Saturday, December 3, 2011


 By Verne Strickland / December 3, 2011

Ilario Pantano, candidate for the U.S. Congress from the Seventh District of North Carolina, has shouldered the weight of suspicion of guilt in a murder charge sparked by the 2004 killing of two Iraqi terrorists in Fallujah, Iraq.

While Pantano was exonerated of the charge by his commanding officer, Pantano's enemies and detractors continued to hint that he was actually guilty -- guilty until proven innocent.

Pantano: Washington Times

It must have been excruciating for the former Marine officer, a family man with two young sons, to endure this for so long. But he never showed it. Never lashed out in anger at his relentless accusers. He remained a class act through it all.

But the time recently arrived when the bogus verbal evidence was eclipsed by forensic science, as the bodies of the Iraqis who had attacked Pantano were exhumed and examined.

The new information yielded would prove conclusively that Pantano had been innocent all along, as he had claimed.

Everyone apparently was convinced except the NC media, which even to the late hours of Saturday held on to this major story and stayed mum, cruelly denying Ilario Pantano the victory which was rightfully his.

Here is this blockbuster story, first reported in The Washington Times on November 30, 2011.

The Washington Times

As William C. Rodriguez inspected the badly decomposed bodies of two Iraqis, he was troubled by the large crowd of observers in the military’s national morgue at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware.

Mr. Rodriguez, a renowned forensic anthropologist, had been called in to settle the most sensational murder case to come out of the years-long Iraq War.

The defendant, Ilario Pantano, had abandoned a comfortable life on Manhattan’s Upper West Side after the Sept. 11 attacks and persuaded the Marine Corps to induct him, at age 31, to help fight the war on terrorism.
But the war turned into a courtroom struggle for his own freedom.

Lt. Pantano fatally shot two insurgents in Iraq’s so-called “Triangle of Death” during a raid on an insurgent hideout in 2004. He said he fired as they rushed toward him. A disgruntled sergeant said he shot them in the back.

“When the remains arrived, I didn’t expect the large crowds of people to [be] present at the mortuary. Most were NCIS agents and various representatives of the Marines. Prior to the exams, there was much discussion concerning the case, talk of court-martial, prosecution and being guilty. The image that came to my mind … was that of a lynch mob: ‘Let’s make an example of him.’ ” - William C. Rodriguez III, Forensic anthropologist
At the Dover morgue a year later, Mr. Rodriguez was troubled by all the murmuring of “guilty” he heard from investigators as he began to scrutinize the skeletons of Ali Hamaady Kareem and Tahah Ahmead Hanjil.

He also wondered why the Marine Corps lodged premeditated murder charges against Lt. Pantano without benefit of an autopsy of the two dead men — the chore he was now performing after the officer endured a grueling pretrial hearing.

“I think there was a rush to judgment,” Mr. Rodriguez, who retired last month, told The Washington Times.

“In a case like this, if I was charged with something, I would insist that the forensic evidence be looked at before I would be found guilty. They were looking at really going after him, making an example of him.

“People were kind of second-guessing the soldier in the field in a wartime situation. That to me, personally, upset me for people try to second-guess a soldier who’s in the field facing danger every day, not knowing who is their friend or foe.”

Mr. Rodriguez is taking the unusual step for a military medical examiner of going public in his criticism. He wrote a letter to Mr. Pantano in April, telling him how for years he had felt bitterness over how the Corps and the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) treated him.

“I openly expressed on numerous occasions to my colleagues in the office, including a NCIS agent assigned to our office, that I found it unconscionable to bring charges against you with simple hearsay,” he wrote.

“I informed the NCIS agent and others in the office that the remains of the two deceased Iraqis should be exhumed and examined, as that is the only way one can scientifically prove what happened.”

He wrote about the day he examined shattered bone and bullet residue to try to determine where Lt. Pantano’s shots entered the bodies.

“When the remains arrived, I didn’t expect the large crowds of people to [be] present at the mortuary,” Mr. Rodriguez said. “Most were NCIS agents and various representatives of the Marines.

