Purchasing power

Rob Schofield at NC Policy Watch seems to have taken over as watchdog in combating Art Pope's influence, and thank goodness for that. Someone with a stronger stomach than I needs to be on the job, and it's a big job indeed.


Those unfamiliar with the breadth of Mr. Pope's empire are often astounded by the reach of its power. From the Wake County school board and the floor of the NC House to every news editor's desk, Pope money pervades public policy in North Carolina. Some of his influence is subtle, for example, the long hard work of shaping the economics department at NC State. He knows that reporters turn to professors there for commentary on economic issues. Could there be a better way to manipulate the masses? Cultivate experts that feed a resource-poor fourth estate. They call it subsidized news.

From all I can see, Mr. Pope's ideological purity is authentic, his having been born to the manor. Sitting atop the Pope Family Foundation's millions, he sees more clearly what is wrong with the world and what to do about it. Cut taxes, starve government, shred the public workforce, watch agencies underperform, say "I told you so," and start all over again.

It's fascinating that a person born so lucky would work so hard to undermine public services, public planning, and progressive ideals. And to make matters worse, he's good at it! The guy seems to work like a machine and is smart as a fox. I almost wish he were a screw-up like his friend in Texas, but that would probably be even more dangerous.

On the other hand, ten million dollars a year is a small price to pay for an army of dedicated messengers to manipulate the news. Media mercenaries through and through. In the marketplace of ideas, Mr. Pope is more than getting his money's worth.

Go read Rob's latest column, which touches on Pope's influence in Wake County. It also explores the battle that's been joined between left and right in politics. Would love to hear your thoughts.


The tip of the empire

Higher ed http://www.popecenter.org/
Think tank http://www.johnlocke.org/
Journal http://www.carolinajournal.com/
Revisionist history http://www.northcarolinahistory.org/
Grassroots infiltration http://www.nceducationalliance.org/
Faculty affiliate http://www.lockefan.org/
Green astroturf http://www.environmentnc.com/
Boys club http://www.johnlocke.org/lockerroom/
Pope family treasure box http://www.capitol-monitor.org/non-profit-profiles/john-william-pope-foundation-o.php
Bus tour http://www.americansforprosperity.org/national-site
Vigilantes http://www.reportpubliccorruption.org/

Archive here


Purchasing Power

Here's what Rob Schofield and the BlueNC progressives need to discuss and debate. From everybody's perspective it's progressives vs. the right wing in N.C. In reality sitting between progressives and the right wing is the Democratic Majority that controls N.C. politics. Those out of favor and out of power tend to be shrill and combative in their perspectives. That's true of the right wing which in reality has little, if any, real power in the state. Who's been making the decisions that impact the range of issues people ought to care about? Mike Easley, Beverly Perdue, Marc Basnight, Tony Rand, and the mainstream, business as usual leadership of the Democratic Party. The right is shrill and combative because they want power. Progressives tend to be shrill and combative because they want power. The reality is neither side of the political spectrum is happy about the state of the state. Take education. The new Wake County BOE members were elected because of their constituency's unhappiness with the state of education in Wake County. Despite the positives of the education system in Wake, you need to read today's N&O about the dramatic use of suspensions of students in Wake County and the impact it ultimately has on the future of these kids. Are Progressives happy about that, or the county's drop out rate, or achievement gap. I doubt it and it wasn't the new majority of the Board of Education that produced those problems. So instead of worrying so much about Art Pope and the various groups he supports, I'd recommend focusing on those folks who hold real power in our state and county and start leaning on them.

How do "we" change this?

The Kennedy's/Bushes...whatever, etc. What is it about our political system that enables the "rich" wannabes to continue to govern in our political system? This is not about party affiliation, this is about wealth and power. Who can argue it?

Pope is local and an abomination and "leads through affluency", of course, but this is not about "politics", it is about control. Argue it if you wish. It is in every state and in all that entails the federal level and more.

Personally, I am in a quandary on this.

Anyone else here in that situation?

What is the resolution? Lots of bitching and moaning about it, but really people, what is the resolution????

Pope puff piece in National Review

They forgot to mention the part about all the silver spoons his daddy left behind.

The John Locke Foundation accepts more support from the Pope Foundation than does any other organization: nearly $2.4 million in the last fiscal year alone. But it is by no means the only recipient. There’s also the John William Pope Civitas Institute, which encourages grassroots activism ($1.5 million), the North Carolina Institute for Constitutional Law, which litigates ($680,000), and the Pope Center for Higher Education Policy, which monitors colleges and universities ($479,000). Altogether, the Pope Foundation disbursed more than $6 million to North Carolina policy groups. Another $4 million went to national organizations such as Americans for Prosperity, educational programs, and traditional charities.

That’s a lot of money, but less than perhaps meets the eye. Hood counts about a dozen right-of-center groups in North Carolina with a combined budget of $8.5 million. This compares with about 40 left-of-center organizations with budgets totaling $22 million. So the Pope Foundation and its beneficiaries are like a small-market club in Major League Baseball: They can compete against a team that has more cash, but winning takes strong leadership, hard work, and a lot of ingenuity.

By creating a web of state-based organizations that promote free-market ideas in North Carolina, Pope has realized the vision he had as a young lawyer in Governor Martin’s office. “He understands the intersection of politics and policy better than most,” says Tracie Sharp, president of the State Policy Network. “That’s because of his personal experience.” In addition to working for a governor, Pope has tried his own hand at politics. He served four terms in the North Carolina House of Representatives and was an unsuccessful candidate for lieutenant governor. Pope says he has no plan to run for anything in the future but won’t rule it out. He is currently busy overseeing Variety Wholesalers, a duty that became more demanding when his father died in 2006.

