WNC CONFIDENTIAL: Follow the money (and find your district) in WNC’s congressional races

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WNC CONFIDENTIAL is a Carolina Public Press feature about official secrets and public disclosures — all from, about or relating to the mountain region. On selected Thursdays, we’ll give you the key to recent revelations and put hard-to-find records at your fingertips.

Also: New database shows WNC’s largest greenhouse-gas producers; more state history, culture resources coming online

The exit of incumbent Rep. Heath Shuler from this year’s congressional race has suddenly transformed the political playing field in North Carolina’s 11th District, the state’s westernmost district. Due to the Republican-led General Assembly’s redistricting proposal (which is still being challenged in court), voters once situated in the 11th now find themselves in the neighboring 10th District, and vice versa.

Click here for maps offering a side-by-side comparison of the old districts to the new ones. If you’re uncertain about which district you reside in, the N.C. Board of Elections has an online tool that makes it easy to determine the answer. To find your district, visit this official mapping site and enter your home address. Then click on the colored overlay in your area, and your district information will pop up.

Both districts have a crowded field of candidates. So far, five candidates have announced a run in the 10th District, and 12 have announced in the 11th. (Here is a recent roundup of candidate bios in the Asheville Citizen-Times.) The primary election, on May 8, will winnow the field to one Democratic and one Republican candidate in each contest.

Both districts are awash in campaign donations, as individuals, interest groups and PACs try to bolster their favored candidates.

Here’s how to follow that money:

Each quarter, the candidates are required to file a campaign-finance report with the Federal Election Commission. The reports itemize each donation to the candidates, identifying both the donors and the amounts donated. The FEC puts the full reports online. Click here to find the documents; at the site, simply plug in a candidate’s name and select the report(s) you want to view.

Searches of the FEC site can yield a great deal of data — so much so that the results can seem unwieldy. For a more succinct, and in some ways more telling, look at the candidates’ fundraising, visit OpenSecrets.org, a site maintained by the Center for Responsive Politics, a Washington, D.C.-based nonpartisan watchdog group.

Each quarter, the center crunches the numbers in campaign-finance reports and distills key information, including the total amount raised, the total spent, and the percentages of donations from PACs, individuals and the candidates themselves.

Click here for the Center’s breakdown on the 10th District, and here for the 11th District summary. Note that the data is current as of the last filings, which were on Dec. 31 of last year, so candidates who’ve jumped in the race since then won’t be submitting reports until the end of 2012’s first quarter.

WNC’s greenhouse gassers: New EPA tool tracks top emitters

Last month, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released a massive interactive database of the country’s top 6,700 stationary sources of greenhouse gasses, as reported in 2010.

The online feature, called ghgdata, provides a map that allows users to drill down to state- and county-level data and track a specific area’s large facility greenhouse gassers.

Click here for the North Carolina map, which has data on the state’s 132 major sources of greenhouse gas emissions.

Seven of those sources — two power plants, four landfills and a paper factory — are located within WNC’s 17 westernmost counties. Here’s a list of them, along with the number of metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent each emitted in 2010:

Progress Energy’s Asheville Steam plant, in Arden, Buncombe County: 2,403,452

Duke Energy’s electric plant, in Cliffside, Rutherford County: 2,278,036

Blue Ridge Paper Products plant, in Canton, Haywood County: 1,318,745

Buncombe County Landfill, in Alexander, Buncombe County: 52,376

Old Buncombe County Landfill, in Asheville, Buncombe County: 46,851

Cherokee County Landfill, in Murphy, Cherokee County: 18,615

Henderson County Landfill, in Hendersonville, Henderson County: 8,602

Click here for a summary of the EPA’s new greenhouse gas reporting feature. [PDF]

N.C. librarians to upload treasure trove of historical writings

Researching the finer points of North Carolina history and culture is about to get easier. Last week, the state’s Department of Cultural Resources announced plans to digitize and share two major works edited by historian William S. Powell: The Dictionary of North Carolina Biography and the Encyclopedia of North Carolina.

The works will be placed online, at NCPedia, in a partnership between UNC Press, which published the books, and the State Library of North Carolina.

The project, which will take an estimated three years to complete, will be a boon to anyone researching North Carolina’s past. The Dictionary of North Carolina Biography has six volumes and covers the lives of more than 4,000 notable North Carolina natives, and the Encyclopedia of North Carolina, which was 15 years in the making, features more than 2,000 entries. The books come with a hefty price tag, but their content will be free online.

For a sampling of what’s to come, here are just a few of the WNC-related entries already included in NCPedia: Asheville, Charlie “Choo Choo” Justice, the Cherokee Indians, the Highland Scots, Jackie “Moms” Mabley and Gov. Zebulon Vance.

For more, view this video:

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About the Author

Jon Elliston

Jon Elliston is the Investigations and Open Government Editor at Carolina Public Press. Contact him at jelliston@carolinapublicpress.org.

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