Voters in Wake County, N.C. have shifted political power on the local school board, ending a Republican majority backed by leading conservative benefactor Art Pope that worked to end the system's nationally recognized desegregation policy.
North Carolina multimillionaire Art Pope and his groups are often called "libertarian" in their political outlook. But Pope has veered from the views of most libertarians on at least one key issue: gay marriage.
Pope's family foundation has steered nearly $1 million into leading anti-gay marriage organizations, including $860,000 into a North Carolina group leading the push to amend the state's constitution to prohibit gay marriage.
Just when you thought the 2012 presidential race couldn't get any stranger, along comes this video clip from today's Americans for Prosperity conference in Washington, D.C. Featured speaker and White House hopeful Herman Cain, in an apparent reference to recent reports that AFP and its backers the Koch brothers were critical to launching his political career, responded with a quip that removes any doubt about Cain's association. Check it out after the fold.
In North Carolina, Art Pope's money reigns. No other millionaire benefactor orchestrates a political network and electoral machine like Pope does in the state. In response, elections watchdog Democracy North Carolina has launched a petition campaign calling on Pope to stop the flood of corporate money in politics.
Oil, gas and coal companies are stepping up attacks on scientists who support the growing consensus about climate change. Their new strategy: Lawsuits demanding that climate scholars at public universities divulge their emails, research and other documents. A new investigation at Facing South finds that the crusade is heavily backed by energy interests and right-wing donors like Art Pope, who launched the career of a climate denial leader.
Earlier this month, Art Pope's political machine was dealt a blow when two Pope-backed candidates for the Wake County, N.C. school board were defeated. Heather Losurdo, a third candidate supported by Pope's network, trailed but was able to force a run-off in November, which has led Pope's group Civitas Action to unleash phone calls attacking Losurdo's Democratic opponent, Kevin Hill. Bob Geary of The Independent Weekly reports.
In Wake County, N.C. this week, Education Secretary Arne Duncan touched in the contentious local school board race that has garnered national attention and will be decided in a run-off on November 8.
Earlier this month, Pope's network suffered a setback when four Democrats who support the district's diversity policy won outright -- even defeating current board chair Ron Margiotta, a leader in promoting more demographically homogenous neighborhood schools. Now the race, and the future of the county's school system, comes down to one final race.
After three weeks of national media attention about his efforts to buy political influence in North Carolina and beyond, Art Pope is fighting back. In letters to the Raleigh News & Observer and National Review, Pope says he has become the target of "false" and "hypocritcal" attacks, a failed political assassination attempt.
Pope's response boils down to one central argument: Pope says he is only spending tens of millions of dollars to influence North Carolina politics because everybody else is doing it, too. Several in the media have echoed Pope's claim, pointing to hypothetical and potentially real Big Money equivalents for Democrats and progressives in North Carolina.
But in reality, there are at least three reasons why Pope's network is unique and worthy of special scrutiny.
In response to Occupy Wall Street protests in Raleigh, North Carolina powerbroker Art Pope insisted he's not one of the top "1%" that have been targeted by demonstrators. But the amount that Pope's household and private business spent on North Carolina's 2010 elections alone -- more than $710,000 -- is more than enough to make Pope one of the nation's richest people.
Over the past week, Pope was the focus of many signs and chants at protests in Raleigh and Durham (the photo to the left is from Occupy Raleigh on October 15). But when he was asked by a local NBC affiliate if he was part of the wealthiest one percent, Pope answered "I don't think so."
The Associated Press has a big story this week about Tea Party presidential favorite Herman Cain and the role of the right-wing group Americans for Prosperity in his political rise.
As usual, billionaire energy tycoons Charles and David Koch get most of the credit -- and infamy -- for bankrolling AFP and boosting Cain's political career. But North Carolina's Art Pope must be wondering: Can I get some props here?