Wednesday, October 5, 2011

NP Quarterly Takes a Swipe at Another Conservative Philanthropist

Got my Nonprofit Quarterly today and found an article entitled, "Art Pope, Bankroller of North Carolina's Republican Agenda, Tells All" by Jeff Cohen. I read it with interest, thinking to hear Mr. Pope's side of the issue. Instead I was directed to a New Yorker piece by Jane Mayer that did everything BUT give Mr. Pope's side of the issue.

Art Pope during his days as a NC Legislator
 Mr. Cohen meanwhile suggested the New Yorker piece would tell you what made Art Pope "tick". It doesn't. Mr. Cohen tried to sound fair, but he did manage to get in a couple of comparison's to the Koch Brothers and used perjorative words like "secretive" and "tea party" (at least tea party is perjorative to liberals, many of whom apparently subscribe to NPQ).  Interesting that Mr. Cohen never touches on the overwhelming contributions by individual liberal cause-funders, many of whom dwarf what conservatives like Pope or the Kochs spend.

In a story by Rob Christensen about Mr. Pope, Christensen quotes veteran Raleigh political analyst, John Davis. "The Democrats have always had the ability to win the close races because they outspend the Republicans 3-1, 4-1, 5-1. That disparity has been eliminated by the new independent expenditure laws," Davis said. "I know the Democrats are frustrated by the fact that they can no longer run over Republicans with their financial advantage, but frankly they have had an undue influence over the legislative politics of this state for decades because they were able to get extraordinary financial advantage."

Davis adds, "Money flows to power, and Democrats have always had the power - the president pro tem of the Senate, the speaker of the House and the governor," Davis goes on to say. "There has never been anyone to stand up to the union support for the Democratic Party and the business support for the Democratic Party,"

Pope, himself, says. "Part of my decision to give more than usual is to try to offset the advantages that the Democratic Party has."

Pope believes his political contributions should be seen in the context of his family's larger philanthropy on a wide range of community projects such as $1 million for a new hospice building and $1 million to help move the new Campbell University law school to downtown Raleigh. His family also gives to local universities, food banks and indigent health care.

"What we give politically," Pope points out, "Is a fraction of what we give to charity,"

The New Yorker story is typically pro-Democrat and basically spends its ink whining because Pope, a North Carolinian with experience as an elected North Carolina legislator, is spending money to help break the hold of Democrats on power in North Carolina.

It's ironic that those who claim to believe so strongly in "diversity", object so strongly to a publicly expressed second opinion when it comes to politics.

Cohen, in the Nonprofit Quarterly article, of course, gets in a shot at the evil Koch brothers who actually have donated to Democrats and to organizations with liberal leanings. He fails, however, to touch on the obvious other side of the coin, avoiding mention of pro-liberal agenda philanthropists like conservative bugbear George Soros, whose charitable contributions are almost entirely about driving a political agenda. Soros and other big name billionaires spend folk like the Koch brothers and Art Pope under the table on political agenda driving.

So, why don't we hear any complaints about attempts by progressives to "buy the government", especially in a publication that bills itself as the Harvard Business Review of the nonprofit world and is supposed to be politically neutral?

The simple answer is, because folk like Jane Mayer and Jeff Cohen approve of money driving agendas, so long as the agenda is one with which they agree - specifically larger government. Since the objective of the conservative groups the Pope Family is funding is limited government, Pope draws the wrath of those who currently have a huge stake in growing their political power. Pope has further angered liberal media pundits and North Carolina Democrats by helping organize and sponsor Tea Party rallies and meetings around the state. (Insert gasp here!)

In the meantime, I don't suppose the nonprofits that are receiving Pope checks are complaining that the Pope family are driving a pro-education/pro-healthcare/anti-poverty agenda with their funding of hospital indigent care programs, hospices, universities and food banks.
Democrats claim Pope supports candidates that are "bad for North Carolina". While it's true that more elected Republicans might certainly be bad for North Carolina Democrats, others, Pope among them, cite the recent record of Democratic rule as one of failure - including corruption cases, a broken probation system, a troubled mental health system, a high school dropout rate, a recent tax hike, and budget problems.

As Pope points out, two senate candidates in recent years Democratic Senate candidates John Edwards and Erskine Bowles each spent far more of their own money on their campaigns than Art Pope has put into North Carolina conservative political groups.  If Art Pope is buying the state, as Ms. Mayer claims, he's going to have to come up with far more than he has so far, because his political adversaries are still out-spending him and have been for a very, very long time.

None of the article I read were by conservatives. The Newsobserver article was at least balanced and gave both sides of the story, allowing the reader to decide what to believe about Art Pope. The American system allows for dissent by American citizens. Perhaps, in recommending an article like the one Cohen gushes over in the New Yorker, Nonprofit Quarterly should also include a link to something that at least gives the other side of the story. Pope may be bad for Dems, but he apparently is generous with nonprofits. The question I'd ask?  Is Nonprofit Quarterly about what's good for a liberal political agenda or what's good for funding our nonprofits?

If it's about funding worthy causes, the Pope Family Foundation certainly deserves a pat on the back for its stewardship whatever you think of its politics.

(c) 2011 by Tom King

No comments: