Art Pope

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Art Pope

Art Pope is the president and vice-chairman of the board of directors for Variety Wholesalers Inc., and a director of the right-wing group Americans for Prosperity, which organized the Tax Day Tea Parties across the country, and which organized "town hall" opposition to health care reform in 2009. He is a member of the board of directors of the John Locke Foundation, the Atlas Economic Research Foundation, and the North Carolina Retail Merchants Association.[1]

An investigation by Facing South / Institute for Southern Studies also found that Pope has close ties to the Koch Brothers, as one of four national directors of the Koch-founded political advocacy group Americans for Prosperity. In addition, Pope is a director and board chair of a family foundation, the Pope Foundation, which has steered millions to conservative thinks tanks in North Carolina and nationally that have worked closely with the Koch network to manufacture doubt about global warming, including his own John Locke Foundation.[2]

Overall, a 2010 Facing South / Institute for Southern Studies analysis of tax records found that a foundation chaired by Art Pope supplies about 90 percent of the income of leading conservative nonprofits in North Carolina.[3]

A New Yorker expose explains that Pope invests not only in conservative non-profits, but in state-level political elections designed to make his takeover of the North Carolina GOP complete. Marc Farinella, an adviser to North Carolina Governor Bev Perdue, commented that "The Republican agenda in North Carolina is really Art Pope’s agenda. He sets it, he funds it, and he directs the efforts to achieve it. The candidates are just fronting for him. There are so many people in North Carolina beholden to Art Pope—it undermines the democratic process.”[4]


Funding campaigns against moderate Republicans & Democrats

New Yorker Expose

An expose in the New Yorker detailed the workings of several outside spending groups active in the 2010 State Legislative elections in North Carolina that were financially backed by Art Pope. In the article, several moderate Democrats described the attacks they had endured funded by Pope.

John Snow

State Senator John Snow, a retired judge and moderate Democratic State Senator "who often voted with the Republicans and was considered one of the most conservative Democrats in the General Assembly" described a direct mail campaign which eventually mailed 20 attacks to voters, including an attack for his vote in favor of funding for an aquarium that had passed the Senate unanimously and depicted him as a cartoon pig. Another mailing was "reminiscent of the Willie Horton ad that became notorious during the 1988 Presidential campaign", with a picture of an African-American man on death row convicted of the brutal killing an 11 year old girl, saying that the man could soon be released thanks to Snow's support for a law which would have enabled judges to reconsider the death sentence in the event a jury's verdict was effected by race. The bill was designed to address the racial disparity in North Carolina's death sentencing. Snow supported capitol punishment and, as a judge, had even sentenced it.[5]

Margaret Dickson

Margaret Dickson was defeated in her bid for a fourth term in the North Carolina State Senate in 2010. She "considered herself a centrist, pro-business Democrat", but was victimized by what she called "the hooker ad" in which she was played by "an actress with dark hair who was fair, like me. She was putting on mascara and red lipstick. She had on a big ring and bracelet." The ad showed the actress grabbing cash and accused Dickson of promoting her own interests in the legislature without making any direct accusation. Another ad compared her tax record to Nancy Pelosi, though her record was shown to be far more conservative, and not comparable due to the two women's service in two different legislative bodies.[6]

Chris Heagarty

Chris Heagarty was a non-incumbent State Senate candidate in 2010 who was subjected to Pope-funded advertising accusing him of voting to support a billion dollars in tax increases, despite his non-incumbency. He is Caucasian but was depicted as Hispanic in other ads, which said ‘Mucho Taxo! Adios, Señor!’ beneath pictures of him wearing a sombrero.[7]

2006

In 2006, the Raleigh News and Observer reported that Pope "has created other organizations to sway public opinion, monitor the legislature, develop grass-roots political efforts and bring court challenges" and that he had spent "millions of dollars on a network whose purpose is to move North Carolina to the political right." His goal was to purge the North Carolina state House of Representatives of Republican moderates. According to journalist Rob Christensen, Pope "created two new tax-exempt organizations. The Republican Legislative Majority of North Carolina was bankrolled with $260,000 in contributions from Variety Wholesalers. A Pope-formed state chapter of a national group, Americans for Prosperity, contributed more than $200,000 ... The Pope effort helped defeat Republican Reps. Rex Baker of King, Keith Williams of Jacksonville, Michael Gorman of New Bern and Michael Decker of Forsyth County. Pope came within a whisker of knocking off Morgan and Rep. Rick Eddins of Raleigh."[8]

