McCrory signs the unpopular voter suppression law into effect as his aids look on and laugh hysterically (Thom “Turd” Tillis on the right).
By Michael G. Plumides, Jr. JD – Filmmaker, Producer, Author, Free Thinker
For those who don’t know me, my name is Michael G. Plumides, Jr, JD – I am an author, writer, and award-winning filmmaker. I was voted “Best Writer of 2010” by Charlotte Magazine. My father produced the first independent film in North Carolina, entitled, Night of the Cat, released in 1973. I attended UNC-Wilmington for two years but I hold a Government and International Studies Degree from the University of South Carolina – also a Juris Doctor from John Marshall Law School in Atlanta, Georgia. Now that I have qualified myself, I wanted to let you in on something that I uncovered here in our home state of North Carolina.
As you may know, the 25% film tax incentive is under some scrutiny by the GOP-controlled State House – and up until Pat McCrory’s governorship, he was film-industry-friendly as Mayor of Charlotte (who, coincidentally, the producers couldn’t get rid of on the set of Shallow Hal). Pat has now turn-coated to throw the incentive program under the bus. The incentive is set to expire on January 1, 2015. The looming expiration has cost the state millions in future revenues – now the production companies in Los Angeles are looking to Georgia. http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424127887324906304579037740893261588
There are those in Raleigh who would lead you to believe that the “25% Tax Incentive” or “Credit” as it is referred only applies to Film Companies. This is a lie. The tax credit applies to all “Qualified Business Ventures”. “A Qualified Business Venture (QBV) is a business organized to engage primarily in manufacturing, processing, warehousing, wholesaling, research and development, or a service-related industry.” This program was created to encourage new businesses in the absence of long-standing manufacturing jobs in North Carolina. http://www.secretary.state.nc.us/BusTax/overview.aspx
A new report from a North Carolina State professor and economist, Rob Handfield, predicts New Hanover and Mecklenburg counties would be most impacted by the elimination of the film tax credit. “The implications of the loss of the industry on local tax revenue will be substantial, and will drive further gaps in state and local tax revenues, increased unemployment, and the loss of an industry in North Carolina that is healthy and growing nationwide.” Here’s the link: http://www.wect.com/story/24112681/loss-of-film-incentives-estimated-to-cost-new-hanover-more-than-10m-annually Originally, I though the reasoning behind the GOP onslaught was to undo anything the Democrats had supported, until I found out that two state house representatives from the Wilmington area, which depends on the film industry for their very livelihood, were for letting the incentive lapse. This was very puzzling to me. Why would they commit political suicide unless there was some money or politics involved?
The Republican Governor’s Association in Washington donated millions to have Pat McCrory elected – who now hides under his desk regarding the matter. http://wfae.org/post/north-carolina-governors-race-awash-out-state-funds A Hollywood executive asked my opinion about the incentives several months ago after he read they were lapsing in Variety and The Hollywood Reporter. Someone in the North Carolina GOP sent out a press release expressing that the State House was poised to let the incentives lapse. Not only do they wish to let the incentive lapse, but they also want to jeopardize the potential for filmmakers who would consider NC as their production location before 2015. There’s obviously an agenda here – much of NC’s film production business has already migrated to Georgia. The quote I read was, “You can come and film here but don’t expect us to write you a check.” The Wilmington area alone is predicted to lose 10 million per annum – but the full report has not been made public yet. In this article, the impact is weighed. http://www.starnewsonline.com/article/20140120/ARTICLES/140129982#gsc.tab=0
The argument for the incentive is obviously jobs and revenue – the developing film industry as an investment – they only upped the incentive from 15% to 25% a few short years ago. Once the house was controlled by the GOP (as well as the Governorship) – they couldn’t wait to let it lapse. Is it a difference in ideology, punishment by the GOP for years of Hollywood Democrat support, or is it something else? The assertion, from the information the executive in LA was privy, indicated that NC’s production business will all go to Georgia due to crew base, a 30% incentive and facilities.
