Art Pope Puppetshow

Art Pope & Koch Brothers wealthy political bullies

The rumors of their influence are greatly underestimated:

We saw this with the 19th century robber barons and in the 1930’s with the liberty league. Each generation has had to deal with these bullies. In the modern era, they are the Koch brothers and their wealthy allies, including North Carolina’s Art Pope. Spending millions of dollars, America’s 21st century bullies have reshaped the Republican Party and are threatening representative democracy.

Since 2010, in North Carolina, conservative businessman Art Pope has spent millions moving the state government to the right. Now, for the first time since reconstruction, Republicans control the governorship and the legislature. One observer noted, “Democrats running for office in North Carolina are running against Art Pope.”

This is one big reason why Democrats (both elected and activists) need to support campaign finance reform, instead of trying to "play the game" of big money with their Republican opposition. Aside from a handful of progressive businessmen, most of the wealthy would prefer to continue the shift of the nation's wealth upwards and preserve their dominance of our public policy debates, and the GOP gives them exactly that. The longer we put that off, the more influential these modern-day robber barons become:

The failed canonization of Art Pope

Executive sings the praises of his boss:

Mr. Etheridge failed to present a full picture of charitable giving by Art Pope and the John William Pope Foundation. In addition to supporting public policy nonprofits, which seek to enhance prosperity for all people, the Pope Foundation devotes millions to humanitarian charities, such as soup kitchens, medical missions, food banks and homeless shelters.

In October, the Pope Foundation gave $15,000 to Food Bank of the Albemarle to help those struggling to make ends meet in Elizabeth City. One of the foundation’s core focus areas is to meet the immediate needs of men, women and children in our communities.

Bolding mine, because it's the most outrageous lie in the article. JLF and Civitas advocate for a very exclusive subset of the population, a subset that already controls an inordinate percentage of the country's wealth, and they couldn't give a rat's ass about all the rest. As far as the food bank donation, the draconian cuts to unemployment and the horrific mishandling of food stamp applications, both of which can be laid at the feet of Art Pope, have emptied the shelves of food banks across the entire state. So you'll excuse me if I'm not impressed that he scribbled off a check to them. This doesn't impress me either:

Art Pope ties teacher raises to budget cuts

No good deed goes without punishing others:

State Budget Director Art Pope has told state agencies he wants their 2014-15 spending proposals to be at least 2 percent less than what the General Assembly allocated for next year in the two-year budget approved in 2013. He says savings may go toward salary increases.

This has become standard procedure for Republican leaders in Congress; to make much-needed and often humanitarian spending contingent upon cuts elsewhere. It's a disgusting tactic, which actually serves two purposes: it pits government employees against each other, so they're less likely to be sympathetic to each others' needs, and it also allows the budget-cutter to distance himself from the responsibility for his actions. Or so he thinks. In reality, it sends a very clear message: he has nothing but contempt for all those affected.

Puppet propaganda in the op-ed pages

Laying down covering fire during an election year:

If I wanted to keep poor people poor, there are several government policies I would favor.

For starters, I would advocate for a robust and ever-expanding welfare state. Programs like Medicaid, food stamps, unemployment insurance, etc.? Perfect poverty traps.

I would recognize that a perfect recipe for keeping poor people poor is to create incentives that push them into decisions that prevent them from climbing out of poverty.

We can expect to see more of this tripe as the year unfolds. What Brian is trying (and so far failing) to do is deflect attention away from the realities of the recession, and put forward the idea that people are struggling because of their own choices. All they have to do is "want" to work and a good job will magically materialize for them. The truth is much more complex and disturbing:

Boss Pope back in the New York Times

The man behind the curtain is exposed, again:

Outside, protesters were in a far less festive mood. They accused the owner of the discount chain, Art Pope, the state budget director, of bankrolling conservative candidates and supporting policies that hurt the store’s poor and minority shoppers.

“It may appear he’s contributing to the community because he has a business,” the Rev. Kojo Nantambu, the local N.A.A.C.P. president, said on Wednesday. “But those are only vehicles to be used to destroy the community.”

