Art Pope - Robin Hood in Reverse

Art Pope is controversial. I'd heard his name used in a context similar to Darth Vader while knowing only two things about him; that he is (A) very rich, and (B) spends his money on right wing causes throughout North Carolina.

Beyond that, I'll admit, I knew very little.

While only now have I done some research on the fellow, I'm sure most of those who traffic "BlueNC" are way ahead of me on this. However, for those as uninformed as I am there's an interesting article titled "The Knight of The Right" by Rob Christiansen which appeared in the N&O last January.

It's a good place to start if you want to do a quick study on the man and learn what motivates him. Although that question, even if you asked Pope himself, would be fairly easy to answer. What he wants can be boiled down very quickly to two things... lower taxes and less government.

Art Pope may be miserly when it comes to taxes, but not when it comes to underwriting his political point of view. There, he puts his money where is mouth is. In Christiansen's article you'll read that he spends $700,000 here, $9 million there, and $53 million over there to promote his various causes. Those causes that you learn about, however, are only those which are classified as tax exempt - and therefore which require public reporting. How Pope uses his vast fortune to promote those causes where no public financial reporting is required is up to anyone's guess.

But I'd guess a lot.

As I read those figures I was astounded. It's the same sort of feeling I get whenever I read about the Pentagon's budget. It's not just the wealth he spends on conservative politics that's impressive, what he spends on himself is pretty impressive too. Here in North Carolina he owns two homes: one valued on the tax rolls at over $2 million and the other at nearly $1 million. The value of other property owned elsewhere is anyone's guess.

But I'd guess a lot.

So where does all of this money come from?

It seems that the sole source of his fabulous wealth comes from his family's ownership of Variety Wholesale headquartered in Henderson, North Carolina. According to the N&O this is a retailing conglomerate consisting of "stores in hundreds of small towns across the South."

I may not be the best informed businessperson in my corner of North Carolina, but it occurred to me, "What is Variety Wholesale, and why do I know so little about it?"

I decided to go to the company's website and there I found that the company operates under a multitude of names like Roses, Bargain Town, Super 10 and Maxway. Admittedly, these names are slightly better known to me, but still, they're hardly the kind of stores where I spend much of my time shopping.

And why? Perhaps it's because I'm not quite as poor as the average patron for these small format, low price, primarily rural retail outlets. These are stores that feature overstocks, distressed product and discontinued items at very low prices. According to the company's own website, Variety Wholesale looks only for store locations "in second and third generation shopping centers" within communities that have a "minimum 25% African-American population" and "a median household income of $40,000 or less."

And care to wonder how much the employees in these down-market stores make per hour? That research I have not done, but I'm confident there aren't many families being supported solely on the wage of a Maxway employee.

So at the end of my small effort to learn more about Art Pope I'm left to speculate about a man who takes his fortune from those at the very bottom of the financial ladder, and then who gives so ferociously to reduce his taxes and fight against initiatives like North Carolina's increase of the minimum wage.

Perhaps the invidious comparison of Art Pope with Darth Vader isn't all that far off the mark.


Anglico....looks like you found someone else

to beat that Art Pope drum along with you. :)

Robin Hayes lied. Nobody died, but thousands of folks lost their jobs.

Vote Democratic! The ass you save may be your own.

Glad to see you beating this drum George...

I'm going to copy the intro into my blog at the pilot (crediting you of course) and link it back here to read the rest. Hope that's ok with you!

How can the pope sleep at night...have been in these "discount" stores and seen the products offered and the people working there. He can throw money in the political ring to force his opinion and values on us, but won't pay employees a living wage. What do you want to bet he calls himself a Christian too!

No matter that patriotism is too often the refuge of scoundrels. Dissent, rebellion, and all-around hell-raising remain the true duty of patriots.


Please feel free to abstract whatever of this post you think might be useful. And thanks for the kind words.