The North Carolina Unemployment average is 8%. Pender County (north of Wilmington) has a 9.4% unemployment rating. New Hanover has a 7.9% unemployment rating. What’s amazing is, NC Legislators from those areas, Chris Millis and Rick Catlin, http://www.wwaytv3.com/2013/04/18/catlin-millis-sponsor-bill-to-change-film-incentive-law, are still pushing to dismantle the film tax credit while McCrory cuts unemployment benefits? This is all so feudal it shocks the conscience. http://pulse.ncpolicywatch.org/2013/11/26/mccrory-misspeaks-again-governor-says-we-didnt-take-away-unemployment-benefits/ And Pat McCrory toots his horn daily about creating 57 low paying jobs here and 53 jobs there. What about the 25,000 production jobs in the state he is jeopardizing? What is the agenda here? To get rural votes and abandon established industry in developed areas?
During the Bush Administration, the “American Jobs Creation Act Of 2004” and the “2004 enactment of Section 181”, marked an unprecedented change in U.S. policy toward the phenomenon known as “Runaway Production” for the film industry. Hollywood, like many American industries, had grown tired of the high cost of labor and taxes in the United States. Canada and other countries identified the potential financial benefit and took advantage by successfully luring American film and television production onto their soil, taking enormous amounts of production dollars with them.
The Bush administration’s government reaction was to include Section 181 within the American Jobs Creation Act of 2004. Section 181 offers tax incentives for investors in independent film and television productions produced within the United States. Put simply, Section 181 states that investment in a motion picture shot in the US is 100% tax deductible for the investor in the same year invested.” http://www.rmafilm.com/section_181.aspx
The rub here is The Cathy Family (yes, those pesky Chick-fil-A billionaires) who are big GOP supporters, are also bankrolling Pinewood Studios in Fayette, GA.http://articles.latimes.com/2013/apr/29/entertainment/la-et-ct-pinewood-atlanta-20130429
According to reports from the Charlotte Regional Partnership, Georgia lobbyist have already expressed how happy they were that NC may lose their Incentive Program. I believe that the Cathy family may be influencing North Carolina GOP candidates to abstain from action and let the incentive lapse at their behest – I haven’t found any evidence of direct donations – probably because they wanted to distance themselves from the whole anti-gay thing last year (or possibly they didn’t want you to connect the dots). But oftentimes, Pat McCrory’s functions or events are catered by Chick-fil-a, http://www.sgpaction.com/sgp_s_north_carolina_heels_on_the_ground_event_a_huge_success or McCrory’s wife is serving Chick-Fil-a at a “Family Day” function with other Republican Governors’ wives http://www.ncpoliticalnews.com/?p=4237 or the Governor’s “cuisine was take-out Chick-Fil-a.” A stab in the eye to gays (as in we don’t approve of your version of family) or are the McCrory’s just crazy in love with those sammiches? http://www.veteransformccrory.com/news/mccrorys_todolist_a_mattress_a_cabinet_an_inauguration
Another issue here is the wealthy GOP plutocracy is also notoriously anti-union. Hollywood, on the other hand, is entrenched in union relationships with the SAG http://www.sagaftra.org/, DGA http://www.dga.org/ , WGA http://www.wga.org/, the Teamsters http://teamster.org/, and IATSE http://www.iatse-intl.org/. Possibly, Art Pope and his cohorts may see the dismantling of the North Carolina film credit as a means to an end – a catalyst to further their efforts to disband the influence of unions in the state. http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/1000-protest-bill-targeting-north-443393