Pope started out by financing a network of conservative think tanks, but in latter years has expanded his role to that of a conservative political enforcer, spending hundreds of thousands of his own money to unseat moderate Republican legislators.[9]

Background

Pope, a graduate of Duke University School of Law, is a member of the North Carolina Bar Association. He has worked as "special counsel to the governor in 1985, running for the lieutenant governorship in 1992, and being chosen as a delegate to the Republican National Convention in 1992 and 1996."[1]

Pope was also the founder of the right-wing, free market John Locke Foundation, which accepts money from the tobacco industry.[10]

Climate change denial

A 2010 investigation by the Institute for Southern Studies found that Pope had begun funneling money to ostensibly nonpartisan nonprofits that use it to run attack ads, primarily directed at politicians who have played a key role in addressing climate change in the state. Facing South's analysis of tax return data found that Art Pope's family foundation, the Pope Foundation, had made large contributions to the same network of climate skeptic groups as the Koch Brothers from 1997 to 2008 -- more than $24.1 million in all. Many of the funds went to the John Locke Foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit think tank based in Raleigh, N.C. that was created in 1990 to promote the idea of limited government. Pope provides 80 percent of the organization's funding -- $16.9 million from 1997 to 2008 -- and sits on its board of directors. The John Locke Foundation has been one of the most outspoken voices of climate denial, particularly in North Carolina - in 2007, North Carolina passed Senate Bill 3 to adopt a minimum requirement for the use of renewable energy sources by investor-owned electric utilities. The bill requires that 12.5 percent of all electricity sold in the state by 2020 must come from renewable sources or improved efficiency. The John Locke Foundation would like to do away with it altogether, according to the group's 2010 climate agenda.[2]

Pope's foundation is also a backer of the Civitas Institute, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, and its 501(c)(4) sister group, Civitas Action. Between 2005 and 2009, the Pope Foundation has accounted for about 99 percent of the Civitas Institute's foundation income. Pope was also a founder of Civitas Action, which has raised nearly $265,000 since August -- more than 70 percent of that directly from Pope's company. In October 2010, Civitas Action spent $5,750 on mailers targeting North Carolina House Speaker Joe Hackney and Senate leader Marc Basnight, Democrats who have been supportive of efforts to address global warming. Hackney led the state's climate change commission for a time before appointing in his place Rep. Pricey Harrison (D), one of the legislature's strongest environmental advocates. Basnight has talked about his concern that global warming and associated sea rise could inundate the region and supports a move to clean energy sources. Frances De Luca, president of the Civitas Institute and the former state director of the North Carolina chapter of Americans for Prosperity, has said more mailers are planned.[2]

Running against 15-term Hackney is Cathy Wright, a nursing instructor who's also worked as a lobbyist for medical groups. Her campaign manager did not respond to Facing South's request for information about her position on climate change. But Wright does say she's a member of the Conservative Womens Forum, which promotes a book calling global warming a "scam" and is critical of clean energy solutions from cap-and trade legislation to wind power to the promotion of compact-fluorescent light bulbs. Additionally, her campaign website links directly to both the John Locke Foundation and the Civitas Institute. Basnight's opponent is Hood Richardson, a retired minerals geologist and commissioner for Beaufort County, N.C. Richardson calls global warming a "problem that has since been debunked as based on faulty science." He also criticizes Basnight for helping create the state climate change commission, saying it will "severely harm businesses." He cites the John Locke Foundation for his assertions.[2]

Tea Party Funding

A 2010 Facing South / Institute for Southern Studies analysis found that a family foundation led by Art Pope has given the Americans for Prosperity Foundation (AFP) over $1.3 million since 2004, making it the group's second-largest institutional backer. Pope also sits on AFP's four-person board of directors. Americans for Prosperity has key leadership roles in the Tea Party Patriots movement. AFP delivered "Home Organizing" kits to Tea Party activists and sponsored dozens of trainings at local and national Tea Party events. Americans for Prosperity also works closely with the Tea Party Express. AFP called for a national Tax Day Tea Party in Washington, D.C. in October 2009 to channel the movement's energy. The N.C. branch of Americans for Prosperity is behind N.C. Tax Day Tea Party 2010, an effort to coordinate Tea Party protests across the state.[11]