And Pope's explanation for why he targets poor neighborhoods does not hold water:

Civitas leader does hat-in-hand apology for doing his job

Apparently he didn't get the memo about IOKIYAR:

The president of the Civitas Institute is apologizing for a blog post he wrote last week and quickly deleted that accused Gov. Pat McCrory and his chief of staff of cronyism.

Francis De Luca posted his mea culpa Tuesday. "In trying to be vigilant against cronyism or even the appearance of cronyism— whether from the left or the right, liberals or conservatives, Democrats or Republicans — I made a mistake," he wrote, saying he skewed some facts in the original piece. "In talking about the event the Governor attended, I painted with too broad a brush by implying that an elected official’s appearance at an event involving organizations that lobby for state funds is tantamount to cronyism."

The only mistake you made was waiting this long to speak out about cronyism in DAG McCrory's administration. And now you've compounded that mistake by proffering an apology to a Republican for something you've done countless times to Democrats. It's called hypocrisy, Colonel. If you look back to some of the stuff you wrote during the Perdue and Easley administrations, you'll probably find that word used a lot, and it might jog your memory.

Les Merritt gets $150 per hour contract with NC DHHS

Reaping the rewards of faithful service to the Puppetmaster:

Merritt is a Certified Public Accountant and former State Auditor for North Carolina having served from 2005 until 2009. Merritt is a member of the North Carolina Ethics Commission. He earned degrees in Accounting and Economics from North Carolina State University. His contract began in May 2013 and expires in May 2014. It is capped at $312,000 and includes two, one year options.

Merritt also, along with Frank Perry (who also received a cushy government job) headed up an arm of Art Pope's network to investigate public corruption. But if you wanted to click that link to report Perry or Merritt or any other potentially corrupt Republicans, I'll save you the trouble:

Art Pope's voter suppression crusade

Supposed Libertarian on a mission to undermine voting rights:

The local elections board, which is controlled by a Republican majority, sided with Gilbert, and last week issued an order barring King from the ballot. The Durham, N.C.-based Southern Coalition for Social Justice has filed an appeal with the state elections board, saying the ruling violates equal protection provisions of the U.S. Constitution. Gilbert, who told the Associated Press that he plans to "take this show on the road," did not come to the Pasquotank elections board hearing alone: Sitting next to him was Susan Myrick, an elections analyst with the John W. Pope Civitas Institute.

The Puppetmaster has been working on several pet projects for years, but he seems to have a special place in his greedy heart for stifling the voting rights of the young, poor and brown. Hat tip to Facing South for chronicling the mind-bending madness:

It's not a wizard, just a rich man behind the curtain

Art Pope exposed on a national scale, once again:

Recognizing that this conservative moment might not last long, Republican legislators are moving swiftly. Despite the headlines, the most notorious bills—like the resolution to establish a state religion or the measure to outlaw public nipple displays—have been nonstarters. But the core of Pope’s agenda is going ahead. Every lawmaker in North Carolina knows that agenda: Scale back taxes, especially for businesses and the wealthy; slice away at the social safety net; and reverse the state’s focus on public schools as an engine for social and economic progress.

While writing this, I've got the TV news (14) going on in the background, and there was just a quick blurb of McCrory saying, "I've learned in leadership, you don't get caught up in who gets the credit." I bet you have. You're only going to be allowed to live in that Governor's mansion as long as you play by Pope's rules:

The manufactured and subsidized ideology of NC's right-wing machine

Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain:

There’s an important distinction, however, between spirited debate and character assassination. Republicans don’t favor tax cuts, regulatory reform, energy exploration, or school choice because some shadowy special-interest group has paid them off. Republicans favor these ideas because they believe them to be good public policy.

The thing is, it's not "either or" as John Hood would like his readers to believe. Whether he's referring to ALEC or Art Pope's Civitas/JLF/AFPNC propaganda machine, that "shadowy special interest group" has been engaged in an aggressive education campaign for years, spoon-feeding anti-government fear-mongering parables and arcane and unprovable economic fantasy scenarios to potential GOP candidates and their supporters, while dangling the prize of $4,000 checks from the Pope family bundlers if they have the free-market Kool-Aid stain on their lips. Here's one of the many ways to get that stain:

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