A list of “factoids” for quick usage.

  • Pope’s money comes from his family’s ownership of stores that primarily cater to low-income shoppers such as Rose’s, Maxway, Super 10 and Bargain Town.
  • Pope is close friends and political allies with Charles and David Koch.
  • Pope excels in finding legal loopholes that allow him to plow millions into political activities while keeping his expenditures relatively secret.
  • Pope was a key player in the 2010-11 gerrymandering of North Carolina.
  • In 2010, Pope and his family foundation spent unprecedented amounts of money, almost all of it on negative TV and mailer ads, to defeat Democratic legislative candidates. More Pope money came from Pope-funded organizations like Real Jobs NC, Civitas Action and Americans for Prosperity. Some of the ads compared Democratic candidates to prostitutes, or accused them of bribery and theft. One ad used racial slurs against a Democratic candidate.
  • Pope’s candidates won 18 of the 22 campaigns they were involved in in 2010.
  • Pope is now budget director for Gov. McCrory. Pope spent some time in the NCGA, and was viewed by many in both parties as autocratic and dictatorial. He has since showed a preference to “rule from behind the throne.”
  • Like the Kochs and other far-right multimillionaires, Pope wants to transform the political landscape to make it all but impossible for anyone but Republicans to win elections and govern.
  • Many of the most egregious budget decisions by the McCrory administration and the NCGA, including cuts to unemployment benefits and public education, come from or are supported by Pope.
  • more to come …

Issue: Art Pope’s Influence on NC GOP

There’s so much more information to cover! Please help us document this issue.

Spring 2010

GOP Strategist Meets with Pope to Discuss Redistricting

sign against Art Pope
Photo Courtesy of
Yevonne Brannon

Republican political strategist Ed Gillespie flies to Raleigh from Washington to meet with James Arthur “Art” Pope, the chairman and CEO of Variety Wholesalers, a discount-store conglomerate. Pope is a powerful multimillionaire and Republican financier who wants to help the GOP gain control of North Carolina’s legislature and, hopefully, governor’s office as well. The NC legislature is preparing to redistrict the state, and Gillespie and Pope want that redistricting to benefit state Republicans. Gillespie and Pope discuss the Redistricting Majority Project, or “Redmap,” a Republican plan developed to help Republicans gain (or regain) power all across the nation. Pope agrees to help Gillespie implement “Redmap.” (“State For Sale,” New Yorker)

GOP Later Admits to Gerrymandering

In 2013, the Republican State Leadership Committee will essentially admit that “Redmap.” was a success in part because of gerrymandering. “The rationale was straightforward,” it will state in a memo. “Controlling the redistricting process in these states would have the greatest impact on determining how both state legislative and congressional district boundaries would be drawn. Drawing new district lines in states with the most redistricting activity presented the opportunity to solidify conservative policymaking at the state level and maintain a Republican stronghold in the US House of Representatives for the next decade.” (GOP REDMAP Memo Admits Gerrymandering To Thank For Congressional Election Success, Huffington Post