I'm 56 years old. I moved to North Carolina five years ago. The previous twenty-five years I spent as a resident of Chicago's north shore and before that Wisconsin, Utah and California. I live in Moore County. My Congressman is Howard Coble, my State Sen

Site Criteria

Bears repeating:

Site Criteria

We look primarily for locations in second and third generation shopping centers. In addition, we will consider free-standing sites, and store front locations in large urban cities. Site criteria include:

* Grocery anchored shopping center preferred.
* Minimum population of 2,500 within 1 mile of the site.
* Minimum 25% African-American population within 5 miles.
* Median household income of $40,000 or less.

I cannot possibly be the first

to see this or write it, but it works so well I'll risk the virtual raspberries ... ;)

dArth Pope.

"They took all the trees and put them in a tree museum Then they charged the people a dollar 'n a half just to see 'em. Don't it always seem to go that you don't know what you've got till it's gone? They paved paradise and put up a parking lot."


Welcome to the Puppetmaster fan club, George.
This is a brilliant analysis.


What George said.

George - might I suggest that you write some responses to the Hood columns that are now appearing in just about every edition of the Pilot?

"Be the change you wish to see in the world." - Ghandi

Thanks, But How Do We Compete With John Hood?

I appreciate the kind words about what I wrote here. Your suggestion about my making regular replies to John Hood of the John Locke Foundation inspires a few thoughts.

Art Pope, and North Carolina conservatives in general, get a lot of media mileage out of John Hood's opinion pieces. My guess is that these columns are offered free of charge to the hundreds of local papers throughout the state. Most of these papers, including "The Pilot," seem to publish Hood's columns almost reflexively.

For some of these newspapers their appetite for his opinion probably has to do with ideological agreement, but for most I think that their primary appeal is (1) The perceived credibility the John Locke Foundation enjoys and (2) What I assume is the syndication price for these columns - absolutely free of charge.

There are a number of think tanks or public policy institutions in North Carolina with a more liberal point of view. Unfortunately, virtually all of these organizations operate with some form of public money... so they are obliged to be more neutral and scholarly than partisan and provocative. Therefore, these think tanks can't participate in the political fray with opinion that speaks from a specifically liberal point of view. And none of them, so far as I know, play nearly as successfully to the North Carolina media at the John Locke Foundation.

What's the answer to this problem? How do we compete for the same credibility and column inches that John Hood wins so easily for Art Pope on a weekly basis?

I'd be happy to write a piece from time to time in my local newspaper, and I'd even be glad to take on John Hood's column occasionally for the citizens of Moore County. However, liberals in North Carolina need a better answer to this problem than me writing an occasional opinion piece for "The Pilot." Democrats need a means that provides the same statewide reach, and the same perception of credibility, that the John Locke Foundation now routinely enjoys.

I wonder if anyone has any ideas how we could go about achieving that objective?

I'm 56 years old. I moved to North Carolina five years ago. The previous twenty-five years I spent as a resident of Chicago's north shore and before that Wisconsin, Utah and California. I live in Moore County. My Congressman is Howard Coble, my State Sen

There's growing

concern among some of the elder statesmen (Jim Hunt, for example) about the exact points you're making. JLF has had a free ride, unchallenged by any organized opposition, for years. Some of those insiders have talked about the need to create a progressive alternative, but the talk hasn't turned into action, yet.

There are a handful of progressive organizations chipping away. NC Justice Center, Common Sense, NC Policy Watch, NC Conservation Network (and its composite environmental groups). But the parts do not add up to a whole - and even if they did, the whole would be less well-funded than the Art Pope Puppetshow. No one knows exactly what Pope spends to run his empire, but it would be upwards of $200,000 a month.

The sad truth is, money buys influence - and the Puppetmaster has plenty of it.


PS You're right about the mechanics. Small papers run just about anything if it shows up free week after week. I think we've gotten the N&O to at least think twice about citing JLF drivel in their news stories (though they still report Civitas polls) like they're worthy of serious attention. I believe we have to attack at the "demand" side. Every time the Pilot runs a John Hood column, someone somewhere should cancel their subscription (after sending a letter to the editor complaining first).

Family Values

He used to run on family values. That was before his uh divorce.


I heard it was as messy as they get

which is about all you can expect when you're a flag-carrier for the Party of Greed.