“Prior to the exams, there was much discussion concerning the case, talk of court-martial, prosecution and being guilty. The image that came to my mind … was that of a lynch mob: ‘Let’s make an example of him.’ “
Charles Gittins, the civilian lawyer who represented Mr. Pantano, said it is unusual for a military medical examiner to take on the high command.

“The medical examiner’s letter underscores the fact that [the] government proceeded to murder charges and the hearing without doing their homework,” he said. “For the medical examiner to contact Ilario Pantano demonstrates a concern the doctor had for the political ramifications for the case.”

The remains arrived at Dover at a critical time in the case.

On May 12, 2005, a Marine hearing officer recommended that the Corps drop the murder charges. He said Mr. Pantano’s chief accuser was disgruntled over being demoted within the platoon and repeatedly changed his story.

No autopsy reports were submitted into evidence. Mr. Gittins said he was told that it was too dangerous for Navy investigators to try to exhume the bodies.

After the hearing verdict jolted and embarrassed the high command, things changed. The military won approval from the wives and village elders and dug up the remains.

If the examinations showed they indeed had been shot in the backs, the Marine general overseeing the case could cite the results as a reason to overrule the hearing officer and send Mr. Pantano to a court-martial.

“I don’t think it was to exonerate Ilario,” Mr. Gittins said. “I think they did the autopsies to implicate Ilario because we had blown up the hearing. The purpose of the autopsies was to get inculpatory evidence, not exculpatory evidence.”

On May 24, 2005, in Dover, Mr. Rodriguez, who had viewed the mass slaughter at the Pentagon after Sept. 11 and seen Saddam Hussein’s mass graves in Iraq, had been called on for his knowledge of skeletal remains and what they can tell about how someone died. He began at about 8 a.m.

The bones told the first story.

“Examination of the bones such as the ribs revealed fracturing patterns indicating that they had been struck by a bullet entering the front of the body,” he told The Times. “As the bone fractures, it does in a predictable manner, based on the external force placed upon it. … A similar example would be if you drive a sharp spike through a piece of wood. The opposite side of the wood, where the spike exits the wood, you have a hole with outward beveling and splinters facing outward as well.”

The bullets told a second story. Shells leave telltale copper fragments. This residue over time oxidizes, forming a blue-green discoloration.

“This, along with microfragments of the cooper jacket and bullet fragments on the anterior surface of the bone, corroborate the defect and fracture pattern exhibited by the bones, clearly indicating that the bullets struck the front of the bodies,” Mr. Rodriguez said.

Mr. Rodriguez said the investigators left him little time to absorb his findings and write a report after finishing the exam at 2 p.m. They wanted it right away. When it was complete, the report went straight to the Pentagon.

Two days later, Marine Maj. Gen. Richard Huck announced that he was dropping all charges, citing the autopsy report among other evidence.

Science proved Mr. Pantano had been telling the truth. If only the Marine Corps had insisted on an autopsy before bringing charges, the volunteer Marine would have been spared the financial expense and emotional wear.

Mr. Pantano quickly resigned his commission and started a new life in North Carolina with his wife and two sons. He ran for the House of Representatives in 2010 as a Republican and lost to a popular conservative Democrat. He plans to run again in 2012.

A paperback edition of his memoir, “Warlord: Broken by War, Saved by Grace,” was released this week, complete with Mr. Rodriguez’s letter.

Mr. Pantano said his political enemies in North Carolina have used the murder charges, even though dismissed, to smear him on various Web pages.

“The letter from Dr. Rodriguez explaining his scientific determination of my innocence finally puts my case to rest,” he told The Times.

“His letter is the ultimate proof to the world of politically motivated skeptics that have relentlessly attacked me because my unapologetic Americanism stands in defiance to their world of liberal victimization.

“My case was a political football in 2004, and it continues to be so today as I take a stand in defense of conservative values.”

© Copyright 2011 The Washington Times, LLC.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Top five aerial weapons that could change the future of warfare (advantage U.S.)

