Pope aided Koch brothers, but by how much?

September 8, 2011 

Raleigh businessman Art Pope is among corporate executives and philanthropists who have given at least $1 million to conservative causes headed by the billionaire Koch brothers, according to POLITICO, the online political newsletter.

POLITICO reported that Charles and David Koch hold retreats twice a year to court donations for conservative and libertarian causes. Mother Jones magazine obtained an audio recording from the June retreat near Vail, Colo., in which Charles Koch thanks a list of donors who have given $1 million or more.

Among those who were thanked were Pope and his wife, Kathy. Pope, who heads a retail business, is a former state legislator and GOP nominee for lieutenant governor. He has been the key figure for funding a network of conservative organizations in North Carolina as well as helping bankroll Republican campaigns.

Pope said Wednesday that the Pope Foundation had contributed during the past year "several hundred thousand dollars," but less than $1 million, to Americans for Prosperity. That's the national conservative organization the Koch brothers were instrumental in founding. Pope serves on the national board of directors of the organization.

Pope said he did not attend the meeting in Colorado and has not personally donated any money.

Other donors thanked by Koch included Rich DeVos, who co-founded Amway; Charles Schwab, founder of the largest U.S. independent brokerage firm; John "Jack" Templeton Jr., who heads the conservative evangelical Christian Jack Templeton Foundation; and hedge fund billionaire Paul Singer of Elliot Management.

Amendments to the max

Three constitutional amendments. Three days max.

That's how state Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger sees it anyway. Berger said Wednesday that he thinks next week's session, which begins Monday, will find lawmakers voting on amendments to ban same-sex marriage, place term limits on the House speaker and Senate president pro tempore, and reorganize the State Board of Education.

But there's always room for a surprise or two.

Ads back amendment ...

A conservative political group launched radio advertisements Wednesday targeting a dozen North Carolina lawmakers on the same-sex marriage constitutional amendment.

"Marriage is at risk in our state," the ads state. "Our laws defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman could be overturned. Marriage between one man and one woman benefits families in society so we must preserve the marriage laws in our state constitution."

The political advocacy arm of the Family Research Council is spending $5,000 to $10,000 on the one-minute spots that run through Monday on 20 local talk radio and religious stations. They ask listeners to call their lawmakers and attend a rally Monday at the Legislative Building to fight "powerful voices ... threatening your right to vote on marriage."

"We targeted a handful of (legislators) that need the most reminding" about the values of their constituency, said Tom McCluskey, a vice president with FRC Action.

A majority of the lawmakers (11 representatives and one senator) are black Democrats, though Republican Reps. Chuck McGrady and Glen Bradley are also targets.

For ads targeting the white lawmakers, a woman reads the script. For the black lawmakers, black Raleigh Pastor Patrick L. Wooden Sr. of Upper Room Church of God in Christ sounds the "alert."

In addition to McGrady and Bradley, the lawmakers spotlighted are: Reps. Michael Wray, Winkie Wilkins, Annie Mobley, Garland Pierce, Elmer Floyd, Larry Bell, Charles Graham, Earline Parmon and Jim Crawford; and Sen. Eric Mansfield.

... but most in N.C. don't

A new poll from Public Policy Polling shows a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage in North Carolina would fail if the vote were held today.

The survey found that the amendment garners only 30 percent support, with 55 percent of voters opposed. Democrats and independent voters oppose the amendment, and even 47 percent of Republicans, a plurality, don't think it's necessary.

Not that the state is changing its view about the current law banning same-sex marriage. About 61 percent want to keep it illegal, and only 31 percent want to repeal the law.

The Democratic polling company's survey has a margin of sampling error of 4.3 percentage points.

rchristensen@newsobserver.com or 919-829-4532

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