Raleigh – Republicans are already polluting the new redistricting process. Days after Phil Berger claimed Republicans are ready to “put this divisive battle behind us,” N.C. Republicans proposed “conservative millionaire,” “Knight of the Right,” and GOP gerrymandering bankroller Art Pope as a “co-referee” for the legislative redistricting process and Republican attorneys sent “reams of data” to legislators that included partisan scores for each of the maps they’re discussing.
Pope played a critical role in funding Republicans’ 2010 gerrymandering program and gave “direct instructions” to the technicians who drew the 2011 maps. He’s the preeminent Republican dark-money backer in North Carolina and by 2014 he had “put more than $55 million into a robust network of conservative think tanks and advocacy groups, building a state version of what his friends Charles and David Koch have helped create on a national level.” That influx of cash and support from Pope and his various organizations was critical to Republican’s effort to pass extreme, unconstitutional partisan gerrymanders that silenced North Carolina voters.
Trust in the Republican legislature is low – “nearly a decade of lawsuits, multiple maps thrown out over gerrymanders and evidence unearthed as part of this trial that Republicans may have lied to the court in a previous case” has eroded it. And now, Republicans have shared prohibited partisan data and proposed that Art Pope, a man who has dedicated much of his life and money to establishing and protecting an unconstitutionally entrenched Republican legislature, should have power to review the new maps. New day, same GOP antics.
New Yorker: State for Sale
By Jane Meyer
In the spring of 2010, the conservative political strategist Ed Gillespie flew from Washington, D.C., to Raleigh, North Carolina, to spend a day laying the groundwork for redmap, a new project aimed at engineering a Republican takeover of state legislatures. Gillespie hoped to help his party get control of statehouses where congressional redistricting was pending, thereby leveraging victories in cheap local races into a means of shifting the balance of power in Washington. It was an ingenious plan, and Gillespie is a skilled tactician—he once ran the Republican National Committee—but redmap seemed like a long shot in North Carolina. Barack Obama carried the state in 2008 and remained popular. The Republicans hadn’t controlled both houses of the North Carolina General Assembly for more than a century. (“Not since General Sherman,” a state politico joked to me.) That day in Raleigh, though, Gillespie had lunch with an ideal ally: James Arthur (Art) Pope, the chairman and C.E.O. of Variety Wholesalers, a discount-store conglomerate. The Raleigh News and Observer had called Pope, a conservative multimillionaire, the Knight of the Right. The redmapproject offered Pope a new way to spend his money.
For years, Pope, like several other farsighted conservative corporate activists, has been spending millions in an attempt to change the direction of American politics. According to an analysis of tax records by Democracy NC, a progressive government watchdog group, in the past decade Pope, his family, his family foundation, and his business have spent more than forty million dollars in this effort. Sizable as Pope’s contributions have been, they are negligible in comparison with his fortune. The Pope family foundation—of which Art Pope is the chairman and president, and one of four directors—reportedly has assets of nearly a hundred and fifty million dollars.
This wealth has enabled Pope to participate in the public arena on a scale that few individuals can match. Some have compared him to Charles and David Koch, the conservative oil-and-chemical magnates, whom Pope regards as friends;