Local Politics

GOP donor spent heavily on legislative races

Posted November 12, 2010 6:49 p.m. EST
Updated November 12, 2010 6:58 p.m. EST

— Republicans rode a wave of voter dissatisfaction to seize control of the General Assembly, but a boost in fundraising also helped the party's cause in a number of races.

Democrats have had a distinct money advantage in legislative races for years, but Raleigh businessman Art Pope helped close that gap in the recent election cycle.

The left-leaning Institute for Southern Studies recently released a report that said Pope, his family and three conservative groups he backs – Americans for Prosperity, Civitas Action and Real Jobs N.C. – contributed more than $2.2 million to 22 state House and Senate races.

Republican candidates won 18 of the races, and three others remain too close to call.

"If (funding) helped them win, especially in a close election, then wonderful," said Pope, who served four terms in the state House and lost his bid to be lieutenant governor in 1996.

Some Democrats claim Pope bought the General Assembly by targeting enough races to put the GOP in control of both the House and Senate for the first time since 1898.

"What has Art Pope gained by purchasing a lot of these seats with the money he spent?" asked Andrew Whalen, executive director of the North Carolina Democratic Party.

State Rep. Nelson Dollar, R-Wake, called the allegation absurd.

He and other Republican lawmakers said Pope's money only leveled the playing field and helped offset contributions to Democrats from unions and business groups.

"While there was a lot of money spent, it's the issues that have really driven this race," Dollar said.

Pope said he is offended by claims that he bought seats in the General Assembly.

"Rather than defend the failed policies of the Democratic Party's control of state government, rather than defend the outright corruption of Democratic elected officials, they choose to take one person and vilify him, even though there's not support for that," he said.

"I am a Republican, and I make no apology as a Republican," he said. "I'm not looking for anything other than good government and ending the corruption of the Democratic Party over our state government."