Fall-Winter 2010

Pope-Financed Groups Spend Huge Amounts to Gain Control of NC Legislature

State Senator John Snow, a retired judge who had represented his western NC district since 2005, unexpectedly finds himself the target of strong political attacks from his opponent, Tea Party candidate Jim Davis (R). Snow is one of many conservative Democrats who often vote with Republicans in the Senate. Davis has little political experience, and Snow expected the race to be little more than a formality. But Snow is unprepared for the torrent of money and negative television ads in support of Davis. Snow later recalls one potent ad against him: “I voted to help build a pier with an aquarium on the coast, as did every other member of the North Carolina House and Senate who voted.” However, Davis’s ad calls the pier for the NC Aquarium a “luxury pier” and a wasteful scheme concocted by Snow to spend money unnecessarily. The ad says North Carolina is losing jobs while Snow is telling its citizens to “Go fish!” A mass mailing, illustrated with a cartoon pig, calls the pier one of Snow’s “pork projects” and an example of his “wasting our tax dollars.” The mailing also accuses Snow of voting to “spend $218,000 on a Shakespeare festival,” an accusation that fails to note the expenditure was a budget cut for a program that had existed since 1999. One of Davis’s mass mailings echoes the infamous Willie Horton ad of the 1988 presidential campaign: the mailing shows a menacing African-American, Henry Lee McCollum, who is on death row for raping and murdering an 11-year old girl. The mailing describes McCollum’s crimes, then accuses the “arrogant … Snow” of wanting to let McCollum “off death row.” In reality, Snow is an advocate of the death penalty, but in 2009 he had voted for the Racial Justice Act, a law giving judges the option to reconsider the death penalty if a convict can prove the jury’s verdict had been influenced by racism. Snow later says: “The attacks just went on and on. My opponents used fear tactics. I’m a moderate, but they tried to make me look liberal.” Davis defeats Snow by less than 200 votes. After the election, the nonpartisan North Carolina Free Enterprise Foundation proves that Davis was heavily funded by two “independent” political groups, both financed by Raleigh multimillionaire and Republican donor Art Pope. One of the two groups, Real Jobs NC, was responsible for many of the mass mailings. (The other group, Civitas Action, also spent heavily to help Davis defeat Snow.) The McCollum ad was paid for by the NC Republican Party, and Pope later denies being involved in producing or paying for the ad. (Pope and three other family members donated $4,000 apiece to the Davis campaign, the maximum individual donation allowed by state law.) Snow will later say: “It’s getting to the point where, in politics, money is the most important thing. They spent nearly a million dollars to win that seat. A lot of it was from corporations and outside groups related to Art Pope. He was their sugar daddy.” Bob Phillips of Common Cause will say: “John Snow raised a significant amount of money. But it was exceeded by what outside groups spent in that race, mostly on commercials against John Snow.” Phillips will point to the January 2010 Citizens United Supreme Court decision as a “game changer,” allowing wealthy donors like Pope to have an outsized influence on elections. “Citizens United opened up the door. Now a candidate can literally be outspent by independent groups. We saw it in North Carolina, and a lot of the money was traced back to Art Pope.”

Margaret Dickson and the “Hooker Ad”

Another state senator, Margaret Dickson (D) of Fayetteville, is unseated by similar tactics in the same election. Dickson, who considers herself a centrist, pro-business lawmaker, is unprepared for what she calls the “hooker ad,” a television ad accusing Dickson of using her seat to promote her personal investments. Dickson later recalls: “They used 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 voiceover says, “Busted!” as the actress’s hand grasps a bundle of cash. Dickson later explains, “The thrust of it was that I am somehow prostituting myself.” Another ad, paid for by Real Jobs NC, calls Dickson a “tax twin” to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), saying there is “not a dime’s worth of difference” between the two. (The New Yorker’s Jane Mayer later writes that “Dickson’s voting record is substantially less liberal than Pelosi’s.”) Dickson later says: “Those ads hurt me. I’ve been through this four times before, but the tone of this campaign was much uglier, and much more personal, than anything I’ve seen.” Pope’s corporation, Variety Wholesalers, has given $200,000 to Real Jobs NC. Although Pope later calls himself “dismayed” by the “hooker ad,” Roger Knight of Real Jobs NC later says that Pope “would provide some of the guidance” for the ads, and because he is on the organization’s board, “he would approve them.” (The “hooker ad” was paid for by Dickson’s opponent, Wesley Meredith (R).) Knight later says that the Citizens United decision makes it easier to raise money because “it allowed us to direct the fund-raising toward businesses.” Dickson later says that Pope and other political contributors “bear some responsibility” for the ugly personal attack ads. Meredith, meanwhile, enjoys the support of Americans for Prosperity (AFP), a national organization affiliated with the Tea Party movement and with financial ties to Pope, who, along with groups affiliated with him, has given the organization over $2 million. AFP spends $11,000 assisting Meredith. Dickson later says: “I’ve never met Art Pope,” but she is certain “Art Pope was after my seat. It wasn’t personal. They wanted control, and they were willing to say anything and do anything to achieve it.”

Chris Heagarty: “Adios, Señor!”

In Wake County, lawyer Chris Heagarty (D), running for a seat in the legislature, believes he is prepared for the worst. He previously headed an election reform organization and knows about political money. But he is not prepared for the campaign against him, funded by Real Jobs NC and Civitas Action, who together spend some $70,000 attacking him as a big spender. AFP also spends heavily on ads favoring his opponent. One ad accuses him of voting “to raise taxes over a billion dollars” even though he has not served in the legislature. Another ad, paid for by the NC GOP, falsely portrays him as a Hispanic (Heagarty is Caucasian, though favored with dark hair and skin): showing him wearing a sombrero, the ad proclaims: “Mucho Taxo! Adios, Señor!” Heagarty later says: “If you put all of the Pope groups together, they and the North Carolina GOP spent more to defeat me than the guy who actually won. For an individual to have so much power is frightening. The government of North Carolina is for sale.” (During the election season, John Hood of the conservative, Pope-funded John Locke Foundation, accused “liberals” of “froth[ing] at the mouth” over Pope, and said they lacked a “rudimentary understanding of the reality of public-policy philanthropy in North Carolina.”)

