Business owner Art Pope reshapes North Carolina politics

By Laurie Bennett

October 4, 2011 at 9:51am

Once again, the New Yorker’s Jane Mayer sheds light on how conservative money steers election outcomes.

And yet again, the Koch brothers make an appearance. But the main focus is a North Carolina business owner named Art Pope.

Pope, a longtime Republican contributor, and Ed Gillespie, a seasoned political strategist, have figured out that, in the wake of the Citizens United ruling, which lifted limits on corporate contributions, targeted spending in state races can have tremendous impact. Local success means big payoffs in Washington, because state legislators oversee congressional redistricting.

Pope and his family spent $2.2 million on North Carolina races last year.

Mayer cites an analysis by the Institute for Southern Studies, which found that three-fourths of spending by independent organizations in the state’s 2010 campaigns could be traced to Pope. Of the 22 races he targeted, Republicans won 18.

Pope is a director of Americans for Prosperity, the conservative group founded by David Koch. He and his family contribute to races directly, through the family business, Variety Wholesalers, and through an assortment of foundations.

What makes Mayer’s piece particularly fascinating, however, is that she was able to talk to the source of all this money.

During a four-hour interview, Pope bristled at the suggestion that he was buying elections. ““Most of the efforts that I or my company have supported have been to get the message out on the issues, so that voters can make an informed choice,” he told Mayer.

“To donate money, or make an independent expenditure to educate voters on the issues, or on voting records of the incumbents—I mean, it helps citizens make informed decisions! It’s the core of the First Amendment!”

Obviously, some people can lavish more on the First Amendment than others.

NOTE: We suggest that you spend some time exploring the contributors to the Republican State Leadership Committee, which Gillespie has used to build Republican majorities in state houses. Our list of companies contributing $50,000 or more shows strong representation from the alcohol, gambling and pharmaceutical sectors. But Google, Yahoo! and Hewlett-Packard are also among the donors.

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  • #1.   Paulette 10.07.2011

    This is wonderful. I know Democrats, particularly the progressive wing of the party have several billionaires, a lot of them from other countries; who spend a lot of time and money getting them elected to office. I’m glad to see that there are people with a lot of money, spending it to get out the smaller government and more conservative view points. The only people that would think this is a bad thing, are people who disagree with them. It’s also interesting when you hear representatives in the Democrat party refer to conservatives and people who attend Tea Party rallys’ as terrorists. Then people like Nancy Pelosi praise the people camping in front of Wall Street as passionate and organized. Out of their own lips they call themselves anarchists. After T.P. rally’s, the parks are clean when people leave. Once I heard a park ranger say it was cleaner when they left than when they got there. They take their children, wave the flag and they don’t threaten violence against people. Go to a concert or rally for an environmental organization. When they all leave, it looks like a dump. The people in front of Wall Street don’t even have a coherent message. They are destructive, filthy, & rude. They should be in school or looking for a job. Not everyone that works on Wall Street is a crook. Most of them are honest, hard working people. If it were not for the laws past by democrats and signed by Bill Clinton, in his first 2 years in office, the bankers, lenders, realtors, and lets face it, real estate speculators, would not have profited so easily by putting together such ridiculous loan packages. That was not the only thing that caused the economic collapse. There were a lot of things coming to a head and skyrocketing energy prices were the straw that broke the camels back. Since the Obama administration has been at the helm, increased regulation and very bad loans for their special projects, ie green energy co’s. have been huge money sucking ventures. Obama’s determination to shut down all coal plants, which by the way is one of the ways we get electricity, and after telling an old established guitar co. to shut their doors and go to Brazil if they don’t want the federal government to hassle them, is an example of the socialistic utopia progressives and liberal Democrats have for our nation. So, if anyone has a problem with rich conservatives funding a conservative message, to bad. It’s about time we had someone on our side fight against the liberal money machine that has been growing by leaps and bounds for several generations. My message to those conservatives is Thank You.

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