Super-pac’s financial records, like ‘Americans for Prosperity’ or ‘The Pope Foundation’ are not public. I couldn’t find a direct connection between McCrory and Chick-fila until now. Pat McCrory made several appointments in April 2013 – one of them was Marketing Director of Chick fil-a, Marcella Ramirez-Savage. Marcella Ramirez-Savage was appointed to the Board of Education – admittedly, not a huge appointment but it shows a connection, nonetheless, between the Cathy family and McCrory. One of three appointments was a Chick-fil-a executive? There is a connection. As Ramirez has no prior education experience, this appointment, however small, was political. Here are two articles: http://www.ncpolicywatch.com/2013/06/04/new-faces-of-the-sbe-marcella-ramirez-savage/ – I had a Vice-Principal friend in Union County give me an opinion of Ramirez. The comment made was “Marci? She’s an enigma.” http://projects.newsobserver.com/under_the_dome/mccrory_makes_education_tourism_boards_appointments
Every one of McCrory’s appointments serve his campaign supporter’s interests. Here’s an example:http://wsav.membercenter.worldnow.com/story/23141891/double-digit-pay-raises-for-two-state-employees-raises-eyebrows McCrory and the GOP’s efforts to dismantle the incentives program even have projects in his home city of Charlotte hanging in the balance. http://www.charlotteobserver.com/2013/11/23/4489229/eastland-questions-the-city-should.html
If it can be determined that the Cathy family donated moneys to McCrory’s campaign through a super-pac, we can establish a causal connection between campaign funding and interests that are adverse to our state – to block the sneaky actions from Art Pope to scuttle our incentive – so it doesn’t cause further harm to the film industry in North Carolina – one that we have been cultivating since the 80′s. Homeland, Under the Dome, Sleepy Hollow, Banshee, Iron Man 3, Revolution, Hunger Games, and Eastbound and Down are all recent productions here, but Georgia awaits with open arms with brand-spanking-new facilities and inviting incentives. And regardless whether or not further connections can’t be established, there’s no doubt, the vindictiveness of the short-sighted Republicans has sent North Carolina jobs south… and we make great television here, not to mention top grossing films.
These same, like-minded individuals tried to shut down our 15% tax incentive over the movie Hound Dog with Dakota Fanning, shot in Wilmington, North Carolina in 2007 – a lurid film about a precocious teenager growing up in the rural South with a penchant for Elvis Presley, produced by Robin Wright, which also received tax incentives. State Senator, Phil Berger of Rockingham County, took it upon him self to propose a plan where he and other state Senators would dictate what art is and what isn’t – with the intent to spoon feed appropriate subject matter to Hollywood execs (resulting in poor film numbers that year). All scripts and materials would have to be approved by the local politicians. I touched on this subject briefly in my book, Kill the Music. http://www.publicbroadcasting.net/wvia/.artsmain/article/1/1083/1031947/Columns/Film.Triggers..Debate.Over.Incentives./
Berger also proposed a salary cap on actors such as George Clooney, stating “I’m not sure that Mr. Clooney or any of the other folks who make $10 million a picture are in need of money from the taxpayers of North Carolina in order to make a living.” The North Carolina GOP doesn’t like a nickel of “their” money to go to Hollywood, apparently. But North Carolinians don’t pay money out – this is a falsehood. Once the final accounting is reported to the film office in Raleigh by a certified public accountant revealing the actual spending, a rebate on expenditures is released upon final numbers. The 25% tax incentive was passed under Bev Purdue and Berger, et al, were embarrassed, politically, once their bill was defeated. To add insult to injury, in their mind, Hollywood wasn’t punished as they would like, but rewarded with a better incentive. So, there has been a deep-seated hatred brewing within the NC Republicans regarding the incentive and what they see as a moral issue. http://projects.newsobserver.com/under_the_dome/bill_would_restrict_film_tax_credits
The tax incentives aren’t a “Red” or “Blue” state issue. Georgia (30%), Louisiana (35%), and South Carolina (30%) all have tax incentives that are greater than North Carolina’s 25% and those states are dominantly governed by the GOP. Why is it that Republicans throughout the U.S. support film incentives… with the exception of Governor Pat McCrory and his cohorts in the State Senate? This has to be the first time in the history of American politics that the GOP doesn’t support “trickle down economics.”
