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Tag: Art Pope

Money bought a stacked deck

Citizen-Times, 5/2014

The presidential election of 1896 and the N.C. legislative election of 2010: 114 years apart and remrkablyy similar.

Democrat William Jennings Bryan thundered against Robber Barons like Rockefeller and Carnegie, vowing to break up their empires.

Republican William McKinley was managed by Mark Hanna, who had one political belief: money wins.   His fundraising was easy. The Robber Barons were terrified of Bryan.   Rockefeller, Carnegie and J.P. Morgan contributed the modern equivalent of $20 million each. They gave McKinley a 23-to-1 money advantage. Then as president, McKinley delivered for them, and their profits soared.

Early in 2010, as The New Yorker magazine reported, former Bush chief-of-staff Ed Gillespie flew from Washington to Raleigh to meet with multimillionaire GOP super-activist Art Pope. He pitched a plan to take over the N.C. General Assembly.   With redistricting coming up in 2011, GOP computers could change N.C.’s Congressional delegation from 7-6 Democrat to 10-3 Republican. And legislative districts could be drawn to give permanent Republican control.

Gillespie’s key component was money. Relatively little was spent in off-year legislative races in N.C., so big dumps of cash in key races could bring a GOP majority.   The U.S. Supreme Court had just decided Citizens United vs. FEC, so big money could flow.

Pope jumped into the flow. He set up and mostly funded two organizations: Real Jobs NC and Civitas Action. They plastered N.C. with half-truth and no-truth mailbox cards against Democratic incumbents.

The New Yorker article details how in Senate District 50, in far-west N.C., two dozen mailers plastered John Snow.   Nearly a million dollars was spent against Snow in a district where both candidates wouldn’t normally spend $250,000.   They beat Snow.

As we all know, Republicans took the General Assembly in 2010 and redistricted as Gillespie wanted.

In 2012, Pope encored 2010. To view his mailers, visit

Democrats knew Pope’s barrage was coming in 2012 but lacked resources and state party leadership (they still do) and could do nothing about it.

Since then, the Supreme Court has further struck down limitations on campaign contributions.

So, here we are. Money is practically unlimited. Redistricting is blatantly stacked. Republicans are expert axmen.

As the philosopher says, “It is what it is.”

Now, what do we do about it?

Remember how Redcoats grumbled when Patriots fired from behind trees? Well, Democrats have been Redcoats long enough. Blunt-force tactics work. People say, “I hear terrible things about Kay Hagan” – untrue terrible things in TV ads.

I don’t say match lies with lies. Tell the awful truth about Raleigh Republicans – but tell it like Civitas Action would.

Money to do it? Gotta get it – race-by-race, county-by-county, precinct-by-precinct, dollar-by-dollar. The future’s at stake.

3 beasts of NC GOP

Citizen-Times, 1/2013

From afar, the Republican government in Raleigh looks like a hybrid mythical beast, like the bird-lion-human sphinx. This GOP version needs to be studied because it will decide N.C.’s destiny for a few years.

The beast’s head is our new governor ─ a businessman who apparently isn’t very big on ideologies of economic theory. But the brain inside the head is pure ideology:   Art Pope, whose wealth has created a sophisticated network of foundations and think tanks and who hugely influenced the last two elections. And who now is the governor’s chief budget adviser. His ideology, simply stated, is that the “free market” can do almost everything better than government and business should pretty much be left alone by government. We’ll call this brain the “Artists.”

Another part, Christian conservatives, are not by nature interested in ideological theory. They care about “social” issues. They have strong opinions on things they see as morally correct ─ and they want their views to become law. Amendment One, that outlawed gay marriage last May, is an example of their work.  We’ll call them the “Moralists.”

The Artists sometimes disagree with the Moralists. Their idea of limited government includes government intervention in personal morality. John Hood, president of Pope’s John Locke Foundation, was outspoken against Amendment One: “I think amending North Carolina’s constitution to forbid gay and lesbian couples from receiving any future legal recognition, including civil unions, is unwise and unfair.” But the Artists do use the Moralists. When the Artists spent millions to crush Democrats in November with slick mailbox cards, one of their lines of slander was incumbent Democrats’ votes against Amendment One.

Another piece of the beast is the Tea Party contingent.   Their ideology is a mish-mash of angry negativism. They’re first cousin to the Artists but more paranoid about such as Communist and Islamic takeovers of America and the United Nations as a world government. We’ll see their hand in such as action to repeal and forbid anything to do with “sustainable development.” We’ll call them the “Herbalists.”

We’ll see “all of the above,” working together on legislation that cripples their Democratic opposition ─ with such as voter ID laws and restricting early voting.

Their interests also converge on education.   The Cato Institute, a think tank in sync with the Artists, looks “toward a future when state-run schools give way to a dynamic, independent system of schools.” In the Artists’ view, the state should stay out of education. For their part, Moralists want public school resources shared with homeschoolers and private academies. And an Herbalist recruitment letter said, “It’s the parent’s right not the government’s to raise and educate your children.”

N.C. has interesting days ahead.

Art Pope’s tyranny

Citizen-Times, 10/2012

Art Pope has deeply-held beliefs about economics, government and politics ─ “classic libertarian,” he calls it. And Pope’s goal is for all of us to live under his beliefs. And Pope has a plan to make it happen. And Pope has the millions to make his plan happen. And it’s happening.

Art Pope is the guy who funded most of the surprise-attack TV ads and mailers that defeated so many Democrats in 2010 and brought on the Republican General Assembly we’ve just experienced. And he’s a big part of the legislation passed in the General Assembly over the past two years.

Pope’s family money comes from bargain retail stores (Roses is most familiar locally). He served in the General Assembly twice, but his ideas weren’t accepted…so he found better ways to push his beliefs.

It’s a simple plan. He and colleagues set up “institutes” and think tanks to write studies on issues like education reform, health care, transit, tax and regulatory reform, local government. Through a family foundation (that has more than $100 million) and groups he and colleagues founded (with names like Real Jobs N.C. and Civitas Action), Pope gives massive sums to help elect friendly legislators ─ reportedly $2.2 million in 2010.   They targeted 22 races and won 18.   Then once these legislators take power, the think tanks guide them on legislation. It worked in 2010 ─ an especially important year because that was the year of the census, when redistricting is done for General Assembly districts and U.S. congressional districts. (For detail on Pope, his plans and methods, Google “state for sale pope mayer.”)

Pope’s vision is long. He takes great interest in education ─ where generational change takes place. He likes charter schools. And control of the General Assembly means huge influence on the UNC system.

Everything Art Pope does is scrupulously legal.   That’s not the issue. And neither is the issue of big money influencing elections. The Supreme Court gave us that. The issue for us in N.C. is this: Do we want our state government dismantled in a libertarian takeover, including public education and programs to help the poor move to middle class? This is a case study in how minority beliefs can become law of the land for everybody. Is that what we want? I say, No.

From now to Election Day, we should all read the fine print on mailers and TV ads. Anything that looks like outside money coming into our districts ─ like Real Jobs or Civitas ─ probably is outside money. Especially if it makes bizarre attacks on the Democratic candidate.   It won’t have Art Pope’s name on it, but you can hear the jingle of his money.


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