18 of 22

Of the 22 legislative races targeted by Pope in 2010, he wins 18 of them. In part because of Pope’s efforts, the NC GOP is able to seize control of both chambers of the NC General Assembly for the first time since 1870. About 75% of the spending by “independent” groups in North Carolina’s 2010 races came from Pope or affiliated organizations. In told, he spends some $2.2 million on the races; as Mayer will later write, “not that much, by national standards, but enough to exert crucial influence within the confines of one state.” Republican political consultant Paul Shumaker will later say, “Art’s done a good job of changing the balance in the state.” Nina Szlosberg-Landis, a Democratic activist, says: “It’s part of a very deliberate national strategy of the ultra-conservative movement to change the face of democracy. And I have to hand it to them. They’re pretty successful.” (“State For Sale,” New Yorker)

2011

News Site Produces Interactive Graphic Detailing Pope’s Financial and Political Connections

The liberal news site INDYWeek publishes an interactive graphic on its site detailing the many business and political interests of multimillionaire political activist Art Pope. The graphic cannot be reprinted here, but is available through the link. The graphic gives information on Pope’s many interests, including his lobbying on behalf of oil and gas interests; his connections to Tea Party groups; his links to state and federal political organizations; his connections to individual lawmakers, business people, university professors, and media figures; and the foundations he supports. The graphic concludes with a detailed listing of the sources used to provide the information. (Graphic: The World of Art Pope, INDYWeek)

October 2011

New Yorker Profiles Pope

mosaic of Art Pope
Image via Blue NC
and Internet Archive

Investigative journalist Jane Mayer of the New Yorker profiles Raleigh multimillionaire Art Pope, who has spent some $40 million in the last ten years to help the NC Republican Party gain political control of the state. The Pope family foundation, which Pope leads, has assets of some $150 million. Some, Mayer writes, compare him to Charles and David Koch, the billionaire oil and chemical magnates. Pope considers them friends and political allies, and they often contribute to the same causes. Pope serves on the board of Americans for Prosperity (AFP), the Tea Party-affiliated organization created by David Koch. Charles Koch has lauded Pope for funding Republican political efforts for 2012; Pope has given money to at least 27 organizations supported by the Kochs. Pope has created a large, influential network throughout the state. His network has created and funded half a dozen “nonpartisan” policy groups; though he denies having any control over them, he and his family foundation give them over 85% of their funding. “I am careful to comply with the law,” he says. “And I keep my personal activities separate from my philanthropic, public-policy, grassroots, and independent expenditure efforts.” Mayer writes: “But, by taking full advantage of recent changes in tax and campaign-finance law, he has created a singular influence machine that, according to critics, blurs the lines between tax-deductible philanthropy and corporate-funded partisan advocacy.” Democratic political consultant Marc Farinella says: “In a very real sense, Democrats running for office in North Carolina are always running against Art Pope. 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.” Pope, who with his family owns the privately owned Variety Wholesalers, “has access to huge quantities of corporate funds,” which now can be channelled freely into politics, Farinella says. For his part, Pope tells Mayer: “If the left wing wants a whipping boy, a bogeyman, they throw out my name. Some things I hear about Art Pope — you know, I don’t like this guy Art Pope that they’re talking about. I don’t know him. If what they say were true, I wouldn’t like a lot of things about me. But they’re just not true.” He tells Mayer that he is particularly offended by allegations that he attempts to “buy” elections. He does not engage in bribery or other corruption, he says, and he has fought hard against such illegal activities. Instead, he says, he is a political reformer who spends millions to strengthen democracy: “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. … 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!” He says he has too much “faith” in North Carolina voters to think that huge expenditures on elections actually influence their votes. Martin Nesbitt, Jr. (D), the ranking Democrat in the NC Senate, counters: “Look at his ads and tell me what’s informative about them. They’re simply spewing right-wing stuff at voters, saying, ’They raise taxes, they raise taxes, they raise taxes.’” Of Pope’s 2010 spending, Nesbitt says: “It wasn’t an education; it was an onslaught. What he’s doing is buying elections.”