There are some in Hollywood rising to the occasion to keep the incentives in place. The Motion Picture Association of America’s senior vice president for government affairs, Vans Stevenson, wrote a letter four days before the legislature adjourned and said the General Assembly’s unwillingness to extend the incentive program “is already having a negative effect on the state” and meant North Carolina “will no longer be considered for major future feature films.” http://www.charlotteobserver.com/2013/08/10/4226564/national-film-producers-made-last.html#.UqHZ2tJDuSo
And, if you think about it, events like the “Chick-fil-a Bowl” gets that 30% tax incentive – and “Made in Georgia” productions like The Walking Dead, Archer and Vampire Diaries get that 30% tax incentive. Why does the North Carolina GOP believe that we can’t compete here as they do? Why must they clip North Carolina’s wings in the film and television market? There’s a lot more at stake here than just a few weekend jobs. Georgia is committed to their tax incentive and the growing entertainment complex in the state of Georgia has been cultivating for decades since the days of Ted Turner. NASCAR, an NC staple for many years, will also be effected by the tax credit lapse. Where is their big money to help fight the good fight?
Now, if you think people who work in the media arts, or in “Hollywood” primarily support Democrats during elections – you are probably right. And Hollywood doesn’t dare jeopardize their union relationships. Oftentimes, the execs are scared to death of the unions – but occasionally I hear stories about low-balling rates due to budget and other arguments. Now, contrarily, NC is a right to work state, and extras do not receive SAG wages as they would in California – extras are paid minimum wage (with time-and-a-half after eight hours). That’s a good deal in itself for Hollywood. Everyone needs background talent in these “on location” TV shows shot here.
But other industries the NC GOP are actively pursuing to come here are also unionized. http://www.ongil-mc.org/ Why target the film business? McCrory is pushing for lax EPA control for natural gas drilling off the coast on NC. I don’t believe there are 25,000 drilling families who own property and pay taxes in state presently? McCrory is fighting for worker’s rights who don’t even live here and abandoning his constituency. http://www.newsobserver.com/2014/01/15/3535526/mccrory-presses-president-obama.html
Regardless of your political affiliation, this is about sending North Carolina jobs and revenue elsewhere – jobs and revenue, even notoriety that we wouldn’t have otherwise and without the efforts of North Carolinians. But for the newly controlling Republicans to dismantle work opportunities in order to get even with the Democrats? That’s hardly a strategy for economic growth, especially when the entertainment industry has become one of our state’s prime staples in the absence of textiles and tobacco. This is a prosperous and promising industry that at worst, pays minimum wage, and at best pays very well to industry professionals. The very nature of economic enterprise depends on a relationship with government and for a select few to arbitrarily decide the fate of a multi-billion dollar film production infrastructure in our locale, due to their own special interests or ideologies, is not only undemocratic but mindbogglingly oligarchical.
My point is, this situation is extremely complicated with many heads on the Hydra – you cut one off and two grow back. But I believe the true reasoning of the GOP’s intent is a simple one. I want to make that determination. What’s the GOP about? “Big Business” and “Laissez Faire” government or a cooperative government. How will they benefit by scuttling the tax incentive? I’m guessing, their folks aren’t making a big enough piece to continue to support the incentive, therefore, it means nothing to them if thousands of Democrats lose their jobs and are forced to seek employment elsewhere.
Art Pope has think-tanks like “The John Locke Foundation” (who coincidentally the state paid to study the economic effects of the film incentives with laughable findings) with millions donated by the Kochs and people like the Cathys – who I hear are all about the bottom dollar, who isolate these strategies based on extrapolating the political, economic, and social challenges, then after an evaluation, make a determination that best fits their agenda. What is that agenda? Once the true agenda is established, there is your smoking gun. All other issues are peripheral. Then they develop a posturing that dismisses the industry as fleeting and non-permanent. http://portcitydaily.com/2013/10/14/citys-lobbyist-film-tax-credit-a-hot-item-for-next-legislative-session-personal-stories-will-matter-he-says/
I believe the McCrory administration started with a particular agenda, meaning one principal thought – get rid of the film business. Then they asked themselves, “How do we do that?” The easy answer? Remove their incentives to come to North Carolina – regardless of the effect on NC workers, businesses, and artisans. Do the benefits outweigh the burden on the state? The GOP postures “No”, even though the evidence is to the contrary. Then they manufacture studies that are unscientific based more on opinion than fact, throwing the dart and painting the bulls eye around it. There has been some mention of profit sharing with the state. I wonder how many of the other industries that McCrory and his companions are pursuing will pay NC? I’m betting zero industries meaning zero dollars.
