There is no one in North Carolina, or likely in all of American politics, quite like Art Pope. He is not just a wealthy donor seeking to influence politics from the outside, nor just a government official shaping it from within. He is doing both at the same time — the culmination of a quarter-And shockingly,as seen in Kansas, trickle-down economics works just as poorly at the state level as it does at the federal level:
century spent building a sphere of influence that has put him at the epicenter of North Carolina government and moved his state closer to the conservative vision he has long imagined.
“There are not many people as influential, because few people have invested the time and the money that he has on behalf of his state,” said Republican former governor James G. Martin, who tapped Pope, then 28, to be a lawyer in his administration in the 1980s.
From the outside, Pope’s family foundation has put more than $55 million into a robust network of conservative think tanks and advocacy groups, building a state version of what his friends Charles and David Koch have helped create on a national level.
On the inside, the budget director and his GOP allies — who took over the legislature in 2010 and the governor’s mansion two years later with the backing of Pope and other big donors — have passed numerous laws overhauling taxes, social services and voting rights.
McCrory has also eliminated a public financing program for judicial races — opening those contests to greater influence by wealthy donors — and has sought to cut funding for the state’s university system. Both are pet causes of Pope’s.
For all of his pull, the revolution Pope helped set in motion is not going quite as planned. The tax overhaul, styled in part off ideas promoted by Pope-backed groups, has contributed to tight finances in North Carolina at a time when other states are flush with cash. Cuts to education have spawned widespread discontent among parents and teachers.Conservative governance is best left to counterfactual arguments. Real-life hates trickle-down bullshit.
And what was supposed to be a brief legislative session this spring to approve a new budget broke down into a contentious power struggle between the newly ascendant Republican officials, with powerful Senate leaders squaring off against McCrory and his allies in the House. Relations grew so fraught that at one point Senate leaders threatened to subpoena Pope to answer questions about contradictory budget projections.