Pope responds to criticism from NAACP, other liberal groups
Posted December 9, 2013
Updated December 10, 2013
Raleigh, N.C. — State Budget Director Art Pope responded Monday to critics picketing stores owned by his family's company, Variety Wholesalers, with a three-page letter.
The letter is addressed to Rev. William Barber, president of the state conference of the NAACP, who has organized the "Forward Together Moral Movement," a network of liberal groups that has consistently criticized the actions of the Republican-led General Assembly and Republican Gov. Pat McCrory.
Pope and Barber came face to face last week as the NAACP leader announced the picketing campaign, which Barber said will "shine a light on NC Budget Director Art Pope's support and influence on the extremist and regressive direction of North Carolina public policy."
Pope responded by saying that he was speaking on behalf of himself and his company, which runs discount stores such as Roses and Maxway.
"I am shocked that you and your allies would demand any public official to support your political positions by threatening a business which is not part of state government," Pope wrote. "It would be wrong for me to respond to your demands as State Budget Director because you are carrying out your threats against my company and our employees."
Barber has called for the General Assembly to hold a special session to reverse course on several key policy issues, including its refusal to expand Medicaid health insurance coverage for the poor and a sweeping elections reform bill, which includes a voter ID requirement starting in 2016.
Pope also writes that he objects to accusations that he doesn't support voting rights, pointing to cases where he was a plaintiff suing against gerrymandering. He concluded his letter by saying he shares Barber's goal of alleviating poverty.
"Let us respectfully disagree while we debate the merits," Pope wrote.
Pope's letter is unlikely to sway Barber, who announced a second week of pickets at Variety Wholesalers stores Monday. In an email, Barber said locations for events this week would be Durham, Charlotte, Fayetteville and Winston-Salem.