When the Supreme Court ruled in favor of “Citizens United” on January 21, 2010, Justice Stephens
dissented that the majority’s ruling “threatens to undermine the integrity of elected institutions across this
Nation.” He added that “A democracy cannot function effectively when its constituent members believe laws
are being bought and sold.”


A few months later, conservative political strategist Ed Gillespie had lunch with conservative multimillionaire
Art Pope and laid out REDMAP. The project was designed to help Republicans take control of statehouses
where Congressional redistricting was pending, and he proposed to Pope “a new way to spend his money.”
Jane Mayer’s New Yorker article “State for Sale” (October 10, 2011) discusses this meeting and what
followed – required reading for anyone who wants to understand how NC Democrats got gob smacked by
the GOP from then till now. The article explains how Pope “created a network combining a family fortune,
the resources of a large private company, and family-funded policy organizations.” Among these various
ultra-conservative groups are “Americans for Prosperity,” “Real Jobs NC,”” The John W. Pope Civitas
Institute,” “Civitas Action,” “John William Pope Center for Higher Education Policy,” and “The John Locke
Foundation.”


These organizations, committed to the free market, small government principles of the “classical liberal”
philosophers like John Locke and David Hume, embrace a high-minded theoretical context for civilized
debate. After all, our Constitution was forged out of the creative liberal-conservative tensions among our
founding fathers. Compromise between the two opposing world views is essential for the proper functioning
of a government.


However, in state elections since 2010, pristine theory has given way to grubby practice. Locke and Hume
have been brushed aside by Machiavelli. Pope, in alliance with pals like the Koch brothers, has spent
millions of dollars in every corner of NC to reshape the face of democracy in our state. As former governor
Bev Perdue said: “The Republican agenda in NC is really Art Pope’s agenda. He sets it, he funds it, and he
directs the efforts to achieve it.” Pope subsequently helped finance Pat McCrory’s successful run for
governor, and then became his first budget director, deciding budgetary priorities for the state after helping
to finance the election campaigns of most state Republicans. Game. Set. Match.


Undeterred by any need or desire to compromise with political opponents, the Republican General
Assembly has steamrollered a predictable laissez faire agenda: tax cuts for corporations and wealthy
individuals, loosening of regulations on big businesses, even polluting industries. But they did not stop
there.


Republicans typically believe that government interference against corporate behavior is wrong. Let the
market decide. Yet that largesse does not extend to actual people. They believe government interference

into the intimate behavior of private citizens is somehow warranted. Republican legislators – not the
market – will decide.


Hence the punitive face of their agenda: favoring a constitutional amendment on gay marriage, defunding
Planned Parenthood, punitive abortion restrictions, senselessly rejecting Medicaid expansion, radically
cutting budgets for universities and schools (dropping NC, at one point from 20 th in the nation in education
spending to 43rd), passing the notorious “bathroom bill,” rejecting common sense gun reforms, lowering
pollution standards, favoring “fracking” and offshore drilling.


And more: weeks after the Supreme Court’s gutting of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, declaring racism dead in
the South, the NC General Assembly expanded efforts to gerrymander districts to insure long-term
majorities throughout the state with a racial as well as a party bias. Vigorous efforts at voter suppression
began simultaneously – curtailing early voting, requiring photo ID cards, slashing the number of available
voting precincts in majority black counties, making it difficult for college students to vote.


This plan was summed up unequivocally by former legislator, Don Yelton, who bragged on “Comedy
Central” that the law was designed to “kick Democrats in the butt” and thwart “lazy college kids” and “lazy
blacks.” Mr. Yelton, however, deftly defended himself against the charge of bigotry by stating that “one of
his best friends was black.”


Four new constitutional amendments favored by the Republicans are headed for the November ballot. One
is intended to give the legislature, not the governor, the power to appoint new judges. When asked by a
reporter if the newly proposed constitutional amendments were intended to strip power from Gov. Cooper,
Republican senator Phil Berger laughed and asked: “Does he still have any?”


As we know, elections have consequences. So do Supreme Court decisions. “Citizens’ United” has
profoundly corrupted our electoral process, as Justice Stephens warned. What Martin Nesbitt, Jr., late
Democratic state senator once said of Pope’s spending on elections, “What he’s doing is buying elections.”
Pope himself is quoted as saying “that if his opponents disagreed [with him] they could fund their own side:
‘I welcome the competition.’” November 2018 – Game On.

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