Monday, July 21, 2014

Art Pope is very powerful. His boss? Welllll....

If you're a close follower of North Carolina politics, a weekend Washington Post profile of state budget director Art Pope didn't break much new ground. The Saturday piece, written by the Post's Matea Gold, explores Pope's unique place in N.C. and American politics, how his power derives from his status as both an insider (budget director) and outsider (think tank founder and influential donor to the University of North Carolina).

Add it up, and you have a man who might be more powerful than anyone in N.C. politics. Including his boss.

It's a fine piece of what those in the industry call "parachute journalism" - a national outlet parachuting into a city or state to write something for the audience back home. As such, Gold spends some time going over what those in North Carolina already know - how the Republican revolution Pope set in motion has led to tax overhaul but tight finances, conservative legislation but Moral Monday protests and, of course, education cuts and discontent about those cuts.

The underlying question for Gold (and many North Carolinians): How much power does Pope actually wield? Does he merely inform Gov. Pat McCrory about issues, or is he telling the governor what to do?

Gold doesn't give a firm answer, but her report and the anecdotes within leave a definite impression: Pope is extraordinarily influential, and although he and McCrory insist that the governor has the final say on issues, McCrory is clearly deferential to his subordinate.

In fact, the Gov. doesn't particularly come off well in the report. Says an unnamed Republican lobbyist: "The governor yields to Art." Then there's this anecdote, in which McCrory is a little too admiring:

Pope’s familiarity with the minute details of state finances was on full display on a muggy afternoon in May, when he spent 25 minutes standing at a lecturn, methodically explaining the details of the governor’s new budget to the news media.

McCrory sat on a chair behind his budget director, nodding along. When Pope was done, the governor stood up with a grin.

“I wish I could’ve had a camera, from this angle, watching the reporters’ faces while Art explained the budget, because now y’all know how I felt during hour after hour after hour,” McCrory said with a chuckle.

The governor took some questions. On most, he deferred to Pope.

“I tell you what I’m going to do. I’m going to have Art kind of explain the details of that number that you just presented, so you can hear all sides of that argument,” McCrory told a reporter who asked about whether cuts to the university system would lead to tuition hikes. “Art, if you don’t mind? Because he can present it much better than I can.”
 Peter St. Onge



Anonymous said...

This isn't really about who is being "deferential" to whom...

The real question here? Who is actually governing our state? Unfortunately, there are some of us who have already answered that question with Pat McPope's actions. The Democrats might have been sleazy, but the Republicans simply gave the state away...

bobcat99 said...

I would never have guessed what a dunce Pat McCrory has turned out to be as governor. He is clearly out of his league. He defers to Pope on everything and, when he doesn't, he bumbles. I think McCrory planned for years to be a center-right governor in the mold of Martin and Holshouser working with a Democratic majority. Then the Tea Party-informed GOP revolution washed over the state for three reasons. One was Pope and Company's money. Two was a weak and scandal-ridden NC Democratic Party (still in recovery). Three was a large segment of the state population horrified that NC helped elect a black president in 2008. Poor old Pat has been trying to get his moorings ever since.

Estara Jae said...

Art Pope is in charge; hence the laws around guns in the bars & parks...that was an Art request. Pat is just a spokesperson, because digging into the life Art would cause way too much scrutiny. This wealthy man who inherited his money off the backs of others from his fathers era, has no morals. He is in charge because we, North Carolinians...allow him to be.

Archiguy said...

bobcat99 - You left out the big reason: gerrymandering.

Democrats outpolled Republicans by nearly half a million in the 2012 elections yet still lost the legislature by a SUPERmajority. How is that possible?

The GOP used complex computer algorithms - something that had never been done before - to slice & dice voting districts down to the street level to concentrate Democratic voters in a few enclaves, leaving more districts available overall to be won by Republicans.

The defense Republicans use to justify this scorched earth gerrymandering? The Democrats did it too! That's a lie. They didn't, not like this. Nothing like this had ever been done before.

Now you know why the Republicans went apoplectic over their own plan for health care about 5 minutes after Obama adopted it as the basis for the ACA. They needed something they could gin up into a national hysteria against the President and his Party going into the decennial midterms in 2010 - when redistricting takes place nationwide.

If you thought it was strange that the GOP would go bat-crazy over a plan to expand health insurance to 40 million Americans who never had it before, a very good idea for a whole host of reasons, now you know. That's why the Tea Party was created with $100 million dollars of seed money from the Koch Brothers, Art Pope, and other wealthy Republican donors.

It worked like a charm. The Democrats never saw it coming.

David Godfrey said...

Art Pope... Pope... ALEC, ALEC... Koch Brothers... Ahhhhk Polly want a cracker.

Ghoul said...


The state has had a majority of Democrats since political parties were started. But it has also had a majority of conservatives since it was first colonized.

These conservatives have rejected, by a vast majority, the liberal agenda haunting this country since LBJ.

Of, and by the way, the Republicans won a super majority in NC under Democrat gerrymandered districts.

You will see this same phenomenon in the upcoming 2014 mid term elections around the country, despite liberals effort to cheat the votes.

Cornelia said...

I voted Dem mostly...till i moved to Charlotte. What an eye opener!

Deb Crad said...

I am a liberal and always will be because as a liberal, I feel that I am part of a community of people who care about the good of ALL the people-Our middle class is disappearing. The annual average income of a family of 4 in the USA to have the "basics" needs to be $130,000.00 a year. This figure considers a family having one car, 2 children, a house payment-Most people I know in Charlotte, teachers for example, don't make a quarter of this number-and our politicians for many years have made a decision to take what is the most important asset we have and reduce it to what it is today -without representation-(no union) and no raises for how many years? Gerrymandering happens whoever is in office to some degree but we have become so polarized as a nation that now every single vote counts so who ever is in office is trying to stack the cards in their favor. How they are doing this is about as unconstitutional as you can get-revisiting the same issues fought for 30 years -to the disgust of many. John Boenher is trying to appease the fringe in his party-unfortunately it is blatantly obvious that they have no idea what they are doing, use no historic references before launching full bore into doing things that presidents have done for decades-taking executive privilege to accomplish something. Remember Bush and the prescription benefits he signed into effect? This brings me back to the insensitivity and inhumane behaviors that are demonstrated on a daily basis-to YOU, the "rest of us". The Supreme court has gone way beyond what they were put into their positions to do and have totally screwed our political system by infusing $$$ without any accountability-so that in the end we will be left with a nation that has the interests of the Corporations and wealthy and powerful and no representation to those in poverty, the children or the middle class. When we accomplish what seems to be their objective of eliminating the middle class then we will crumble-because it is the middle class that is the backbone of a strong democracy that represents us as a nation. I hope that people are wise enough not to re elect the Fox's and Jone's in the NC government because they are such an embarrassment to North Carolina. If we stop caring about the little guy who works at Walmart and still needs food stamps to survive (while Mr. Walton is raking in billions) and instead give Corporations tax breaks and allow them to impale on their own greed.

Deb Crad said...
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