Verne Strickland Blogmaster / December 2, 2011

Here are the top five aerial weapons that one day could change the face of modern warfare. Relying on the most advanced technology in the world, these hyper-advanced projectiles may outmaneuver, outrun, and outmatch America’s foes around the globe, whenever the need arises.

1) The Mach-5 Cruise Missile
If a cruise-missile at supersonic speed is a full-throttle Ford Mustang, then a missile that hits Mach 5 is a Formula 1 racer going all out.
The problem is, that hypersonic Mach 5 pace — clocking in at five times the speed of sound– has yet to be reached by munitions. Until now.
The X-51 missile can hit hypersonic speed, and moves so fast that it doesn’t even need an explosive warhead. It’s kinetic energy will shred through targets.
Boeing has already tested the X-51, which last year flew at hypersonic speed for a few minutes after launching from a B-52 bomber. Though it fizzled early in the last test in June, there will be another trial in the months ahead.

2) “Super Decoy Drone”
The only defensive weapon that makes the list, this super decoy drone, called the Miniature Air Launched Decoy (MALD), is a distracting, annoying, weapons-jamming dynamo.
It‘s sort of like a flying JarJar Binks that soaks up all the enemies’ attention and firepower.
David Axe of Wired gives the specs and mission of the MALD as a:
“300-pound, jet-powered ‘bots cruise for up to 500 miles, more or less inviting enemy defenders to unload their guns and missiles at them. Meanwhile, Air Force and Navy planes carrying anti-radiation missiles sneak around to destroy the enemy air defenses as they’re busily killing the MALDs.”
The MALD’s mission is a space-a version of the adage “take one for the team.”

3) “Hyper Speed Bunker Buster”
Bad guys in Iran and North Korea are digging bunkers to hide their sensitive military sites like a horde of evil gophers.  This rocket-fueled bunker buster punches through the earth to obliterate anything underneath it.
The main draw here is the trade-off of size for speed. Instead of using huge, 2,000 lbs bombs that rely on weight and ordnance for the job, the hyper speed bunker busters use kinetic velocity. It’s all about sheer speed.

As Bill Murray says in Caddyshack, “Au revoir, gopher.” 

4) “Triple-Target Terminator Missile”
It cannot be stopped. It does not feel pity. And it will chase down anything.
That pretty much describes the Triple-Target Terminator, in development by Darpa and missile-maker Raytheon.  Meant as a “high-speed, long-range missile that can engage air, cruise-missile, and air-defense targets,” this projectile is the like the all-purpose utility player on a baseball team.
This one is a little far off from seeing action. It’s not easy to make a one size fits all ground, sea, air missile, but it would be cost effective, and already has a scary name.

5) “Pocket-Sized” Precision Nukes
The JDAM– or Joint Direct Attack Munition– has been roaring down from the sky to obliterate America’s enemies for years with symphony-like precision.
Now, defense scientists are looking to make the nuclear bombs as close to JDAM accurate as they can.
The B61, which has been America’s main nuclear gravity bomb for decades, is getting a GPS upgrade. A more accurate nuke means explosive power can be scaled back for the same effect.
Just the thought of getting a mini-nuke through a window might make the axis of evil countries play a little nicer with the world community.


Thursday, December 1, 2011

David Price teams with liberal DNC on bills to thwart GOP voter fraud effort.

Verne Strickland Blogmaster / December 2, 2011


U.S. Rep. David Price is co-sponsoring three new bills aimed at thwarting Republican efforts in North Carolina and elsewhere to crack down on voter fraud -- or to disenfranchise potential voters, depending on your point of view.

The bills would prohibit any requirements that people have photo identification in order to vote, as well as protect same-day registration and absentee balloting.

"Half a million North Carolina residents -- including many minorities, seniors, women and young people -- do not have a photo ID," the North Carolina Democrat said in a news release. "The General Assembly is trying to make it harder for these citizens to vote. It is an attack on voting rights, plain and simple."

GOP lawmakers in the North Carolina legislature this year passed a voter ID bill, but have not been able to muster enough votes to override the governor's veto of it. Republican leaders are considering other manuevers to accomplish their goal.

