PROGRESS NC: Very Radical, Very Political, and Very Misleading | Beaufort County Now | The left-wing group Progress NC describes itself as “a 501(c)3 non-partisan non-profit organization dedicated to informing voters of key public policy issues through traditional news media, online engagement, and hands-on communications trainings.” | civitas, progress NC, radical, political, misleading, blueprint NC network, september 30, 2020

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PROGRESS NC: Very Radical, Very Political, and Very Misleading

Publisher's Note: This post appears here courtesy of the Civitas Institute. The author of this post is Brian Balfour.

  • Progress NC is a part of the Blueprint NC network, and a state partner in a national "never-ending progressive campaign"
  • They don't hesitate to use misleading claims in their policy advocacy
  • Their most generous donor is a leftist billionaire who is also a major supporter of Planned Parenthood

    The left-wing group Progress NC describes itself as "a 501(c)3 non-partisan non-profit organization dedicated to informing voters of key public policy issues through traditional news media, online engagement, and hands-on communications trainings."

    Despite the neutral-sounding description, in reality Progress NC is not only part of the radical Blueprint NC network whose 2013 "eviscerate, litigate and agitate" strategy memo put the network on the watch list of most conservatives but is also a state partner with a national organization describing itself as a "never-ending progressive campaign."

    Moreover, as our Mapping the Left website pointed out, "WRAL reported in a 2012 article on its website that Progress NC has served as a mouthpiece for N.C. Citizens for Progress, a 527 group that has aired commercials targeting now-Gov. Pat McCrory."

    In short, Progress NC is very radical, very political, and will yield significant influence over public policy should North Carolina's General Assembly fall into the hands of liberal leadership.

    Who they are

    Progress NC is a state partner with the national radical progressive community organizing political group ProgressNow.

    Founded in 2003, ProgressNow claims it "has been developing our network of state partner organizations to fill a unique and critical role in the progressive infrastructure of key states."

    Progress NC is their partner organization for the key state of North Carolina. Labeling their efforts as a "never-ending progressive campaign," ProgressNow boasts that their partner organizations are "non-stop, multi-issue advocacy organizations" who "mobilize citizens" through various communication channels like public events, email lists and social media platforms.

    And it's not just issues Progress NC advocates for. As mentioned above, Progress NC led a very vocal campaign to defeat then-candidate Pat McCrory in his gubernatorial campaign, and followed that by joining the Blueprint NC coalition whose primary purpose was to "eviscerate" Republican leaders like McCrory and Phil Berger.

    Progress NC's board chairman, according to their 2018 tax returns (the most recent available), is Chris Kromm, who is also publisher of the far-left magazine Facing South and a board member of the radical Institute for Southern Studies (ISS).

    ISS is a fellow member of Blueprint NC, and "jumps at the chance to call anyone that disagrees with their point of view a racist, bigot or any other name that would help to discontinue the discussion. They were created to change the South to a 'liberal/progressive' region," as pointed out by Mapping the Left.

    Kromm was arrested in June of 2013 as part of the "Moral Monday" protests at the state legislative building, and was also accused of blatant plagiarism in 2012 for his work at ISS (warning: bad language).

    Leading Progress NC is Executive Director Jess Jollet, a California native who claims to have been "working to bring about systemic change" for 15 years. Which 'systems' she is working to change and exactly how she wants to change them is left unsaid. Ms. Jollet had previously spent nearly nine years at the San Diego ACLU, where one of her accomplishments was encouraging more felons to vote.

    Progress NC also formerly employed Logan Smith as Communications Director. Smith gained notoriety in 2017 for his public efforts to "dox" people online. Doxing is a technique, usually motivated by malicious intent, to publicly identify people who desire to remain anonymous with the intent to shame them. Smith was on the cutting edge of the "cancel culture" which attempts to ruin people's lives for having the 'wrong' political opinion, a trend that many find loathsome, and he did so while employed at Progress NC.

    NC Progress agenda

    So, what issues does this "non-stop, multi-issue advocacy organization" advocate for?

    The NC Progress website currently highlights two main issues: public school funding and Medicaid expansion.

    On a webpage dramatically and incorrectly titled: "How far we've fallen: A decade of decreased funding for North Carolina schools," Progress NC makes bold claims about school funding being slashed.

    The page prominently displays a quote from Paul Bailey, Republican school board member of Charlotte Mecklenburg schools, claiming "We have a state that is dismantling our public school system."

    But when it comes to funding for North Carolina' traditional public schools, the claims are not true. As Civitas recently highlighted, inflation adjusted per pupil expenditures have increased five years in a row and are up nearly 8 percent in the last six years. Hardly the mark of efforts to "dismantle" public schools.

    The site further calls on policymakers to 'fully fund' the public schools to levels reached before the Great Recession.

    The reason is simple: FY 2008-09 represented an all-time high in per pupil, inflation-adjusted state funding for K-12 education in North Carolina.

    What groups like Progress NC don't want you to know is the unsustainable growth rate of education spending that lead up to that high-water mark.

    Even after adjusting for inflation, per pupil spending nearly doubled in the 25 years leading up to the 2008-09 recession.

    During the same time, cumulative inflation was 131 percent, meaning that per pupil spending grew at nearly twice the rate of inflation during this time.

    Nevertheless, Progress NC's goal has nearly been reached, with real per pupil expenditure levels last year reaching 95 percent of their pre-recession high. Apparently, to Progress NC this 5 percent difference amounts to a "dismantling" of public education.

    Pumping yet more money into the current system is Progress NC's answer to improve educational results. And they don't hesitate to sink to using misleading hyperbole to advance their flawed narrative. Moreover, they give no acknowledgement to the notion of giving parents and families more control or say over their children's education, a notion that is wildly popular with North Carolina families.

    On Medicaid expansion, Progress NC links to a page declaring "NC health care is a right."

    How declaring an economic good a right magically exempts it from scarcity goes unexplained. At any rate, Progress NC parrots well-worn liberal talking points to continually push the case for expansion, including that doing so will boost the economy and provide care for hundreds of thousands of low-income North Carolinians.

    There is no attempt, however, to address the question of overcrowding the system and the fact that coverage does not equal access to care.

    For years Civitas has thoroughly debunked the arguments for expansion. For reference you can check out this resource page.

    Progress NC has weighed in on other topics as well. For instance in 2017, it organized in a "Tax Priorities Tour" using the demonstrably false and thoughtless tropes that state tax cuts starting in 2013 resulted in cuts only for "millionaires and big businesses" while imposing a "tax hike" on everyone else.

    Progress NC seems to be an issue advocacy organization that specializes in misleading people about the issues they advocate for.

    Finances

    According to their 2018 tax returns (the latest available), Progress NC took in just over $800k in revenue over two years (2017 & 18) and a total of $2 million during the five year period ending in 2018.

    Progress NC reported $72.5k in lobbying expenses in 2018, including $50k in expenses for "By the People," a 501c4 grassroots activist organization.

    According to MappingTheLeft.com, the Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation donated $200k to the organization in 2016 and is Progress NC's biggest financial backer. The Foundation was founded by billionaire investor Warren Buffet, and is one of the world's largest supporters of abortion, including being a major financial backer of Planned Parenthood of Central North Carolina.

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