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NC Politician Under Fire for ‘Pay to Play’ Telecom Politics; Demands TV Camera Be Shut Off During Interview

"I wish you'd turn the camera off now because I am going to get up and leave if you don't," said Rep. Julia Howard. (WNCN-TV)

Rep. Julia Howard (R-Davie, Iredell) threatened to get up and leave an interview with a Raleigh television reporter if the NBC station didn’t “switch the camera off” after she was questioned about her support of an anti-consumer, anti-broadband bill written by the same telecommunications companies that donated more than $7,200 to her political campaign.

Howard was being interviewed by WNCN-TV in Raleigh about her strong support for legislation that would likely end community-owned broadband in one of America’s least-wired states.  The reporter asked Howard to explain her support for H.129, the so-called “Level Playing Field” bill that has received a considerable push from the state’s largest telecommunications companies, including Time Warner Cable, AT&T, and CenturyLink.

At first, Howard tried to defend her support for the bill, despite claims from the watchdog group Democracy North Carolina that the legislation raises ethical questions about the influence of money in state politics.

“I don’t care what they say. That’s not who I am,” she said. “As long as I’m here, I’m going to do what I feel like is right for the people of the state.”

But moments after being confronted with the fact she has received considerable financial support from all three companies, Howard demanded the reporter turn the cameras off.

“I wish you’d turn the camera off now because I am going to get up and leave if you don’t,” Howard told the reporter.

Bob Hall, director of Democracy North Carolina called the bill a classic example of “pay to play” politics — where large companies pay to get legislation favoring their businesses before the state legislature.

“The relationships that are built because of money that’s given, that then warps the whole discussion,” Hall said.

The Raleigh NBC affiliate uncovered pages of campaign contributions to lawmakers supporting H.129 from the state's largest cable and phone companies. (WNCN-TV)

Howard chairs the Finance Committee that will hear the bill tomorrow morning after a week’s delay.  Surprise amendments that would help hold existing networks exempt from the onerous provisions of the legislation and an easing of the bill’s requirements for unserved areas upset cable industry lobbyists.  In the interim, a growing number of media reports have called attention to the corporate contributions that seem to be helping drive the bill forward.

“There are a handful of politicians in the legislature that are either on the take or wear blinders when it comes to the real interests of voters like myself,” writes Raleigh resident Susan, who follows Stop the Cap! “Watching Julia Howard squirm in her chair when being asked pointed questions serves her right.”

Susan, who notified us of tonight’s news report, doesn’t believe for a moment Howard’s “feigned shock” over questions being asked by the reporter.

“Anyone pushing H.129 is a shill for Time Warner Cable, because there is not one single part of this bill that brings one new Internet connection, it just guarantees we will all pay higher rates so the cable company can donate more money to Howard’s campaign.”

Stop the Cap! continues to recommend North Carolina residents contact members of the Finance Committee and tell them to vote NO on H.129.  Tell Rep. Howard and others it is not too late to do the right thing and withdraw this bill from further consideration.  Explain to her that if her word is her bond, she can prove her honorable intentions by asking Rep. Avila to pull the bill because it is a mistake and won’t bring better broadband to anyone.  We want Rep. Howard to retain the goodwill of the people of North Carolina, but that becomes increasingly difficult if she can’t even defend what she is doing to a reporter asking if there is a connection between her support and the thousands of dollars of campaign contributions she has received from the industry that wrote the bill.

WNCN-TV caught Rep. Julia Howard off guard when she was confronted with thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from large telecommunications companies and asked if this played a role in her support for their custom-written proposal to abolish community-owned networks in the state.  (2 minutes)

Finance Committee Members

(click each name for contact information)

Senior Chairman Rep. Howard
Chairman Rep. Folwell
Chairman Rep. Setzer
Chairman Rep. Starnes
Vice Chairman Rep. Lewis
Vice Chairman Rep. McComas
Vice Chairman Rep. Wainwright
Members Rep. K. Alexander, Rep. Brandon, Rep. Brawley, Rep. Carney, Rep. Collins, Rep. Cotham, Rep. Faison, Rep. Gibson, Rep. Hackney, Rep. Hall, Rep. Hill, Rep. Jordan, Rep. Luebke, Rep. McCormick, Rep. McGee, Rep. Moffitt, Rep. T. Moore, Rep. Rhyne, Rep. Ross, Rep. Samuelson, Rep. Stam, Rep. Stone, Rep. H. Warren, Rep. Weiss, Rep. Womble
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Currently there are 7 comments on this Article:

  1. Terry says:

    Seems like she can’t defend her position. Maybe because she doesn’t understand it to begin with? Keep the heat on her and the bill.

  2. Brett says:

    She is still content with her WebTV service.

  3. Rob says:

    This is how our system works. Large companies pay off our politicians. It undermines democracy. It should be illegal. She is the typical American politician.

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  6. [...] advantages of community broadband and the 2,000 success stories that prove their viability. Use the Web to follow the money trail from incumbents to the pockets of legislators leading the anti-muni charge, and then expose these [...]

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