With the recent advent of the new UNC Advisory Committee on Strategic Directions, there’s been a lot of controversy about the group’s inclusion of two right-wing millionaire businessmen: chain store magnate Art Pope of Raleigh and pharmaceuticals industry mogul, Fred Eshelman of Wilmington. Chris Fitzsimon has been reporting and commenting on this story frequently.
Interestingly, some observers — especially in the Wilmington area — have expressed the opinion that while they support the criticisms of Pope, they disagree with attacks on Eshelman. In this narrative, Eshelman is conservative, but a good guy and BIG supporter of UNC who’s getting a bum rap by being grouped with Pope. Eshelman, himself, has complained that his politics are not relevant to his involvement in the new committee.
A new story posted today by WRAL’s Mark Binker helps make clear, however, why that argument doesn’t wash. The story concerns one of Eshelman’s major pet projects – a political attack group called Real Jobs NC. Today, Real Jobs launched a new round of attack ads against a group of state legislative candidates that is right out of the far right, Karl Rove/Lee Atwater playbook.
But, of course, this isn’t Eshelman’s only right-wing political attack group; he’s also given hundreds of thousands of dollars to a sleazy and mostly secret attack machine called RightChange.com. This group had produced scores of insulting, below-the-belt and at times downright hateful attacks on the President of the United States and includes links on its website to extremist and notorious scandal sheet World Net Daily as well as several other far right groups and blogs.
The bottom line: You can’t have it both ways, Fred. If you want to play down-in-the-dirt political hardball with one pot of money, you can’t claim that the money you give to UNC renders you as pure as the driven snow — especially when so many of the elected officials you’ve helped elect are doing everything in their power to slash funding for UNC, undermine its future and put an end to real, publicly-funded higher education.