The Democratic National Committee is promoting the three-bill campaign. Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz announced them in a conference call with reporters this morning.

For Marine Ilario Pantano, a rush to judgement and a belated vindication.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Pantano news conference focuses on immigration, Amnesty, and David Rouzer

Verne Strickland Blogmaster / November 30, 2011

While it was billed as a news conference, this Pantano for Congress event was more like a media smorgasboard -- three stories plus a Q&A packed into one fast-paced session before a phalanx of cameras and reporters.
          Johnson (l), Pantano
The session, focusing on illegal immigration and Amnesty, took place Wednesday at the conservative Republican’s Volunteer Office at Porter’s Neck.

Two of the stories were announcements of support by two of the nation’s largest advocacy groups for border security and enforcement of immigration laws.

Candidate Pantano said: “I am honored to receive the support of both ALIPAC and NCFIRE. Both of these groups do a great job here in NC and across the nation fighting against Amnesty, and fighting for the enforcement of our nation’s immigration laws. As the next Congressman from the Seventh District, I look forward to working with these groups to ensure that our Nation secures our borders, cracks down on illegal immigration, and never gives US citizenship away to someone who has entered our country illegally.”

James Johnson, founder and president of NCFIRE, was on hand to announce this group’s backing for Ilario Pantano, and both stood at the podium as Johnson delivered his statement:

“NCFIRE is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization and, as such, we cannot endorse political candidates, however, we strongly agree with Ilario Pantano’s stance against illegal immigration and against amnesty for illegal aliens.
 “We have determined that Ilario, a Marine veteran of two wars, is dedicated to the enforcement of our immigration laws and keeping our citizens safe.
“We cannot agree with Ilario’s opponent, David Rouzer, and his position of being a paid lobbyist and supporter of the AG Jobs Act, which would give amnesty to 3.3 millon illegal aliens.

“We encourage the citizens of North Carolina’s Seventh Congressional District to take a good look at Mr. Pantano’s position on illegal immigration when making their choice in the upcoming primary in May.”

A statement by William Gheen, president of ALIPAC was read to the media:

“ALIPAC is proud to endorse Conservative Republican Ilario Pantano in the race for North Carolina’s Seventh District. Pantano is the only candidate in the GOP primary that we know we can trust to stand firm against illegal immigration. 

“Ilario’s primary opponent, David Rouzer, likes to talk a good game about securing the border and fighting illegal immigration. However, his record shows that is not true. In reality, Rouzer has been a paid advocate for Amnesty for Illegals, working alongside such open border pro-Amnesty liberals like Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and Diane Feinstein. Eighty percent of Americans agree that Rouzer is wrong on Amnesty and wrong for the Seventh District. A pro-Amnesty candidate like Rouzer is the last thing the Seventh District needs.”

Candidate Pantano also presented statistics documenting the financial burden that illegal immigration places on taxpayers in New Hanover County, North Carolina as a whole, and on U.S. Citizens:

“The total estimated cost for illegal immigrants in North Carolina exceeds $2.1 billion. That equates to an annual cost of about $388 per legal American household. There are currently 23 known illegal immigrants in the New Hanover County Correctional Center, costing roughly $639,866.00 per year. On the national level illegal immigration costs taxpayers $113 billion dollars annually. As U.S. citizens, we are not equipped to bear this burden, and we have to stop those who are taking advantage of us at tremendous cost.”

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Senate defies Obama veto threat in terrorist custody vote.

Levin  Levin
Defying a veto threat by President Obama, the Senate voted Tuesday to give the U.S. military first crack at holding al Qaeda operatives, even if they are captured in the U.S. and are American citizens, and also reaffirmed the policy of indefinite detention.

“We’re no longer going to have an absurd result that if we capture you overseas where you’re planning an attack on the United States, we can blow you up or put you in a military prison indefinitely, but if you make it to America, all of a sudden you get Miranda rights and you go to federal court,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican who has fought the Bush and Obama administrations on treatment of suspected terrorist detainees.

