Overlap between Pope groups and state government continues to grow

By: - February 13, 2014 3:08 pm

1-7-13-NCPW-CARTOONIt remains one of the great (and perplexing) hoodwink jobs of modern North Carolina politics: Despite story after story (many at the national level) documenting the ever-tightening web of connections between the policy and political groups funded by State Budget Director and conservative financier Art Pope and the government itself, Pope’s groups like the John Locke Foundation and the Pope-Civitas Institute continue to be referred to by numerous state news outlets simply as “conservative” groups or, on some occasions, with no ideological characterization at all. In many instances, this has even occurred when the groups are offering commentary on the budget policies developed by Pope himself!

Hopefully, at some point in the near future, the reality of the situation will simply become so blatant that the mainstream news media will have to wake up and start reporting the connections as a matter of course. Here are two more recent developments that ought to spur such a result:

#1 -This week, State Supreme Court Justice candidate Bob Hunter (a conservative Court of Appeals judge from Morehead City) sent out a fundraiser invitation for an April 10 shindig at Raleigh’s exclusive Carolina Country Club that is actually signed by Pope himself. This is from the letter:

“My friend Ben Ginsburg is coming to Raleigh on April 10th at 6 PM that evening. We are hosting a reception at the Carolina Country Club.  Ben is a conservative Republican and nationally recognized election law lawyer.  Ben has been legal counsel to the G.W. Bush and Romney campaigns as well as the Republican National Committee.  He will speak on the upcoming election and the prospects for 2016 for the nation, as well as here in North Carolina.

Ben is also sponsoring this event, and I will also be making the maximum contribution to Judge Hunter’s campaign. I hope you will join me in that effort.

Contribution tiers for the event (be held at the Carolina Country Club) are :

Host $2000
Co-host $1000
Sponsor $500
Attend $ 150

…[Signed] Art Pope

Item #2 is also a fundraiser — this one for the Locke Foundation. Next week, the group will have its 24th anniversary fundraiser. The event, which will feature Fox News talking head Chris Wallace, is sponsored by a bevy of corporate heavyweights  with lots of business before state government — including the “title sponsor,” tobacco giant Reynolds American.

Perhaps more interesting amongst the list of sponsors, however, is the “partner sponsor” — a corporation known as New Breed Logistics. If that sounds vaguely familiar, it should; it’s the corporation headed by Louis DeJoy — husband of state DHHS Secretary Aldona Wos. It’s also the company that allowed one of its execs (a guy named Joe Hauck) to join Wos’ team at DHHS under an expensive and controversial personal services contract.

Both of these new developments come on top of last week’s  report by Chris Fitzsimon that a new review of the state budget itself will be headed up by Pope and one of his staffers in the budget office — former Locke Foundation staffer, Joe Coletti.

The bottom line: The notion advanced by many concerned folks that Pope has effectively “bought” North Carolina’s state government in recent years may be a bit of an understatement. A more accurate characterization might be that he has simply merged it into his own private political/corporate empire.

Stay tuned. There is undoubtedly more news to come on this front.

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Rob Schofield
Rob Schofield

NC Newsline Editor Rob Schofield oversees day-to-day newsroom operations, authors and voices regular commentaries, and hosts the 'News & Views' weekly radio show/podcast.