Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The Tyrant King of North Carolina

In the election of 2010 the Republican Party gained a majority in both house of the North Carolina State Legislature for the first time since 1870. Even with the rising wave of Tea-Party activism that year, this was considered a surprise by most observers. In an outstanding new article in the New Yorker magazine, Jane Mayer reveals the disturbing role that one NC businessman, Art Pope, played in influencing the results of this election.

Using the loopholes in campaign spending created by the Citizens United Supreme Court decision of January 2010, Mr. Pope, whose family owns the Variety Wholesalers group of discount store chains, used his business fortune to pour vast amounts of money, through several "non-partisan" groups, to influence the state house elections and get his hand-picked group of extremist right-wing Republican candidates elected. The result has been a string of proposed legislation that will, among other things, shorten the period for early voting, eliminate early voting on Sundays, and require photo ID to vote in NC--all of which will disproportionately affect young, poor, and minority voters. The Republicans have also passed anti-environmental legislation, and have proposed a constitutional amendment outlawing gay marriage. Perhaps even more importantly, the Republican takeover of the NC state government allowed the GOP to dominate the process of redrawing Congressional district lines after the 2010 census. Governor Beverly Perdue, a Democrat elected in 2008, has courageously opposed the Republicans and has vetoed many of the bills that have been passed, but unfortunately most of her vetoes have been overridden.

The influence of Mr. Pope on NC politics has been compared to that of the Koch Brothers. One Democratic official quoted in the New Yorker article says
In a very real sense, Democrats running for office in North Carolina are always running against Art Pope. The Republican agenda in North Carolina is really Art Pope’s agenda. He sets it, he funds it, and he directs the efforts to achieve it. The candidates are just fronting for him. There are so many people in North Carolina beholden to Art Pope—it undermines the democratic process.
This is the tragedy of the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision, that it allows one extremely wealthy individual to exercise so much power in government simply by being willing to spend vast amounts of money. It would be just as wrong (although much less likely) if that individual was a liberal spending the money on getting Democratic candidates elected. And unfortunately this will keep happening until that decision is overturned by a future Supreme Court decision.

In the meantime, if you live in the southeast or mid-Atlantic region of the United States, please go to this website, look at the list of discount store chains on the right hand side of the page, which are owned by Art Pope's family, and please do not spend one cent of your money at any of those stores.

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