Tax incentives are a necessity and commonplace among states pushing for new development and industry to come to their state. “North Carolina is consistently ranked among the best business climates in the nation by Forbes, CNBC, Chief Executive and Site Selection. Several tax credit programs contribute to this business environment that makes North Carolina a place where companies thrive.” http://www.thrivenc.com/incentives/financial/tax-credits
And then the 2013 Film Office Report came out.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg will be one of two areas most effected, The city hosted the Democratic National Convention in 2012 (Above: Jeff Bridges performing live at the event, Photo by Michael Plumides). Shows like Hardball with Chris Matthews, The Daily Show with John Stewart and The Colbert Report all broadcasted live from Charlotte where each production applied for tax incentives. Although Charlotte is considered the most progressive city in the region, The Republicans don’t care if Charlotteans in the industry lose the film business, even though McCrory carried the county in his gubernatorial race by 25,000 votes.
They are plotting to kill the incentives. No matter how much noise we make, they plan to let the “Sunset” lapse.
This from an interview with The Republic dated January 7, 2014:
Lindenmuth — The new head of the North Carolina organization expected to run the state’s privatized job recruitment efforts said Tuesday that he knows as a former CEO that tax breaks and other corporate incentives have only a marginal impact in attracting businesses.
“Incentives truly do not make the difference,” Lindenmuth said. “Incentives are important only in the sense of trying to get very specific help to a particular company. I look at incentives just like I would inside an organization. If you pay a bonus to one individual, it does not provide an incentive to the organization.”
“An exception might be using big incentive packages to lure major manufacturers like South Carolina did in attracting auto-maker BMW and jet-builder Boeing to open factories in that state”, Lindenmuth said. For such big employers, tax breaks and other incentives are expected, he said.
So, what they are saying is incentives don’t work but sometimes they do. http://www.therepublic.com/view/story/336331b5f77549359ddddbf8e21dc6c4/NC–Economic-Development
“Moviegoer Surcharge” – I have a great plan to keep the film tax incentive in place. Just as cigarette prices hiked after all the “Barbarians at the Gate” litigation, and the “hotel tax” was implemented to cover costs for big events such as the ACC Championship, why not tack an extra dollar tax on each movie ticket at the box office? Every movie ticket sold in North Carolina? The theaters and Hollywood execs raise the prices arbitrarily all the time. Why don’t we add a dollar per ticket that goes straight to the coffers at the tax office in Raleigh? Let the consumer pay – just like cigarettes or liquor. Problem solved. Fandango, the online ticket service charges an extra fee and so does Live Nation for concert tickets. They were proposing some kind of profit sharing that no other business are held accountable for. That will never happen. Why not do the next best thing?
The price of the tickets get raised constantly anyway. The Republican proposal to keep the film incentive in Charlotte was to pay Raleigh 18 million dollars as Mecklenburg is one of the beneficiaries of the prime incentive, and the newly empowered GOP that’s trying to extort money from Charlotte. It would have to go straight to the coffers. Once that happens, they are responsible for the taxes. And I didn’t even mention the gas tax we all pay in NC to subsidize the loss of the Tobacco industry. Oftentimes, industries are selective and don’t have appeal to everyone – costs are always passed on to the consumer. That’s a decent proposal but we would have to get the blessing of a few theaters. It’s just how things work. Instead of putting people out of work, the state should pass the burden on to the moviegoer.
I spoke to the MPAA – they are sending me North Carolina box office statistics. This is a good proposal. We need the state representative from Charlotte-Mecklenburg to make this proposal and also someone from New Hanover. They would have no excuse to not renew the tax incentive then. If you buy concert tickets, Live Nation has no problem taking in that fee – sometimes three and four dollars. Fandango, MovieTickets, and Moviephone as well as other online ticket buying services charges a surcharge?Blue Velvet was filmed in Wilmington, NC, circa 1985. Actor Dean Stockwell pictured.