Tuesday’s 61-37 vote to buck Mr. Obama and grant the military dibs exposed a deep rift within the Democratic Party. Sixteen Democrats and one independent who caucuses with them defied the veto threat and joined 44 Republicans.

The vote was the latest chapter in a debate that has raged since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks plunged the U.S. into the war on terrorism and created the problem of how to handle self-professed enemies who belong to shadowy terrorist groups when they are caught far from traditional battlefields.

In a deal between Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin, Michigan Democrat, and the ranking Republican, Sen. John McCain of Arizona, the military is given custody of anyone who has planned or carried out an attack against the U.S. and its allies, or who is deemed to be a member of al Qaeda or one of its affiliates. The compromise gives the administration the authority to waive military custody but only if top Cabinet officials certify that national security dictates civilian control.

Mr. Obama and his top advisers fought the provisions, arguing that it amounted to micromanaging the war on terrorism. The administration said it should be able to decide on a case-by-case basis whether the military or civilian law enforcement is better able to handle a situation.

“The best method for securing vital intelligence from suspected terrorists varies depending on the facts and circumstances of each case,” Director of National IntelligenceJames R. Clapper wrote in a letter to senators detailing the administration’s objections.

He said the national security waiver given to the administration still doesn’t allow enough flexibility.

The White House this month threatened to veto the legislation if it “challenges or constrains the president’s critical authorities to collect intelligence, incapacitate dangerous terrorists and protect the nation.” An official on Tuesday said that threat still stands.

The bill also recodifies existing law on indefinite detention and the right of the administration to try suspected terrorists in military commissions rather than civilian courts [-] authority that the Bush and Obama administrations have exercised, but which Mr. Levin said he wanted to reiterate. Mr. Levin said the administration thought the restatement unnecessary, but didn’t object to the language.

Sen. Mark Udall, Colorado Democrat, tried to strip the detention and the military custody provisions from the bill and replace them with a call for further study of the issue.

“We’re ignoring the advice and the input of the director of the FBI, the director of our intelligence community, the attorney general of the United States,” Mr. Udall said.

His effort won the support of two Republicans, Sens. Rand Paul of Kentucky and Mark Kirk of Illinois, both of whom won their seats in last year’s elections.

Among the Democrats who bucked the administration were members of the Armed Services Committee, and also a host of lawmakers who hold politically vulnerable seats up for election next year. Among them were Sens. Robert P. Casey Jr. of Pennsylvania, Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Robert Menendez of New Jersey, Ben Nelson of Nebraska, Joe Manchin III of West Virginia and Debbie Stabenow of Michigan.

The fight was part of a broader debate over the annual defense policy bill, which is considered one of the few must-pass pieces of legislation Congress considers each year.

After the detainee vote on Tuesday, the Senate rejected an amendment by Mr. Paul that would have ended the grant of authority to go to war in Iraq, which Congress approved in 2002. That amendment was defeated by a vote of 67-30, with four Republicans, 25 Democrats and one independent voting to try to end the war.

With troops already scheduled to be brought home, backers said they wanted to establish Congress‘ authority to decide when troops are committed. But opponents said ending the use-of-force authorization might have other unintended consequences for the war on terrorism.

A vote on the overall defense policy bill is expected Thursday. The House has passed its bill, but the two versions will have to be reconciled before the measure goes to the White House, where Mr. Obama’s veto threat will be tested.

Frank Williams inducted into NCGOP Hall of Fame; Helms, Sandifer honored.

November 29, 2011

Dear Friends:
On November 19, 2011 I had the honor of being inducted into the NCGOP Hall of Fame.  Below are a press release that was sent out about the induction and a photo from the event.
Frank Williams

LELAND, N.C. – Brunswick County resident Frank Williams, who has served as Chairman of the N.C. 7th Congressional District Republican Party since 2009, was inducted into the N.C. Republican Party Hall of Fame at a dinner in Cary on November 19, 2011.

The award was presented by State Representative Frank Iler, who was honored with the award in 2009.  

One person from each Congressional district was inducted.  Williams was one of five nominees from the 7th District, and the winner  was selected by a committee appointed by the NCGOP State Chairman. 