Rob weighs in

I hear and get Scalawag's advice that we worry less about the right wing and more about the state's current Powers That Be. He/she identifies a real problem that is often examined on the pages of Blue NC and NC Policy Watch - namely that progressives regularly find themselves in the awkward position of defending public institutions from the attacks of those who would destroy them, even as they themselves acknowledge the tremendous flaws in those institutions.

All of us agree that a goodly number of the state'e Democratic leaders are conservative corporatists themselves. And of course, progressives have been taking the public schools to task for decades about lousy/bureaucratic/racist policies.

Having acknowledged all of this, Scalawag and others are kidding themselves (or not paying very close attention) if they think the state's right-wingers (led by the Pope Empire) aren't having an enormous impact on the media, on hearts and minds and ultimately, on public policy outcomes. Listen to the debates in the General Assembly!

And, for too long, no one has been explaining regularly and thoroughly just how extreme these people are. Consequently, their absurd and reactionary views have been worming their way more and more into public discourse (and in Wake County and many other places, into the seats of power).

Bottom line: Just because most public institutions and structures are flawed, it doesn't mean we have to abet the frightening and reactionary efforts of conservative extremists to utterly destroy them.

Finally, I reject the assertion that "Progressives tend to be shrill and combative because they want power." First, I don't think most progressives are shrill. Second, I don't think most of us are combative enough. Third, what I think most of us want is a better society, not power for power's sake.

Not Power?

Not thinking you need "power" to lead your agenda?

I think that "power" is EXACTLY what is needed to lead ANY agenda in our political system. The fact that one side has more power currently in that respect means that they have done a good job of securing it. The fact that some other "power" doesn't have that means that they have not done a good job of presenting their "side" effectively.

Argue it all you want. That is what the deal is. Simple? You bet. True? Youbetcha.


You bet, it's all about power. And Progressives have very little in this state and the right wingers have very little. Rhetoric doesn't necessarily gain power - if it did Americans For Prosperity would have a boat load. Power in this state resides in the big banks - what's left of them - and a declining self serving power base of big business and politicians who benefit from playing the game. Good government and providing educational opportunities and the potential for achieving the American dream of providing for yourself and your family will not take place in this state until those out of power recognize the necessity for working together where possible and respectfully disagreeing when necessary.

Second verse, same as the first

and the right wingers have very little

If I say right wingers have little power, then those in power must not be right wing, eh?

Let's make this simple:

Defining the debate is a demonstration of power and privilege.

There was actually a debate rehashed in the MSM about whether the state actually had a deficit of more than $1 billion this year. Really. The crazy right wingers have power. It's not progressives that give such lunacy a platform.

I reject your assertion that progressives should join reactionaries in an attempt to create a power vacuum for one or the other to fill.

I don't believe you are naive enough to think such an alliance is plausible or stable.

I do believe you are duplicitous in making the suggestion, so as to strengthen a more reactionary grip on power.

So, no thanks.


Slightly off topic, yet withing the realm of reason

I hope.

I've been looking very closely at candidates for elected office over the past few election cycles and I find myself drawn towards those that were not born with a silver spoon in their mouth.

Those candidates cause me to stop and wonder if the fact that they have lived as an average American citizen and have also had to make the day-to-day decisions as to how they will work towards making things better for their family and their community, would they then understand? Understand what makes sense in the way of policy? Understand what makes sense in the way of actually making things better for the average American citizen?

What are your thoughts?

North Carolina. Turning the South Blue!

I feel much the same. It was what drew me to John Edwards

and we all know how that turned out. I've come to believe that politics ends up corrupting many elected officials...regardless of their background....when they make a career of it. Seems like most don't know how to do anything else...or would never earn what they earn in politics...so they end up doing whatever they have to do to stay. Term Limits is one answer.

Stan Bozarth

Not off topic at all

America has a long history of aristocracy, with wealthy dynasties controlling far too much of public policy, as they manipulate the masses, tossing money from atop their pillars of self-interest. The US Senate is a millionaires club, familiar ground to the likes of Kay Hagan.

Even worse is the buying and selling of influence in elections and public policy, which Mr. Pope has raised to an art form. By the luck of having been born to the manor, he has been able to throw his daddy's money into the mix to help perpetuate a society that reflects his own perverted vision. His own businesses, Variety Wholesalers, are a mirror of that vision. He sells cheap goods to the poorest among us, profiting from their patronage, then using those profits to promote shredding public services that might help them escape their downward spirals. I've been told Pope's heart is in the right place, that he means well, just like people said George Bush's heart was in the right place. You know what they say about the road to hell and good intentions.

My heart is in the right place, then

Wanting what is best for my family first seems to be the number one reason to get up in the morning and actually go bustin' ass to make things better if I can.

Wanting that for everyone else, without them having to bust ass JUST to survive is important.

Many do NOT survive because even though they get up early and bust ass all day, they do not have the means through their jobs to accumulate enough resources to pay for, oh, health care or maybe something as obvious as three nutritional meals a day.

Their hearts are black. Profit over pain is not a virtue.

North Carolina. Turning the South Blue!

Nicely said, Funluvn

Many do NOT survive because even though they get up early and bust ass all day, they do not have the means through their jobs to accumulate enough resources to pay for, oh, health care or maybe something as obvious as three nutritional meals a day.