftist groups is The Support Center, an economic development nonprofit based in Wake Forest. Guess who's the CEO of The Support Center? Lenwood Long, who served on Gov. Pat McCrory's transition team for the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.
Yes, the left is so shadowy, it's like film noir on steroids. It's hard to find MDC and the Center for Responsible Lending, which have shrouded themselves with storefront offices emblazoned with their logos, surreptitiously located on Main Street in Durham. Oh, Binkley Baptist Church, so clever you are, hidden near University Mall in Chapel Hill.
If you peruse the site, which from a technical and user interaction perspective, is nearly impenetrable, you'll find the usual targets: groups advocating for a more equitable, just and nonviolent society, including the Coalition Against Sexual Assault and the Coalition to End Homelessness?
"For too long, radical and well-funded activist groups have been able to operate in the state without the level of scrutiny that is routinely applied to the Right," said Civitas Elections Policy Analyst Susan Myrick in the press release.
"The Mapping the Left project not only provides that scrutiny, but also puts to rest the misguided notion that there is a vast right-wing conspiracy in North Carolina. In fact, it is the Left, through its complex web of funding and coordination, that is exerting massive power and influence throughout the state."
The Civitas Institute promises to add "new revelations" to the site throughout the spring to let people know about the "alarming amount of power" the left has in the "media, state politics, and government."
Yes, the left has so much power that conservatives have gained control of the legislature, the governor's office and the N.C. Supreme Court, as well as many state agencies, such as the Department of Labor, Department of Commerce, Department of Environment and Natural Sciences.
And the state Democratic Party is practically broke.
Speaking of new revelations, though, Civitas could begin by updating and correcting the ancient information on the Mapping the Left site. Pam Spaulding shuttered her blog Pam's House Blend at least a year ago. Former INDY culture editor David Fellerath left the paper last March, although we know for certain that he has played soccer on the same field as people whose first language is not English. —Lisa Sorg
Wake County man: slapping my wife isn't violent; give me back my gun
After Rodney Vinson of Wendell slapped his wife in the face, he was charged and convicted of misdemeanor assault on a female, and thus, according to federal law could not own firearms. That was in 2004.
In 2013, after police received information that Vinson allegedly threatened to kill his wife and children, officers searched the family home. They discovered a Ruger, a .22 semiautomatic rifle, ammo and a 30-round magazine tucked inside Vinson's closet. Based on the 2004 conviction, a U.S. attorney charged Vinson with a federal crime.
Vinson challenged the charge, arguing that hitting his wife wasn't domestic violence, because it wasn't violentper se—at least, not based on the confusing legal language. Federal judge Louise Flanagan agreed with him and dismissed the indictment.
Now federal prosecutors are appealing Flanagan's order, in an attempt to keep a gun out of Vinson's hands. This week, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals is hearing oral arguments in U.S. v. Vinson, a case with broad implications on American gun ownership and the definition of domestic violence.
In her order, Flanagan wrote that, under the law, assault and battery charges don't necessarily connote acts of violence.
Take, for example, a stalker who shows up in a woman's office and glares at her. Under North Carolina law, even though the act did not include violence, the stalker could be charged with assault, because he caused someone to fear for his or her immediate bodily harm.
Take, as another example, a boyfriend who gropes his girlfriend against her will. Under North Carolina law, even though the act did not include violence, he could be charged with battery, because he applied force, even if slight.
The U.S. attorneys prosecuting the Vinson case argue that striking a woman with an open hand is clearly violent and should be treated as such. The U.S. Supreme Court as since ruled "physical force" rather than "violent force" is sufficient to constitute domestic violence. —John H. Tucker
What to watch for this week
Wednesday, Jan. 28: The state Legislature convenes, and includes a discussion, led by conservative Republican Paul Stam, on religious freedom. (Noon, 16 W. Jones St., Raleigh)
Thursday, Jan. 29: The Durham Main Library holds a community input session about major renovations of the library. (7 p.m., 300 N. Roxboro St.)
Tuesday, Feb. 3: Raleigh City Council holds a public hearing on a new development at Hillsborough Street at Pullen Road/ The mixed-use, five-story project could have 82 apartments, plus space for office and retail. (7 p.m., 222 W. Hargett St.)
This article appeared in print with the headline "Vast and shadowy"