Conservative Philosophy

Pope tells Mayer at great length that conservatives are the underdogs in North Carolina, perpetually outspent and outmaneuvered. He is merely trying to balance the scales. He notes that the Z. Smith Reynolds foundation, a large nonprofit organization, has spent more money than he has funding mostly progressive causes and organizations. (Mayer notes that the Reynolds Foundation is legally prohibited from spending money to influence elections, where Pope’s private foundation is not so prohibited.) Pope calls himself an ideological conservative politically, and, philosophically, “a classical liberal.” Any American can amass wealth through talent and hard work, he says, a principle he says makes America unique. “America does not have an aristocracy or a plutocracy,” he says. Poor people are poor primarily because of age and marital status, and educational achievement. “[U]sually, as people get older … they save and retain wealth, and work their way up.” Perhaps unsurprisingly, Pope’s organization, along with AFP and others, are staunchly against tax increases for the wealthy. Dallas Woodhouse of AFP North Carolina, says, “[I]n some parts of the country couples earning two hundred and fifty thousand dollars a year are just middle class,” while Bob Luebke of the John W. Pope Civitas Institute says that America’s poor live far better than the “picture most liberals like to paint. … The media obsession with pervasive homelessness also appears to be a myth.” John Hood of the Pope-funded John Locke Foundation has written that “the extent of true poverty in North Carolina and around the country is woefully overestimated,” and that most poor people have brought their economic plight on themselves due to “self-destructive behavior.” In contrast, Gene Nichol of the Center on Poverty, Work, and Opportunity at the UNC School of Law, says: “Economic justice is an uphill battle. And Mr. Pope and his colleagues make it tougher.” Pope tells Mayer that North Carolina’s poor will be better served by private enterprise, tax cuts for individuals and corporations, reductions in estate taxes, and slashes in government spending. As a supporter of private charity over government intervention, Pope contributes to food banks and shelters for the indigent. Dean Debnam, a progressive businessman, is among a number of people who deride Pope’s approach to helping the poor. Pope, Debnam says, “keeps people working part time, and at minimum wage. It’s a plantation mentality. He preys on the poorest of the poor, and uses it to advance the agenda of the richest of the rich.”

History and Background

Mayer notes that Pope’s Variety Wholesalers has traditionally made money off of low-income patrons, since the founding of five small stores in eastern NC in 1930 by Pope’s grandfather. Now, Variety Wholesalers includes the following chains: Rose’s, Maxway, Super 10, and Bargain Town, amassing over 400 outlets throughout the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic. The stores typically locate in relatively poor neighborhoods with large African-American populations. As for Pope, he grew up in one of Raleigh’s wealthiest neighborhoods, in a house next to a country club, and became politically active in high school. His family were conservative Democrats who admired Senator Barry Goldwater (R-AZ) and family friend Jesse Helms (R-NC). Pope credits Ronald Reagan (R-CA) for making his family full-blown Republicans. His family has given so much money to the NC GOP that the state headquarters was named for the family. Pope graduated from both UNC-Chapel Hill and Duke Law School, and began his career as a lawyer for his father’s company. He says he is not a family “heir,” but an ordinary stockholder. In 1988, Pope was elected to the NC State House, and earned a reputation as a disheveled policy wonk. Richard T. Morgan (R), one of Pope’s colleagues at the time, writes that Pope was so focused on bureaucratic detail that he would spend hours wading through documents, and, “when he was done, there wasn’t a bone buried in the budget Art hadn’t dug up and chewed on.” Morgan tells Mayer that Pope found it frustrating to be in the legislature because he refused to compromise with fellow lawmakers. Nesbitt, who also served in the NC House, says, “Pope didn’t like the legislature, because people wouldn’t listen to him when he talked.”

