In an Oct. 6 letter to the editor “The voters spoke,” leading Republican donor and North Carolina budget director Art Pope claimed that he and his company, discount retail chain Variety Wholesalers, “have never given money to super PACs.” In fact, Pope and his company have contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to outside spending groups seeking to influence state elections.
The only reason Pope can get away with claiming conservative political advocacy groups like Real Jobs NC – which he co-founded and to which his company has donated generously – don’t meet the definition of “super PACs” is because they do not blatantly say “vote for this guy” or “vote against that guy.” But they have sponsored nasty, misleading ads with the same result: discrediting politicians Pope doesn’t like while boosting the chances of those he does.
As Bob Hall of the watchdog group Democracy North Carolina has said, Pope seems to be drawing a “distinction without a difference.”
And while Pope plays word games, the U.S. Supreme Court is considering loosening campaign-finance rules to give wealthy donors like him even more influence over our political system.
Editorial Director, Institute for Southern Studies