NPR's Fresh Air on Pope's political network

NPRTerryGross.jpgToday on NPR's radio show Fresh Air, host Terry Gross interviews New Yorker reporter Jane Mayer about her widely-circulated story on Art Pope's political network in North Carolina.

Gross focuses on a piece of Mayer's story -- originally featured in an analysis by Facing South, online publication of the Institute for Southern Studies -- that hasn't gotten as much attention: The REDMAP strategy Republicans used in 2010 to funnel special interest money to win state legislatures, putting them in charge of redistricting and other electoral decisions that would strengthen the GOP nationally for years to come.

As Mayer says on the Fresh Air segment:

"The thinking behind it, which was very ingenious, was that state legislative races are cheap, and if you can just put a bit of money into them and flip the statehouse, then you can control the redistricting process, which in turn gives the Republican Party a great advantage in putting members of Congress in the House of Representatives. And most people don't pay a lot of attention to what's going on in the states. ... But it's kind of ground zero for where politics is playing out."

REDMAP was coordinated by the Republican State Leadership Committee, raised tens of millions of dollars to win over state legislatures on the conviction that, as their website read, "The party controlling [the redistricting] effort controls the drawing of the maps -- shaping the political landscape for the next 10 years."

Art Pope's privately-held retail chain, Variety Wholesalers, poured $36,500 into the RSLC in 2010. RSLC more than repaid the favor, funneling $1.25 million back into an independent group, Real Jobs NC -- a so-called 527 organization -- that Pope was instrumental in backing. n 2010, the RSLC also hired Raleigh, N.C.-based Michael Luethy as their regional political director, who worked for the North Carolina Republican Party through December 2009.

Listen to audio of Terry Gross' interview with Jane Mayer of The New Yorker here.

Real Jobs NC was one of the three Pope-connected groups that would help fuel the Republicans' historic takeover of the North Carolina legislature in 2010. It pumped more than $1.5 million into 19 targeted state house and senate races. Art Pope and his family members also backed all but four of the GOP candidates targeted by Real Jobs NC. Repubicans won 16 of the 19 races.

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