In addition, the late David Sandifer, who served as Chairman of the Brunswick County Board of Commissioners until his passing in 2008, was among the nominees for the John P. East Memorial Award, which recognizes a deceased individual who otherwise meets the requirements for the Hall of Fame.  The late Senator Jesse Helms was honored with the East award at this year’s ceremony. 
In addition to his service as 7th District Chairman, Williams has served as a precinct chair, Young Republican club chairman, Young Republican state chairman and has volunteered or worked on numerous campaigns. 
“I had the opportunity to get to know Frank Williams through his work managing my campaigns for State Auditor in 2004 and 2008,” said former N.C. State Auditor Les Merritt, whose fiscal conservatism earned him the nickname ‘The Taxpayers’ Watchdog.’  

“Frank is committed to our party's conservative principles, and he is willing to stand up for what he believes in.  The fact that he has been inducted into the Hall of Fame shows that true conservatives have real influence in our party.  I am pleased to see his years of hard work recognized in this way," Merritt commented.
““Frank Williams volunteered on his first campaign in 1992, and he has consistently worked in the trenches supporting conservative candidates for nearly two decades,” added NCGOP Vice Chairman Wayne King. 

“Frank has been a tireless worker for conservative principles and common-sense government, and I am pleased that his commitment and dedication have earned him recognition in the N.C. Republican Party Hall of Fame,” King said.
“The 7th District had four other nominees who were more than deserving of this award, and I am humbled that selection committee saw fit to choose me,” said Williams.  “There are countless people who contribute to the conservative movement in a variety of ways, and everything we accomplish is truly a grassroots team effort.”
The N.C. Republican Party Hall of Fame recognizes individuals who have been actively involved in the Republican Party for at least ten years.

Visit my Website:  If you have not already done so, please take a moment to visit my campaign website at

Monday, November 28, 2011

Keystone XL vs. Solyndra? Boring as hell you say? Maybe. But you've got a lot at stake in this one.

NCPA / November 28, 2011

Keystone XL vs. Solyndra

The two big energy stories of the moment are the Obama administration's announcement that it will wait another year before making a final decision on the Keystone XL pipeline, and the continued pummeling of the Department of Energy and Energy Secretary Steven Chu for their handling of the $529 million loan guarantee to Solyndra. 

A comparison of these two projects, in the context of the Obama administration's decision to fund one and delay the other, is enlightening: it allows the American public to understand the priorities of the president and the motivations for his policies, says Robert Bryce, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute.
  • The Keystone XL is a $13 billion project that doesn't depend on federal loan guarantees or production tax credits from the federal government.
  • Keystone could create about 13,000 construction jobs in the United States, along with 7,000 manufacturing jobs -- this contrasts strongly with the 1,100 workers who lost their jobs with the Solyndra bankruptcy.
  • Keystone would have supplied 700,000 barrels of oil each day towards the nation's energy mix (which is 37 percent oil).
In these terms, it becomes bewildering that the Keystone XL pipeline is being subjected to another year's worth of scrutiny despite its numerous benefits, while Solyndra was able to receive a public loan without a thorough look at its ability to compete in an international marketplace.  The egregiousness of this pair of decisions becomes even more serious when discussing each project's contribution to national energy.
  • The Keystone's 700,000 barrels of oil each day, at 1.64 megawatt-hours per barrel, would have generated 380,000 megawatt-hours of electricity per day.
  • Meanwhile, all of America's solar panel and wind turbine production for the last year amounted to 94.6 million megawatt-hours, translating to 260,000 megawatt-hours of electricity per day.
  • Therefore, the Keystone project would have generated 46 percent more energy each day than the entire country's solar and wind output.
Source: Robert Bryce, "Energy Smackdown: Keystone XL vs. Solyndra," National Review, November 21, 2011.


Wednesday, 09 Nov 2011 06:38 PM
By Jim Meyers and David A. Patten

House Speaker John Boehner vows that Congress will be “relentless” in its probe into the role the Obama administration played in awarding solar energy firm Solyndra with $535 million in loan guarantees before it went bankrupt.

