A few months ago, I wrote a blog that said progressives should stop focusing on Art Pope and start focusing on rebuilding their party. Since then, I’ve started to write follow up blogs to clarify what I meant. Yesterday, an article called “How Art Pope killed clean elections for judge in North Carolina” illustrates the differences I have with my progressive friends.

The article tells the story of a compromise worked out in the house to save public financing of judicial campaigns. The architect of the deal, Rep. Jonathan Jordan, a Republican from the mountains, put together a revenue-neutral amendment to the budget that appeared to have little opposition. Then, after a visit from Art Pope, a long time foe of public financing, Jordan pulled the bill, effectively killing the program.

Let’s get one thing very clear. Jonathan Jordan killed that legislation, not Art Pope.  The title of the article should have been “Rep. Jonathan Jordan caves to pressure from  special interest” with the subtitle, “State Rep. chooses campaign cash over sound public policy.” And then say it over and over and over again. In his district.

Art Pope is probably the most powerful man in the state right now. I don’t dispute that. What I do dispute is what to do about it. Attacking or exposing Pope has not worked and it won’t. He’s not elected, he has his own money and he operates totally and carefully within the limits of the law. Besides, most of the people who actually decide elections don’t know who he is, don’t really care who he is and won’t believe that he has that much control over the state even if it’s true. It’s just not how they think about politics or elections.

As the article pointed out, Art Pope has long been an opponent of public financing. That he’s using his influence to derail it shouldn’t be a surprise. That an elected official would roll over so easily is far more disturbing.

So take another tact. Go after the people that give him the power. Make them pay the price for bending to his will and supporting public policy that conflicts with the best interest of their constituents. In essence, hold them accountable–over and over and over again. It’s what politics is all about.

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