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Festival's invitation ambushes library

An invitation to bring Michelle Obama to Charlotte sparked a hubbub earlier this week for the Public Library of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County.

Organizers of the Charlotte Literary Festival asked Obama, wife of the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, to be a speaker at its Sept. 6 event in uptown, and offered to make a donation to Sen. Barack Obama's campaign.

The invitation even made its way to the Web site for the Obama campaign, where it caught the eye of a Huntersville resident.

“Is the Mecklenburg Library spending tax dollars to promote a political candidate?” he wrote in an e-mail to county commissioners and Library Director Charles Brown.

Public agencies are barred from lobbying for a political position. Brown said library officials, who were unaware of the invite, asked festival organizers to remove them from any material associated with the campaign. The post was taken down.

Brown said he has been assured the festival won't have a political focus and the library will stay on as a sponsor for now.

Festival organizer Darren Vincent apologized for the controversy, and said he would have rethought sending the invitation had they known it could cause a problem for the library. The Obama campaign hasn't responded to the invite. April Bethea

Most state universities missing out on early voting

Only six of the 16 public universities in North Carolina have plans to allow early voting on campus this fall, according to Common Cause North Carolina.

The Raleigh-based group, which often advocates for greater participation in elections, is urging county boards of election to work with universities to set up early voting sites. “We believe no student should have to walk more than two miles to vote early, especially since many campuses prohibit freshmen from having cars,” said Stevie Lawrence, a college outreach coordinator with the group, in a news release.

UNC Charlotte is among the six that have early voting plans. The others are N.C. A&T State, N.C. Central, N.C. State, UNC Chapel Hill and UNC Pembroke. Appalachian State and Western Carolina are within walking distance of early voting sites, according to Common Cause North Carolina. David Ingram

Potential tax savings for BofA have analysts guessing

Analysts are speculating that Bank of America could get major federal tax savings from its purchase this week of Countrywide Financial – leaving other taxpayers to make up the difference in federal coffers.

What could the impact be on N.C. taxpayers? It's not clear.

The savings for Bank of America would come in its ability to write off losses associated with Countrywide. If that were to happen on the state level, then one result would be less state revenue for education, health care and other programs.

“It's certainly something we're going to watch,” said Barry Boardman, an economist for the General Assembly in Raleigh who follows state revenue.

Boardman said it's too early to know whether there would be an impact or how big it might be. Bank of America spokesman Scott Silvestri said, “We're one of the largest taxpayers in the state, and we will continue to be.”

The N.C. Constitution requires a balanced budget, so any loss in revenue would have to be made up with either spending cuts, tax increases or a combination of the two. David Ingram

Outside salvos begin in N.C.'s U.S. Senate battle

A liberal group financed by billionaire George Soros has fired the first outside salvos in North Carolina's U.S. Senate battle.

The group, Majority Action, this week bought ads criticizing Republican Sen. Elizabeth Dole on radio stations in Charlotte and three other large N.C. markets. It attacks what it calls her ties to oil companies.

Majority Action is a so-called 527 group, which – unlike campaigns – can raise unlimited amounts of money from individuals.

Dole's campaign sought to tie the group to her opponent, Democrat Kay Hagan. Hagan's campaign denied any involvement.

Said Dole campaign manager Marty Ryall: “We're trying to encourage these third-party groups to let the candidates debate the issues.” Jim Morrill

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