By: Michael G. Plumides, Jr. JD
I’ve been sitting on this for a few weeks now. Over the past several months, I’ve spoken with a lot of news outlets, all begging for my take on the whole McCrory/Chick-fil-a connection. The problem was, many were reluctant to write a story based on my findings because there was no “smoking gun” – my theory was mostly conjecture, therefore they didn’t want to print it, no matter how correct I was or how much sense it made. (Go here for the story: https://michaelplumides.wordpress.com/2013/12/04/governor-pat-mccrory-and-chick-fil-a-conspire-to-send-north-carolina-jobs-to-georgia/) – I mean, let’s face it, I’m that guy who went to jail with GWAR, not Wolf Blitzer.
Although I’m not the “mainstream media” (but the original blog did get 40,000 hits so I ain’t no schlub AND Oderus was the “intergalactic correspondent” on Fox News’ Red Eye), I think that fact works in my favor because it affords me the opportunity to speak the truth without a filter, so I have carte blanche to say whatever the hell I want about cronyism and crooked politicians in my state. Anyway, my theory was confirmed in such a random way that I feel the necessity to share it with you, dear reader. This will really blow your mind.
According to a North Carolina “Actor” (I will not name at this time) who was on a location in Georgia where a feature film was shooting in January, he randomly struck up a conversation with a “State Senator” (a close friend of the Cathy family) who just happened to be on set (and wouldn’t you know it – it was his house). Unwittingly, the State Senator confirmed my theory regarding campaign funding, film incentives, and interests adverse to job creation in our state otherwise known as the “Chick-fil-a/McCrory Connection”:
(1) The Cathy Family are supporters and dear friends of Governor McCrory,
(2) The Cathy family are also campaign financiers who donated a considerable amount of money to McCrory’s gubernatorial candidacy and other GOP campaigns in North Carolina,
(3) The position of the North Carolina GOP to let the film incentive lapse was partly engineered by the Cathy Family (who funded Pinewood Studios in Atlanta),
(4) The public posturing by the North Carolina GOP to not support the incentive has influenced production work to no longer consider North Carolina and choose Georgia instead,
(5) The Republicans in the NC Senate posturing to not support the incentive renewal and let it lapse in 2015 also influenced Marvel Studios to sign a four-year contract with Pinewood Studios (if you remember – Iron Man 3 was shot in Wilmington, NC, the top grossing film of 2013) thus solidifying Marvel as the much needed anchor tenant, guaranteeing the Cathy’s investment.
The funny thing is, the “actor” hadn’t read my original blog until two months afterward, so there was no collusion between he and I. The noob “State Senator” offered the information after the actor indicated he was from North Carolina, and commented on the state of affairs regarding some film projects bypassing NC and going to Georgia due to the incentives flux. What’s even funnier is, the Senator went on about it, laughing and carrying on as if it were common knowledge.
Republicans take care of each other. Of the few Republicans in the film business – the Cathy Family just happened to be the closest to North Carolina’s GOP who actually benefit from the industry… with a disposable income in the billions. They donated money to McCrory, and in turn McCrory appointed Marcella Ramirez-Savage (Chick-fil-a Marketing Director) to the North Carolina Board of Education as a little token of appreciation. The big delivery was the GOP’s overt negative position on the film incentives and creating instability in North Carolina regarding film and television production. It was a brilliant play.
Now it’s a moot point for the North Carolina GOP to scuttle our film incentives. Whether it was a ruse or not I cannot determine – but as the GOP are serving masters outside of our state, and those masters have now benefited from that service, it would behoove them to vote for extending the incentives, as most of their policies are highly unpopular right now in the wake of the “coal ash”, “cutting unemployment benefits” and “teacher’s salaries” controversies. The incentives have been proven a viable economic boost for our North Carolina economy. http://www.newsobserver.com/2014/03/09/3687545/north-carolina-deciding-again.html
Think about what “Bridge-gate” did to Chris Christie… this is a helluva lot more egregious than that. I will release the names when the time comes.