Jan. 29. 2014 By Jack Jodell.
Oligarch: A very rich businessman with a great deal of political influence.
With this post, I begin a new intermittent series designed to spotlight the very sordid attempts by certain individuals and/or institutions to dominate the American political and economic system so as to ensure that our country’s poor and middle class are effectively shut out of power. These persons or groups aim to secure real political and economic control only for themselves, as members of the wealthiest 1% minority of this nation. They are, therefore, the enemies of all poor or hardworking Americans who are within the 99% MAJORITY. Thus they are, by the very nature of who they are and what they do, DANGEROUS FOES OF DEMOCRACY! The first subject of this series shall begin with wealthy North Carolina business tycoon ART POPE.
James Arthur “Art” Pope was born in 1956 into a prosperous North Carolina family which owns the discount retail chain Variety Wholesalers, Inc., This chain owns over 440 retail stores (among which are the Roses and Maxway stores) operating throughout the southeast. Pope majored in Political Science and also attained a Law degree, and eventually settled in to the family business, serving as their general counsel and in several other capacities as well, eventually becoming president, CEO, and Chairman of the Board. His father founded the John William Pope Foundation in 1930, and son Art has also served as president and chairman of that as well. This foundation has been supportive of conservative political, social, and economic causes for many years.
Like his counterparts the notorious Koch Brothers, Art Pope inherited vast wealth and has increased it over the years. He, like they, also spent time in the government-hating Libertarian Party before settling into the new, far-right reactionary Tea Party-infested Republican Party. Over a great many years, Pope has invested millions in far0right think tanks and many other far-right foundations, all of which have been strong advocates of free market philosophies. Pope has even donated heavily to groups like the Koch-backed Americans for Prosperity. Whether it has been anti-tax, anti-regulation, or anti-labor activism, these far-right groups have always found an eager and willing generous donor in Art Pope!
Many wealthy primarily white North Carolinians grew alarmed with the election of a black Democratic president in 2008 and the election of a Democratic Senator. They were also greatly upset with the appearance of huge numbers of newly-registered African-American voters, most of whom vote Democratic. Art Pope was no exception here. He began to selectively target his state’s purple districts, investing very heavily in conservative Republican and reactionary Tea Party candidates in each of them. With this shrewd manoeuver and boatloads of cash, in 4 years time, Pope almost single-handedly converted North Carolina from a purplish state into one that was solidly red. He even became Deputy Budget Director in 2013 for newly-elected far-right reactionary governor Pat McCrory. These newly-elected reactionary Republicans wasted little time in solidifying their absolute control over the state: they immediately redrew districts so as to confine minorities and left-leaning voters in three bizarre districts, leaving the rest of the state to be overwhelmingly Republican dominated for a great many years to come. They also instituted the most restrictive laws dealing with women’s reproductive rights in the entire country. To ensure that left-leaning voters would forever be shut out of North Carolina politics, they also severely restricted student and minority voting by eliminating early voting opportunities. These actions had nothing to do with fairness or increasing voter participation. Instead, they had the chilling effect of disenfranchising a HUGE number of potential Democratic voters. Pope and his rabid like-minded associates had effectively turned North Carolina into a one-party state, and that is certainly NOT democracy in action!
The horribly wrong Extreme Court Citizens United 2010 decision which declared that money is free speech (when it most certainly is NOT) has opened the floodgates to wholly unregulated corporate campaign contributions, and has permitted wealthy individuals like Art Pope to effectively buy politicians outright and swing elections to their favor. It has allowed sneaky billionaires like the Koch Brothers and Art Pope to hide behind their foundations and lobbying groups and funnel millions of dollars to candidates who favor their position. This creates an unfair advantage for members of the 1% and eliminates any leverage that poor or working Americans may once have had. These oligarchs love to claim they are for free enterprise and free markets, but in reality, all they actually want is to dominate and control our economic, social, and governmental institutions in a brazen attempt to squeeze as much money and power as they can for themselves, and to hell with everybody else. These are dangerous foes of democracy, and we progressives must block and thwart their every move so as to ensure that fairness and egalitarianism will ultimately prevail. We must unceasingly work to get money out of politics altogether and elect solid progressive-minded candidates for at the very least the next 3 or 4 elections to realize that goal! Democracy is NOT a spectator sport – get in there, get active, roll up your sleeves, and let’s get to work to get rid of the plethora of bought-out corporate toadies we now have in government who are wasting YOUR tax dollars by passing legislation which only benefits the very wealthy! Join the MORAL MONDAY MARCH on February 8 as it targets Art Pope in his back yard of Raleigh, NC!