Power and Control

After being thrashed in a 1991 effort to win the post of lieutenant governor, Pope decided to influence politics from behind the scenes. He tried, and failed, to win several powerful state administrative jobs, losing out because, Morgan says, his more moderate Republican colleagues considered him pushy. They did not like him reminding them of how much money his family had donated on their behalf. (Pope tells Mayer that if Morgan is insinuating that he engaged in so-called “pay to play” activities, “that is defamatory.”) Morgan says that Pope decided to begin the political transformation of the state by bringing in more hardline conservatives in place of the state’s traditional moderate Republicans. He spent three more years in the state legislature, choosing not to run again in 2002, and launched his pogrom against Republican moderates, including Morgan, spending his family money on attack ads against them. In 2006, a Pope-backed candidate defeated Morgan, prompting Morgan to recall, “I had to raise [money], while all Art had to do was write a check.” Morgan was one of three moderates to lose out to Pope-funded candidates that year. Chris Kromm of the Institute for Southern Studies tells Mayer: “Pope began in earnest his quest to be kingmaker in the North Carolina GOP, spending big money to push out moderates and get farther-right Republicans elected.” The message: listen or be targeted. “Pope created a climate of fear. He has a whole network that can reward or punish Republicans. … That’s the strength of the Pope network. It enforces ideological conformity, and gets people in line. … He just keeps pushing this far-down-the-spectrum view relentlessly, until it;s viewed as common consensus.” A prominent state Republican who declines to be named agrees, telling Mayer, “There weren’t a lot of Republicans willing to cross Art after that.”

Organizations

Again following the Koch paradigm, Pope began setting up and funding what Mayer calls “a multimillion-dollar conservative-opinion empire aimed not at winning just one election cycle but at transforming the political debate for generations.” His John Locke Foundation promotes “limited government and free enterprise.” Hood, the current president, says: “We set up an answer to what we saw as the liberal establishment. The conservatives thought the liberals had the universities, so they had to balance that with think tanks.” In recent years, the Locke Foundation has begun to wield a powerful influence on state politics. In 2007, Pope set up the Civitas Institute, a training and indoctrination organization designed to produce ideologically correct political candidates, though Pope does not agree with that characterization and says he does not run the organization. The Pope family foundation funds 97% of the Civitas Institute’s activities, and Pope is on the board of directors. Civitas Action, a sister organization, runs political advertising, and was very active in 2010. Chris Fitzsimon of NC Policy Watch says: “Civitas describes themselves and their polls as ’nonpartisan,’ yet with another arm they’re running the most virulent ads against Democrats, and it’s the same people. It’s just a shell game.” In February 2008, Civitas Institute president Jack Hawke stepped down to run the gubernatorial campaign of Pat McCrory (R), the Republican mayor of Charlotte. McCrory lost to Bev Perdue (D), and Hawke returned to Civitas; in January 2010, Hawke joined the 2012 McCrory gubernatorial campaign. Farinella says: “Jack Hawke’s serial involvement in Civitas and the McCrory campaign is no accident. Pope has used the federal tax code to create a massive campaign apparatus that is only thinly disguised as a collection of benign, civic-minded nonprofit groups.” AFP is also working on behalf of McCrory, though the group says it will end its efforts on his behalf once he announces his candidacy as it is not a political organization. (AFP NC’s Web site features a photo of Perdue over a headline, “Veto Bev Perdue,” and accompanying text that says, “It’s time we take back our government from arrogant Bev Perdue!”) The John William Pope Center for Higher Education Policy, a sister organization of the Locke Foundation, advocates deep cuts in the state’s budget for its university system, and accuses the UNC system of being dominated by liberals and radicals. Most agree that Pope’s advocacy network has achieved a huge level of influence among Republican lawmakers in the NCGA. Hood says: “A significant number of our recommendations were adopted this year. We favored no new taxes, lifting the cap on charter schools, cutting spending, as well as dozens of small-ticket items.” Nesbitt says, “The John Locke and Civitas foundations put out road maps for how to change everything, and the legislature pretty much followed the script.” Several AFP, Civitas and Locke officials are now in powerful staff positions in the NCGA. Republican operative Carter Wrenn says, “Business is having a field day like it never has before in the legislature.”

