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The $40 million man

The following was released this morning by good government guru, Bob Hall of Democracy NC:

“The 40 Million Dollar Man

On Monday, The New Yorker magazine will publish an in-depth look at North Carolina’s most politically powerful unelected individual – J. Arthur “Art” Pope, chain-store retailer and Republican patron.

One measure of Pope’s power comes from an accounting of his political spending in a set of two charts prepared by Democracy North Carolina for The New Yorker. The charts detail over $40 million that Pope has steered into his favorite causes from his family, his family’s foundation (John W. Pope Foundation), and his family’s business (Variety Wholesaler, owner of the Rose’s, Maxway, and Super Dollar retail merchandise chains that cater to lower-income consumers).

? In the past 10 years, Pope has pumped $38 million into state and national politics and a network of North Carolina nonprofit think tanks and advocacy groups that push a libertarian and ultra-conservative agenda.

? In addition to these funds (see second part of chart of foundation grants), he has invested millions in national conservative organizations that he helps lead as a board member, trustee or advisor. At the top of this list is a $2.2 million investment over the past decade in Americans for Prosperity, where Pope is one of the four board members along with its founder, David Koch. AFP is credited with financing and nurturing the national Tea Party movement; one of AFP’s strongest chapters is inNorth Carolina.

? Pope’s biggest investment by far has been in the John Locke Foundation, which he co-founded and helps direct from his board position; his family foundation accounts for $19.7 million or 79% of JLF’s $25.0 million income for FY 2001-2010.

? Pope is also a board member and the source of over 90% of the funds for the John W. Pope Civitas Institute, named for his father ($8.0 million over the past decade); the NC Institute for Constitutional Law ($3.3 million); and John W.PopeCenterfor Higher Education ($3.0 million).

? Pope family members frequently bundle their campaign contributions together, beginning the practice when Art’s father (John W. Pope, now deceased) was a prominent Republican donor. In the landmark 2010 election, Art provided NC General Assembly candidates with bundled contributions (totaling up to $16,000 per candidate) from himself, his wife, his mother, and his sister; 21 GOP legislative candidates received a total of $252,000 from these bundles in 2010.

Another measure of Pope’s power comes from an analysis by the Institute for Southern Studies of his influence in the pivotal 2010 election. In addition to his family’s direct donations, Pope helped finance and direct three organizations that spent $2.2 million in 22 pivotal legislative contests. Republicans won 18 and took control of the General Assembly. Pope’s Variety Stores gave $470,000 to the three groups (Real Jobs NC, Civitas Action, and Americans for Prosperity), and he is an officer of each or its nonprofit, c-3 affiliate.

FormerStateSenator Marc Basnight, backed by the money of oil baron Walter Davis, reigned for many years as the state’s top political heavyweight – butDavisis dead, Basnight has retired from politics, and the NC General Assembly is now controlled by Republicans. Some thoughtNorth Carolinawould never see another person with Basnight’s clout, but Art Pope could have a bright future as kingmaker and background Wizard of GOP.

Bob Hall
DemocracyNorth Carolina

Pope Foundation grants:
http://www.democracy-nc.org/downloads/PopeFoundationGrants2001-2010.xls 

Pope Family Political Contributions:
http://www.democracy-nc.org/downloads/PopeFamilyContrib2001-2010.xls

Institute analysis:
http://www.southernstudies.org/2010/11/art-popes-big-day-millionaires-funds-key-to-historic-gop-wins-in-nc-legislature.html

One Comment


  1. Jimmy

    September 30, 2011 at 11:14 am

    Pope’s spending is puny when you compare it to union spending in the various states. I believe the unions spent almost $100 million in Wisconsin alone ! Why is any different ?

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