Pope, Barber exchange words over money, politics

Posted December 2, 2013

— State budget chief Art Pope came face to face with one of his most vocal critics Monday morning while responding to a planned picketing campaign targeting his family's chain of discount stores.

The state chapter of the NAACP and several left-leaning groups held a news conference outside the state budget office to announce the campaign targeting Variety Wholesalers, which includes Roses, Maxway and other stores.

Pope is chief executive of Variety Wholesalers, and he also is a major political donor to conservative causes, both on his own and through third-party groups such as Americans for Prosperity and Civitas Institute.

Rev. William Barber, the state NAACP president, says Pope has supported "extreme and regressive public policy," including cuts to unemployment benefits and requiring voters to present photo identification at the polls. Barber says such policies will hurt people who shop at Pope's stores, so picketers will pass out that information to shoppers.

"Economics is ethics. How we use our money is a moral issue," Barber said. "There is a clear record of his intentional utilization of his money to manipulate the system and the political process in North Carolina in ways that can clearly be seen are counter to the principle of the good of the whole and counter to the principle of justice and fairness and equality for all."

A banner at the news conference bore the heading "How Roses and Maxway Keep People Poor."

"We think his customers should know how their money is being used against them," said Bob Hall, executive director of Democracy North Carolina.

Anti-Art Pope sign Groups say Pope's politics hurt people who shop in his stores

"Art Pope is the poster child for big money influence in our democracy," said Chris Kromm, executive director of the Institute for Southern Studies. "There are many donors and special interest groups vying for influence in this state, but there is no single person who has spent as much money or has orchestrated a political machine on the scale of Art Pope’s empire in North Carolina.

"That’s not an opinion – or as Art Pope may have you believe, a personal attack. It’s a fact," Kromm said. "Over the last decade, Pope has pumped nearly $50 million into his political machine."

Pope came out to the news conference to give reporters his side of the debate. He has a constitutional right to support any political cause he chooses, he said, and he's done nothing wrong or illegal, regardless of how much Democrats try to demonize him.

"I certainly hope we don’t get to the point where conservatives and Republicans start protesting Democratic donors and their businesses the way the far left is trying to deter me from exercising my rights and trying to hurt our customers and hurt our employees," he said.

Variety Wholesalers provide much-needed jobs, and his foundation gives to a wide range of charities, not just political groups, he said.

"We give back to the community. We help alleviate the symptoms of poverty through traditional humanitarian help," he said. "We’re one of the largest charitable givers in the Research Triangle."

Barber and Pope exchanged words as Barber walked toward Pope's office to deliver a letter.

"We want to put a stop to the use of wealth to influence policies in a negative way," Barber said. "That's why it's not a boycott. It's a picket."

"If I gave to the North Carolina Justice Center and Democracy North Carolina instead of the John Locke Foundation, that would be OK?" Pope asked.

"It's the policies; it's not the giving," Barber responded. "Let's meet."

"Only if I support your policies," Pope shot back.

Pope said he and Barber share the goal of eliminating poverty – they just disagree on the best way to do it.

"Creating an economy that’s growing and is prosperous, that creates jobs. That helps eliminate poverty," Pope said.


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  • Sally1023 Dec 6, 2013

    I agree with jgichr...put much money in to politics and the poor and middle class get hurt. And for Luv2Camp I tried to find out what the portion of money the Pope foundation and its many "think" tanks give. According to the Inst. for Southern Studies who studied his tax filings, Pope INC. gives 30% to charities and 70% goes to his extremely conservative organization. AND his charitable gifts some times have strings. UNC-CH decline a multi million dollar gift because Pope wanted it to go for only studies Pope approved of. I checked and could not find strings attached to gifts from the Kenans and Hanes. One "gift" UNC's DID take was money to enhanse an academic center for student athletes which serves only 700 UNC-CH students out of the almost 30,000 registered students. I find UNC's decision to accept that money sad and disgusting. Like my father use to say, "You lie down with dogs, you get up with fleas."

  • jgilchr Dec 5, 2013

    In short we need to get the money out of Politics. Our Republic should not be for sale as it is now. In fact it is no longer a Republic, it is a Plutocracy. Art Pope and the Koch Brothers are just a few examples of active Plutocrats.

    As for trickle down, it has failed and it doesn't work. Art Pope and the 1% may give to charity, but those charities would not have as much need to exist if income disparity wasn't so atrociously bad. Their token gifts are simply a PR job, meanwhile the Working and Middle Classes are being robbed blind. Their propaganda is so effective many are blaming the poor.

  • Luv2Camp Dec 5, 2013

    Good response batcave.

    Sally1023 - where is your evidence about the "few pennies" thrown to women and orphans. Do you know, for a fact, how much Pope spends on charities versus political groups? Or are you just throwing comments out there simply because you don't like the mans politics? Please cite the donation facts and hold the rhetoric until you can provide the nos.

  • ILoveDowntownRaleigh Dec 5, 2013

    I don't know what all of you people are so worried about.

    Governor McCrory has just brought 80,000 new jobs to North Carolina in the past 11 months. He said so himself.

  • Sally1023 Dec 4, 2013

    The question was, "What jobs have you or any of your liberal brothers and sisters created? Since, according to you Kennedy, Terry Sanford and Luther Hodges were all republican, I guess I'll have to go with Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, Larry Ellison, Larry Page, and Jeff Bezos to name a few. But thanks for mentioning David Murdock who did indeed help get the Kannapolis Research Campus going and is a self described moderate republican. Fascinating man.
    My point is where one consistently gives their money is what is important. Sure Pope throws a few pennies to old women and orphans, but the big money goes to controlling the state in a very sinister way. His political action groups who buy campaigns and his Civitas Institute who demands the email, phone records and calendar of the director of UNC's poverty center. That is scary stuff and should not be tolerated!

  • batcave Dec 4, 2013


    Lets see Peace corp was copied from a missionary in africa, if you go the Kennedy rout , he would be a republican by todays standards. Concord campus was started by my fathers boss the owner of Dole __he is NOT a liberal.The schools are funded by tax payers , liberal or otherwise.The RTP was started by men who were democrats , but were southern dems and not liberal by todays standards. The war on poverty? Looks like poverty won(Reagan)

  • Sally1023 Dec 4, 2013

    Let's see...the Peace Corps and Vista, the war on poverty and in NC the Research Triangle Park, a vet school at NCSU and building UNC-CH in to one of the most respected universities in the nation with a highly ranked medical school, and nationally top rated dental school, school of public health and social work schools in the nation. Also a research campus in Concord and a medical and now dental school to ECU. I could go on but i'm running late for an apt.

  • Luv2Camp Dec 4, 2013

    Sally1023 - you are lost and mistaken. The Pope family has a long history of funding various charities. As an example, they have provided scholarships to the Boy Scouts for many years. How have these scholarhips, which can be used at any school the Scout wishes to attend, further any political interest of the Popes?

    The liberals seem to hate Mr. Pope for what he is - a successful businessman that has created jobs. What jobs have you or any of your liberal brothers and sisters created?

  • warrcorick Dec 3, 2013

    10Dollars to 20Dollars a 100% raise?

    Companies are reporting their earnings in billions not millions. To trumpet the notion that it will break a company to short them a percentage of one of their billions so the people who perform the task of their businesses can afford to shop at the economically challenged stores in which they are employed is beyond rational comprehension.

  • warrcorick Dec 3, 2013

    Thank GOD! ! !

    For someone (Mr. Barber) who is willing to even take a position in
    today's moral climate which involves speaking up for the underdog in the fight of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Our politicians take this claim at election time, but after getting a spot on the team, they gladly take a seat on the bench.