Cutting Education Funding

NCGA Republicans succeeded in forcing a $414 million cut in state university funding over a Perdue veto, slashing 16% of the university system’s operating funds. Public school and preschool programs were also slashed. Former UNC president William Friday tells Mayer: “That’s the war that’s on [against public education]. It’s against the role that government can play. I think it’s really tragic. That’s what made North Carolina different – it was far ahead. We’re going through a crisis.” Pope likes to contribute money to academic programs that he likes, such as Western civilization and free-market economics. The UNC system turned down a $25 million grant proposal from Pope after faculty members announced their opposition, worried that Pope wanted to exert control over the universities. When the John William Pope Center for Higher Education Policy offered to help fund a Western-philosophy course that the university had included in budget cuts in September 2010, simultaneously publicly mocking other courses, some faculty members protested again. English professor Cat Warren at NC State says: “It’s sad and blatant. This is an organization that succeeds in getting higher education defunded, and then uses those cutbacks as a way to increase its leverage and influence over course content.” Warren says Pope has already gained some control of NC State’s economic department through $500,000 in grants. The grants fund annual lectures by conservative speakers selected in part by an official of the Locke Foundation. A dozen members of the economics faculty are “John Locke Foundation Affiliates.” Warren says, “I find it incredibly troubling that there are all these faculty members associated with this particular foundation.” The Locke Foundation is sponsoring the North Carolina History Project, which aims to de-emphasize the study of the state’s history away from social movements and government, and toward the celebration of the “personal creation of wealth.” Fitzsimon says: “It’s all part of Pope’s plan to build up more institutional support for his philosophy. He’s very savvy about not leaving any strategy unaddressed.”

Resegregation Accusations

In 2009, NC Democrats accused Pope of engineering what they called the resegregation of Wake County public schools. A busing program used to achieve economic and racial diversity in Wake County’s public school system was eliminated, and the new, conservative-dominated Wake County School Board promised to send students to “neighborhood schools” instead. Pope was a heavy donor to the Wake County GOP, which successfully funded the school board candidacies. AFP lent rhetorical support, calling anti-busing activists “freedom loving” and proponents of the busing program “radical union organizers.” The Reverend William Barber, the head of North Carolina’s NAACP, which has filed a civil-rights complaint with the Justice Department, says that the Wake County School Board wants to racially divide one of the largest and best public-school systems in the country. “Civitas pushes this extreme, ultra-right-wing agenda,” Barber says. “The first thing the school board did was start putting black children back into their so-called neighborhoods. The concept first came out of the lips of George Wallace.” Pope responds: “No one that I know of wants to re-segregate the Wake County schools!” He characterizes himself as “a big education reformer” and advocate of charter schools. Hall says Pope is involved in education reform for political reasons: “It’s about how you shape the future, It’s one thing to build a building, another to shape a generation’s minds. That’s what they’re after — ideology. Pope is pushing a world view, not just a business deal.”

Going Too Far?

Fitzsimon, who often appears in the NC media as an ideological counterbalance to Pope and his colleagues, says they are so far to the right that “you’d need a Marxist, not a wishy-washy liberal” to provide real balance. “He’s moved the whole damn fulcrum of debate in the state to the right.” Even some NC Republicans are uncomfortable with what they see as Pope’s extremism. Jim Goodmon, the president and CEO of Capitol Broadcasting, says, “I was a Republican, but I’m embarrassed to be one in North Carolina because of Art Pope.” Goodmon’s grandfather helped launch Jesse Helms’s career by giving him broadcast time to make editorial comments on local news broadcasts, but Goodmon believes Pope has gone farther than Helms. He and his network, Goodmon says, are “anti-community,” noting: “The way they’ve come to power is to say that government is bad. Their only answer is to cut taxes.” Ultimately, Goodmon says, Pope’s agenda is bad for business, undermining the workforce by gutting the state educational system. “If you want to create good jobs, you need good schools,” Goodmon says. “We’re close to the bottom out of the fifty states in education spending, and if they could take it down further they would.” But, Nesbitt says, if Pope has gone too far, that is not yet evident. “Art Pope set out to buy power, and it’s working,” he says, and adds that Pope’s long-term plan is to cement Republican control on both a state and federal level. “I don’t hold anyone’s political views against them. But any time you have the takeover we did, with the influence of money and absolute power, you have to worry. It’s a blue state that has a Democratic governor, and voted for Obama in 2008, but in two years they turned it into a red state, all because of their money.” Wrenn believes Pope’s next goal is to secure the governorship for McCrory or another Republican. Former Democratic campaign consultant Mac McCorkle says those efforts may well pay off: “The Democrats have become flabby and undisciplined. On our side, we really don’t have anyone like Art Pope. It’s a real problem.” Szlosberg-Landis says: “[W]e’re just seeing the beginning of it all. Corporate money is taking over. People are going to wake up in a whole new state, and maybe a whole new country.” (“State For Sale,” New Yorker)

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