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.