Since spring 2009, staff of the Pope's Civitas Institute, which receives nearly all of its funding from Pope's family foundation, and the John Locke Foundation, which receives over 80 percent of its funding from Pope's foundation, have spoken at dozens of Tea Party rallies. Together with the N.C. chapter of Americans for Prosperity, in May 2010 the Civitas Institute organized two "Tea Party Summits" -- one in Hickory ("Tea Party Summit West"), and another in Wilmington ("East"). According to the website, the events aimed to "channel the tea party energy" towards the groups' favorite conservatives causes, like "forced annexation" and cutting taxes. Both the East and West Tea Party summits in North Carolina featured a "State of the People Luncheon" led by the Civitas Institute. They also included a Citizen Watchdog/Investigative Journalism training led by Civitas staff.[11]

There questions about whether Pope's organizations are overstepping its legal bounds with these activites. The Civitas Institute and Locke Foundation are classified as 501(c)(3) nonprofits by the Internal Revenue Service, which forbids partisan political engagement and electioneering. Americans for Prosperity is a 501(c)(4) group, which can support or oppose candidates, as long as that's not its primary purpose.[11]

Funding campaigns against moderate Republicans

In 2006, the Raleigh News and Observer reported that Pope "has created other organizations to sway public opinion, monitor the legislature, develop grass-roots political efforts and bring court challenges" and that he had spent "millions of dollars on a network whose purpose is to move North Carolina to the political right." His goal was to purge the North Carolina state House of Representatives of Republican moderates. According to journalist Rob Christensen, Pope "created two new tax-exempt organizations. The Republican Legislative Majority of North Carolina was bankrolled with $260,000 in contributions from Variety Wholesalers. A Pope-formed state chapter of a national group, Americans for Prosperity, contributed more than $200,000 ... The Pope effort helped defeat Republican Reps. Rex Baker of King, Keith Williams of Jacksonville, Michael Gorman of New Bern and Michael Decker of Forsyth County. Pope came within a whisker of knocking off Morgan and Rep. Rick Eddins of Raleigh."[12]

Pope started out by financing a network of conservative think tanks, but in latter years has expanded his role to that of a conservative political enforcer, spending hundreds of thousands of his own money to unseat moderate Republican legislators.[13]

Connections to Koch Brothers

Pope was acknowledged at the Koch seminar in June 2011 in Vail, Colorado for donating at least $1 million to Koch-related causes. [14]

Articles and resources

Related SourceWatch articles

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 "Art Pope", Americans for Prosperity website, accessed September 2009.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 Sue Sturgis, "A Pope of climate denial" Facing South, October 26, 2010.
  3. Chris Kromm, "North Carolina's Art Pope: Staying in control" Facing South, Oct. 19, 2010.
  4. The New Yorker, "[1]" Accessed October 11 2011
  5. The New Yorker, STATE FOR SALE[2] Accessed 5 October 2011.
  6. The New Yorker, STATE FOR SALE[3] Accessed 5 October 2011.
  7. The New Yorker, STATE FOR SALE[4] Accessed 5 October 2011.
  8. Rob Christensen, "The knight of the right: Ex-legislator Art Pope has quietly built a political network to advance his conservative vision for North Carolina", Raleigh News and Observer, January 29, 2006.
  9. Rob Christensen, "Advocate to some, bully to others, Pope brews discord", News & Observer (Raleigh), February 2, 2006.
  10. Tommy J. Payne, R.J. Reynolds Please find enclosed a check in the amount of five thousand dollars ($5,000.00) made payable to the John Locke Foundation. Letter. 1 page. February 2, 2000. Bates No. 522493786
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 Chris Kromm, "Art Pope: Still dancing at the Tea Party?" Facing South, Oct. 21, 2010.
  12. Rob Christensen, "The knight of the right: Ex-legislator Art Pope has quietly built a political network to advance his conservative vision for North Carolina", Raleigh News and Observer, January 29, 2006.
  13. Rob Christensen, "Advocate to some, bully to others, Pope brews discord", News & Observer (Raleigh), February 2, 2006.
  14. Gavin Aronsen, Exclusive: The Koch Brothers' Million-Dollar Donor Club, Mother Jones, September 6, 2011

External resources

Art Pope Exposed, a project of the Institute for Southern Studies

External articles