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House Republicans Challenge Businessman's Primary Donations

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Conservative businessman Art Pope funneled money into a political group to criticize lawmakers he thinks sold out the Republican Party. Now, those lawmakers are fighting back.

"He's filled with venom and truly wants to control the entire Republican Party," said Rep. Julia Howard, R-Davie.

Howard retained her seat in the house despite Pope-funded campaign criticism. Rep. Stephen Laroque, R-Lenoir, lost by a handful of votes. He partially blames Pope.

"I think he's a spoiled little rich kid spending Mom and Daddy's money to buy legislative seats, and that's what he's doing and he's already bought some seats here," said Laroque. "He owns certain legislators in the House."

"Respectfully, it sounds like sore losers -- incumbent politicians who lost their office, been turned out of office by voters in their home districts, and they're trying to blame anyone but themselves and their voting record," said Pope.

Pope stands by his funding of a political group that sent out critical flyers targeting fellow Republicans like Rep. Rick Eddins and Rep. Richard Morgan. They've now filed complaints with the state Board of Elections, claiming corporate money was used to mislead voters and defeat them.

"I think it's clear that he broke the law," said Eddins.

However, Pope disagrees.

"That is pure, protected First Amendment speech," he said.

For the record, the board is also considering complaints against groups linked to Morgan and House Speaker Jim Black.

The board meets July 12 to take up election challenges. Rep. LaRoque's challenge is on the agenda. He's challenging dozens of disqualified ballots.