“They’re making the mistake that every White House makes — slow down the development of the documents, decide they’re not going to comply, redact the documents to no end,” Boehner tells Newsmax.TV in an exclusive interview.

“And all they’re going to do is drag this out.

“We are not going to turn our heads or turn a blind eye to what appears to be some incredibly horrible decisions. So the Congress will be relentless in our pursuit of the truth.

“All we want to do is get to the bottom of this. Because when we get to the bottom of it we provide the constitutional oversight that the Congress is there to provide. We teach our government lessons about what is doable and what isn’t doable.”

Boehner says he gets along with the president fine but admits that his relationship with Obama has been “frosty” in the last few weeks “as the president has decided to shirk his responsibilities to be a leader and gone out and decided to campaign full-time.

“It’s been a bit disappointing to me, and I haven’t talked with the president much during this period.”

Sunday, November 27, 2011


Verne Strickland Blogmaster / November 28, 2011

Greg Kahn for The New York Times: Newt Gingrich, speaking to a standing-room-only crowd in Naples, Fla., last week, has been hiring staff members in two states.
After a surge that has brought his candidacy back from a punch line, it is time for Newt Gingrich to translate the free-floating support as measured by polls into donations and a grass-roots organization that will turn out voters in early states. 

On Monday, Mr. Gingrich begins three busy days in South Carolina, where he will cut ribbons at his second and third state offices, court high-dollar donors at a $500-a-person coffee gathering and meet privately with influential Tea Party leaders. Besides recently hiring nine staff members in South Carolina, he has added half a dozen in New Hampshire as the campaign taps into a flood of online donations.

On Sunday, Mr. Gingrich received a major boost when he picked up the endorsement of New Hampshire’s largest newspaper, The Union Leader, a rebuke to Mitt Romney, who has a commanding lead in polls in the state and had hoped to gain from the paper’s influence with conservative voters.

The question is whether all the effort is too little, too late with the first votes to be cast in less than five weeks. In a sign of the campaign’s challenges, it failed to file the necessary paperwork last week to get Mr. Gingrich on the ballot in Missouri, which holds a Feb. 7 primary, after a crucial contest in Florida. And the campaign still has only a bare-bones operation in Iowa, whose caucuses on Jan. 3 are becoming all the more important in a fractured Republican field.

As Mr. Gingrich’s popularity has grown, he is facing more intensifying attacks from his rivals, particularly over his call for a more “humane” policy to allow some longtime illegal immigrants to remain in the country.

A top aide to Mr. Romney predicted that the Gingrich bubble would deflate as others before it have. “You don’t have to go deep here,” the aide said, referring to controversial stances and personal baggage from Mr. Gingrich’s past. “It ranges from immigration to ethics to being a Washington insider to Freddie Mac to you pick them.”

Still, the Gingrich campaign shows signs of putting to rest concerns that his candidacy is little more than a promotional tour. This week, his book-signing appearances are all preceded by town-hall-style meetings. Over the weekend, hundreds turned out at his campaign events in Florida.

His hiring of staff members in South Carolina and New Hampshire is helping to lead one of the largest grass-roots efforts of any candidate. The Union Leader endorsement cited Mr. Gingrich’s “innovative, forward-looking strategy” while noting he was not “the perfect candidate.”

Increasingly, Mr. Gingrich is emerging as the Romney alternative, perhaps the last man standing after the fading of previous conservative standard-bearers: Representative Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, Gov. Rick Perry of Texas and Herman Cain, the former pizza executive.

Once affluent donors “are finally settling on the anti-Romney candidate,” said James Epley, Mr. Gingrich’s chairman for Buford County, S.C., “then those folks who are holding back will come aboard.”

The Gingrich campaign says it has raised $4 million since the end of September, a big jump over the previous three months, when it brought in only $800,000 and ended the fiscal quarter with $350,000 in the bank.

The campaign would not say how much of that came from high-dollar donors, who are a sign of establishment support beyond the small contributors who respond to Internet and e-mail pitches.

Nor would it say whether it planned television ads — another sign of a campaign’s maturity — which are costly but have the potential to shift the conversation with voters.

