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?
In an interview with Lindsay Beyerstein with the Sidney Hillman Foundation, Jane Mayer -- author of the recent New Yorker profile of Art Pope -- talks about the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision, Pope's alliance with the billionaire Koch brothers from Kansas and Pope's personal, often contradictory, political philosophy.
Voters in Wake County, N.C. headed to the polls yesterday in high numbers to reject a slate of conservative Republican Board of Education candidates who opposed a longstanding diversity policy aimed at avoiding high-poverty and racially-isolated schools.
The big win for Democrats and desegregation represents a big loss for conservative benefactor Art Pope, who served as the architect of the 2009 school board election that saw an anti-diversity Republican majority win control of the officially nonpartisan body, and who along with his political network backed yesterday's losing candidates.
Writer Jane Mayer follows up on her widely-circulated profile of Art Pope in The New Yorker with a blog post pointing to a seeming contradiction in Pope's political philosophy. The North Carolina right-wing powerbroker, in line with his anti-government philosophy, is big on preaching self-reliance and castigating others for "dependence."
But when Pope needed help to run for office in 1992, staunch individualism and an Ayn Rand fetish didn't stop him from taking $330,000 worth of campaign loans -- more than $530,000 in today's dollars, never repaid -- so he could run for office. What's more, Pope's network is now trying to abolish a state program that makes running for office more affordable in North Carolina.
North Carolina's most politically powerful unelected individual, Art Pope has spent tens of millions of dollars pushing the state to the right. Where does his money come from, where does it go and what impact is it having? Art Pope Exposed runs the numbers.
The national buzz continues about North Carolina's GOP powerbroker Art Pope, with Jane Mayer's widely-circulated profile leading to high-profile coverage by Rachel Maddow, NPR's "Fresh Air" and other leading magazines.
One question we've been asked: Just how much money did Pope's network spend, and how did they spend it, in the 2010 Republican capture of North Carolina's legislature? Mayer's piece, citing the Institute for Southern Studies, says Pope's network targeted 22 races, of which Republicans won 18. In a local TV interview, Pope insisted that he only backed 19, and his money had nothing to do with the GOP's victories. What's going on here?
Not everyone is happy with the national buzz surrounding North Carolina's Art Pope this week. Take the CATO Institute, for example: David Boaz of the libertarian D.C. think tank has risen to the defense of the North Carolina power broker, claiming "I think Art Pope has a right to use his money to support candidates he favors."
But one would scarcely know from Boaz's missive that Pope also uses his money to generously support the right-wing think tanks he favors -- like the CATO Institute.