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State for Sale-How GOP's took North Carolina (1203 hits)

Here is an article about how one man’s money flipped an entire state’s legislature from one party to another.

Conservative multimillionaire has taken control in North Carolina, one of 2012’s top democratic battlegrounds.
by Jane Mayer October 10, 2011

“In a very real sense, Democrats running for office in North Carolina are running against Art Pope,” one political operative says.

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 REDMAP project offered Pope a new way to spend his money.

That fall, in the remote western corner of the state, John Snow, a retired Democratic judge who had represented the district in the State Senate for three terms, found himself subjected to one political attack after another. Snow, who often voted with the Republicans, was considered one of the most conservative Democrats in the General Assembly, and his record reflected the views of his constituents. His Republican opponent, Jim Davis—an orthodontist loosely allied with the Tea Party—had minimal political experience, and Snow, a former college football star, was expected to be reëlected easily. Yet somehow Davis seemed to have almost unlimited money with which to assail Snow.

Snow recalls, “I voted to help build a pier with an aquarium on the coast, as did every other member of the North Carolina House and Senate who voted.” But a television attack ad presented the “luxury pier” as Snow’s wasteful scheme. “We’ve lost jobs,” an actress said in the ad. “John Snow’s solution for our economy? ‘Go fish!’ ” A mass mailing, decorated with a cartoon pig, denounced the pier as one of Snow’s “pork projects.” It criticized Snow for “wasting our tax dollars,” citing his vote to “spend $218,000 on a Shakespeare festival,” but failing to note that this sum represented a budget cut for the program, which had been funded by the legislature since 1999.

In all, Snow says, he was the target of two dozen mass mailings, one of them reminiscent of the Willie Horton ad that became notorious during the 1988 Presidential campaign. It featured a photograph of Henry Lee McCollum, a menacing-looking African-American convict on death row, who, along with three other men, raped and murdered an eleven-year-old girl. After describing McCollum’s crimes in lurid detail, the mailing noted, “Thanks to arrogant State Senator John Snow, McCollum could soon be let off of death row.” Snow, in fact, supported the death penalty and had prosecuted murder cases. But, in 2009, he had helped pass a new state law, the Racial Justice Act, that enabled judges to reconsider a death sentence if a convict could prove that the jury’s verdict had been tainted by racism. The law was an attempt to address the overwhelming racial disparity in capital sentences.

“The attacks just went on and on,” Snow told me recently. “My opponents used fear tactics. I’m a moderate, but they tried to make me look liberal.” On Election Night, he lost by an agonizingly slim margin—fewer than two hundred votes.

After the election, the North Carolina Free Enterprise Foundation, a nonpartisan, pro-business organization, revealed that two seemingly independent political groups had spent several hundred thousand dollars on ads against Snow—a huge amount in a poor, backwoods district. Art Pope was instrumental in funding and creating both groups, Real Jobs NC and Civitas Action. Real Jobs NC was responsible for the “Go fish!” ad and the mass mailing that attacked Snow’s “pork projects.” The racially charged ad was produced by the North Carolina Republican Party, and Pope says that he was not involved in its creation. But Pope and three members of his family gave the Davis campaign a four-thousand-dollar check each—the maximum individual donation allowed by state law.

Snow, whose defeat was first chronicled by the Institute for Southern Studies, a progressive nonprofit organization, told me, “It’s getting to the point where, in politics, money is the most important thing. They spent nearly a million dollars to win that seat. A lot of it was from corporations and outside groups related to Art Pope. He was their sugar daddy.”

Bob Phillips, the head of the North Carolina chapter of Common Cause, an organization that promotes campaign-finance reform, said that Snow’s loss signals a troubling trend in American politics. “John Snow raised a significant amount of money,” he said. “But it was exceeded by what outside groups spent in that race, mostly on commercials against John Snow.” Such lopsided campaigns will likely become more common, thanks to the Supreme Court, which, in a controversial ruling in January, 2010, struck down limits on corporate campaign spending. For the first time in more than a century, businesses and unions can spend unlimited sums to express support or opposition to candidates.

Phillips argues that the Court’s decision, in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, has been a “game changer,” especially in the realm of state politics. In swing states like North Carolina—which the Democrats consider so important that they have scheduled their 2012 National Convention there—an individual donor, particularly one with access to corporate funds, can play a significant, and sometimes decisive, role. “We didn’t have that before 2010,” Phillips says. “Citizens United opened up the door. Now a candidate can literally be outspent by independent groups. We saw it in North Carolina, and a lot of the money was traced back to Art Pope.”

Posted By: anita moore
Thursday, October 13th 2011 at 10:43AM
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I don't know sis. With what Art Pope did with his nasty, lying, vicious attacks, he got a republican in that office, and with the courts allowing all unlimited monies to be contributed to each political party, we just don't know how the tides will turn. We have to be diligent and stay on top and not let our guards down, like it was done with the tea party. Hopefully people will see what they were all about and won't fall for the old okey doke again!
Thursday, October 13th 2011 at 12:41PM
anita moore
Oh sis, I have no doubt that me and mines will be OK. I work towards that goal each and every day. As long as I live and with God's guiding force, I know it will be OK.
My concern is for my people. They have been down and out for too long and until they open their eyes, I don't see the tables turning, even though hope is on the horizon.
Thursday, October 13th 2011 at 1:26PM
anita moore
Not to worry ...they have never been able to hang enough of us in N.C...burn DOWN enough of our towns, to stop us from fighting against our oppressors for anyone to worry about our not coming through in fighting and succeeding against tHis lastest effort to stop our fight to survive any and all like this they can throw at us in N.C. LOL (S-M-I-L-E)
Thursday, April 10th 2014 at 6:47PM
lOV, LIFE is an on going learning by trial and error experiences. but, we tend to forget history's lessons so when we do, we as that famous saying goes...

"THOSE WHO FORGET HISTORY ARE DOOMED TO REPEAT IT"

"WHAT IS OlD IS NEW AGAIN"

"short term pleasure for long term pain" and so on and so forth. lol ..things will be alright in the long run, please trust those who have been there, done that (smile)
Thursday, April 10th 2014 at 6:47PM
...plus you know me in our BIA history...

N.C. WILL NEVER AGAIN ALLOW THEMSELVES TO be dooped ever again,example look at this state' governor's record...tis has a lot to do with our people's attitude after waking up to the fact that they were about to elect a Black man to represent our state in the senate in D.C....

that is until they brought in to convince our people to do tis and not vote for a white right-wing republican and guess wh othey brought in as the proof of they should do this...

THEY BROUGHT IN THE FIRST BLACK MALE TO FORCE OUR GOVERNMENT TO ACTIVATE BVBOFE...BURGESS M.!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!ONLY IN AMERICA(NUP)

YES, I STILL DON'T FOLLOW THESE KINDS OF ORDERS AND STILL ACCEPT ***** AS A PART OF OUR SURVIVAL KIT. (SMILE)
Thursday, April 10th 2014 at 6:47PM
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