A spokesman, R. C. Hammond, said Mr. Gingrich held a fund-raiser over the weekend in Naples, Fla., that brought in around $50,000. Another is scheduled at the Crazy Crab restaurant on affluent Hilton Head Island on Tuesday morning, for which it expects 15 to 20 donors at $500 apiece.

The crowds on the trail are a marked departure from the summer and early fall, when Mr. Gingrich was forced to live off the land, bunking in Des Moines in the home of his Iowa co-chairman, Dr. Greg Ganske, a plastic surgeon.

“Greg makes one of the best cups of coffee in Iowa,” Mr. Hammond said.

The lean times followed the mass resignation in June of more than a dozen Gingrich staff members who cited the candidate’s unwillingness to commit to the grind of retail campaigning. But he now seems to be taking to heart those former advisers’ prescriptions and getting down to hard slogging. “You’ll see a lot of us in Iowa, a lot of us in South Carolina and a lot of us in New Hampshire,” said Mr. Hammond, one of the few who did not quit.

Mr. Gingrich has visited New Hampshire four times since he filed to be on the primary ballot in late October, the date his staff there traces to his comeback.

About 1,000 supporters have signed up through a Web site in the past two weeks, said Matthew LeDuc, a staff member for Mr. Gingrich in the state. “He was able to come in here, capture his moment, and get in front of people’s faces,” he said.

Ashley Parker contributed reporting.

Christensen -- NC isn't in Pope's pocket. (We talkin' Art? Or maybe Benedict XVI?)

Verne Strickland Blogmaster / November 27, 2011

- Staff Writer
"State for Sale" reads the headline in the current edition of The New Yorker.

The state is North Carolina. And the person who is doing the buying, according to the article, is Art Pope, the Raleigh businessman, former state legislator and former GOP nominee for lieutenant governor.

The article carried a lot of weight. The New Yorker is a highly respected magazine. Jane Mayer, the author, is one of the best political journalists in the country. As best as I can recall, the last North Carolina political figure to get this kind of in-depth treatment in The New Yorker was the late Republican Sen. Jesse Helms, who was profiled by Elizabeth Drew in 1981.
The article made a splash in liberal circles - headlining both The Huffington Post, the Internet newspaper, and "The Rachel Maddow Show" on MSNBC.

"In many ways he is the one man who is single-handedly bankrolling a kind of conservative takeover of the state," Mayer told Maddow.

So the question is: Did The New Yorker get it right? Is Pope trying to buy North Carolina, or more precisely, is a multimillionaire trying to buy political control of the state?

He is certainly spending a lot to influence politics and public policy in this state -at least $40 million through his foundation and his network of conservative organizations, according to various estimates.

But I think his critics - and The New Yorker - overstate his influence.

If Pope did not exist, the Republicans would still have likely won control of the legislature last November. There was a national GOP landslide - a reaction to the bad economy, a backlash against the new health care law, and in North Carolina a response to multiple Democratic scandals.

Pope's groups pumped $2.2 million into 27 races in 2010 - but that is in the context of $30 million spent on the legislative campaign. The Pope money may have helped Republicans at the edges, but it is not clear that Pope's money turned a single election, let alone control of the legislature.

The article lacked context. The New Yorker article, for example, made it look as though state Sen. John Snow of Murphy was the victim of a Pope-funded assault, when in fact it was one of the most fiercely contested districts in the state in which both sides poured money.

Pope's role is repeatedly blown up like one of those helium-filled balloons in the Macy's Day parade in New York.

Pope has assembled a modern influence machine that combines traditional politics, advocacy and sophisticated public relations. But he is no more powerful than was Democratic Senate leader Marc Basnight, who retired last year, or Raleigh lawyer Tom Ellis, who ran Helms' political machine, the Congressional Club, in the 1980s.

Does Pope have the state in his back pocket as the cartoon caricature accompanying The New Yorker article suggests?

North Carolinians are a notoriously independent lot. I don't believe the state is for sale, and I don't think even a very rich man can buy it.