By Nicholas Biondo

James Arthur “Art Pope, has become synonymous with North Carolina politics. It all started back in 2010, when he and former RNC chair Ed Gillespie, met in Raleigh ahead of the 2010 midterm elections. At that time, Ed was working for RedMap, the firm designed to create GOP takeovers of state legislatures and to take control of the House of Representatives from the Democrats. New Yorker magazine quoted a republican operative as saying “we haven’t had control of all three branches of government since General Sherman” he said jokingly. That fall, in a remote western corner of the state, John Snow, a Democratic judge, a conservative democrat, would fall to a loosely based Tea Party GOP candidate, Jim Davis, by an astonishingly slim margin, less than 200 votes. This began the GOP wave inside North Carolina. Of the 22 legislative seats Pope and his family targeted, 18 went to Republicans, all affiliated with the Variety Wholesalers LLC baron.

The retail magnate, since 2010, has ascended to becoming budget director under then-GOP governor Pat McCrory. He’s one of the most lavish donors to his alma mater, UNC. However, he is also one of the staunchest critics of public education. It’s come to the point that UNC, when requesting more funding, Pope has funded think tanks within the state that attack UNC, as being a wasteful bastion of political correctness. When they happened to ask for more money this time around, they did it as he was the budget director. Within the state, yet alone, the country, there isn’t anyone who is more influential as Art Pope. He’s helped turn this state that went for President Obama back into the GOP’s column. He’s also transform the landscape in the state. It doesn’t matter how much money you spend, Art Pope and his cronies will find a way to outspend you.

With no remaining checks left on the kind of power the Republicans control, they’ve been able to eat away the fabric of what democracy looks like. Voter ID laws, Gerrymandering, elimination of same-day registration, these are just some of the laws the GOP has been able to ram through. They’ve also been able to shut down abortion clinics, the so-called “hospital standards” clause, the GOP also has implemented a “Reverse Robin Hood” bill, this bill raises taxes on the middle class and poor, while cutting taxes on the rich by as much as $25k per person. They’ve also been able to pass “Anti Worker Constitutional Amendment,” a so-called right-to-work law that has in essence cut Union and non-union wages by $1,500 a year. Nevertheless, 34 Republican lawmakers (and one Democrat lawmaker, yes this can happen too), sponsored this state constitutional amendment that would strip workers of their rights and tie this into the state constitution. Who has helped promote these ideas while holding public office? Art Pope!

As North Carolina reels from HB2, namely the “Bathroom Bill,” a law hurriedly jammed through the legislature during a March 2016 special session, the money leads back to Art Pope. This man, James Arthur “Art” Pope, CEO and chairman of Variety Wholesalers LLC and former NC Budget Director, has his tentacles all through the state. From attacking public education, meeting Ed Gillespie, former RNC chair and co architect of the GOP takeover of state legislatures, Governorships, and US House of Representatives, Pope has overseen a complete transformation of the way the GOP operates in a state, especially one that has a burgeoning Latino and African-American population. Pope, is neither supporting or opposing this law, however his donations and where the money is allocated, says otherwise. Americans for prosperity, a Koch Brothers backed Super-PAC, has received $285k from Pope, along with over $202k to Civitas Action, and of course his own think tank, the John Locke Foundation. To know who Art Pope is, you must peel back the layers and dig deeper into how this man thinks. Of that $285k donation to AFP, this helped fund and elect 11 Republican lawmakers who voted for HB2’s passage.

For all of this, I for one, am shocked to see how far this man went to seize power. For then-Governor Pat McCrory to appoint this man as budget director with all this baggage, I’m not surprised. Where the money talks, people follow. In the state of North Carolina, this shows how far one man has gone to change the state makeup from one of a more purple state to one of a backwards leaning state, throwing everyone back 50 years to when Jim Crow laws were on the books. I feel so bad for the people that are brainwashed by Art Pope, he’s truly subverting democracy to line his own pockets, and for him to build more Variety Wholesaler retail stores, more than the 385 he currently operates in the 15 southern states he’s in currently.


New Yorker Magazine online

Washington Post