On December 23, 2014, News & Observer columnist Barry Saunders wrote about Art Pope, the philanthropist, and his work with the Pope Foundation. The column appears below and can be read online at: http://www.newsobserver.com/2014/12/22/4423459/saunders-the-giving-side-of-art.html?sp=/99/102/110/117/197/.
Saunders: The giving side of Art Pope
BY BARRY SAUNDERS
Ah, man. It would be the social event of the season – nay, of the millennium – but alas, it’ll never happen, cap’n.
They wouldn’t even have to pay me to cover a wang dang doodle attended by people from all of the groups that get money from the J.W. Pope Foundation: just being there and seeing those in tuxes and tatters mingling would be payment a’plenty.
Since 1986, the beau monde and thedemimonde – that’s the high-class swells who dine at white-linen establishments and the struggling soup-kitchen mavens who do what they have to to survive – have benefited from the altruistic contributions of the organization headed by Art Pope.
Yes, that Art Pope.
Pope, the current chairman and president of the Pope Foundation and Variety Wholesalers Inc., is the most polarizing person in state politics – and he’s not even in politics. Depending upon on which side of the aisle one stands, Pope is a selfless patriot or a reactionary zealot who at best is indifferent to the poor.
While serving as Gov. Pat McCrory’s budget director, Pope was thought by many to be the state’s real chief executive, earning the sobriquet “Pope Art” and “knight of the right.”
I always doubted that Pope was controlling state government, because much of it has been so dysfunctional that it would be hard to find Pope’s imprint on it.
It’s not hard to find it on Step Up Ministry, though. Steve Swayne, CEO of the nonprofit jobs and life skills training program, said the $25,000 his organization received from the Pope Foundation “will help us place 30 people in jobs. … Many of these people have been in the criminal justice system, over half of them have been homeless.”
It has placed 554 in jobs this year.
Whenever I’ve sought comments from Pope in the past, it was about some political move that had infuriated half of the populace and delighted others. That’s why when I called and left a message last week, I hurried up and let his office know that I come in peace, in recognition of the Christmas season.
When I reached him by phone, he explained that his father, John W. Pope, had long been philanthropic. “My parents gave directly … and the company gave to local charities in the areas where we had employees. … When I joined the family business in 1986, he wanted to channel the family and company charitable giving through a foundation. One of the first tasks he assigned to me was to form this Pope Foundation.”
Pope said the group’s local humanitarian giving is centered in Wake, Vance and Harnett counties. “That’s where our family is from, where the company is from, where most of our employees are. Mainly, it’s a geographic criteria. … We have a board of directors – originally, it was just me sitting down with my father reviewing the grant requests. In the last six or seven years, we’ve gotten more professional, a staff with grant officers – not many: we only have two people on the payroll. I’m not on the payroll, by the way.
“They review and recommend the grantees, and we present it to the board of directors and the board approves it,” he said.
Just reading the list of the groups that received almost $2 million in December is enough to set the mind a-racing at the thought of seeing them all coming together. In addition to Step Up Ministry, groups as disparate as the N.C. Symphony, N.C. Museum of Art, Helping Horse Therapeutic Riding Program, Carolina Ballet, Shepherd’s Table Soup Kitchen, Safe Haven for Cats, and the Food Banks of Central and Eastern North Carolina all received grants from the foundation.
Pope, in a news release, said, “The old ‘give a man a fish’ parable is that if you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day, but that if you teach a man how to fish, you feed him for a lifetime. We believe in doing both.”
That’s cool, but too many people don’t consider that, for a man to fish, he at least needs a pole. And a lake.
In a December 17, 2014, Indy Week news article, author Sam DeGrave published several false facts, generating inaccurate assumptions about Art Pope and the John William Pope Foundation’s involvement with the University of North Carolina Board of Governors in North Carolina. To read the original Indy Week article, “Is the long reach of Art Pope driving the UNC Board of Governors’ Review,” visit their website.
On December 23, 2014, the Indy Week published Pope’s letter to the editor that corrected the false facts. The letter in its entirety can be read below and on their website.
If the INDY is going to pass off a college student’s opinion piece as a news feature, (“Politics of Scrutiny” Dec. 17), one would think that getting basic facts correct would still be a requirement.
Contrary to Mr. DeGrave’s reporting, I have never been chairman of the Civitas Institute or directed its day-to-day operations—though I have previously served on its board of directors.
The article is also wrong when it stated that the Pope Foundation, of which I am the Chairman, has a “long history of animosity toward the UNC System,” and called for a review of UNC centers “as a cost cutting measure.” To the contrary, as a grant-making foundation, the Pope Foundation has given over $5 Million to support UNC, with a grant payment this month for $400,000 to support the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center.
If the INDY had bothered to ask me about the article’s main point, I would have answered that rather than “driving” the UNC Board of Governors review, I did not even know about the BOG’s interviews of the selected UNC centers until after they happened, and I read about it in a real newspaper.
Interestingly, Mr. DeGrave himself reported, “half of these centers could be viewed as counter to the agenda of the Republican-controlled state legislature.” Instead of trusting Mr. DeGrave’s reporting (given his failure to share the facts), I personally would rely on the UNC Board of Governors’ review to determine if these centers have productive academic missions, rather than a partisan agenda in support of or in opposition to either the Democratic or Republican Party’s legislative agendas.
But since I was not asked for an interview, even though the INDY prominently featured my name in the headline and story, the real question to ask the Indy is if this story was simply sloppy journalism by a student intern or deliberate propaganda?
David W. Riggs, Executive Vice President of the John William Pope Foundation, made this statement in response to a recent documentary by Bill Moyers:
Bill Moyers, through Moyers & Company, recently released a documentary titled “State of Conflict: North Carolina.” Broadcast through the PBS network on Jan. 3, the one-hour program falsely portrayed the charitable work of the John William Pope Foundation and of our Chairman and President, Art Pope.
“State of Conflict: North Carolina” repeated the false claim that Art Pope and the Pope Foundation “bought” the state of North Carolina, mostly through giving to public policy nonprofits that advocate for common sense free-market reforms. Mr. Moyers presented nothing new in his documentary — in fact, he’s late to the party. Many left-wing operatives have hurled similar accusations for years. The claims have never stuck because they are entirely false.
But Mr. Moyers doesn’t merely repeat a falsehood. Worse, he conceals the fact that the Pope Foundation is not the largest grantor to public policy groups in North Carolina. While the Pope Foundation gives around $5 million to conservative, free-market organizations in North Carolina each year, that number pales in comparison to the $11 million given annually by left-wing foundations to progressive groups in the Tar Heel State.
In 2011 alone, three progressive foundations gave generously to left-of-center, liberal groups in North Carolina: The Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation ($9.2 million in grants), the Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation ($614,000 in grants), and the A.J. Fletcher Foundation ($968,000 in grants).
If North Carolina can indeed be bought, as Mr. Moyers and his allies claim, then shouldn’t it go to the highest bidder, the side that spent the most money?
Click here to read the rest.
The Daily Dispatch, based out of Henderson, N.C., yesterday reported on the Pope Foundation’s $35,000 in grants to food pantries in Vance County. The grants were part of a larger $185,000 given by the Pope Foundation in October to humanitarian charities.
LifeLine Outreach Inc., a nonprofit based in Vance County that alleviates homelessness
and assists women and children in crisis. (Photo credit: Daily Dispatch)
The Dispatch reported:
Local non-profits and faith-based organizations took a hit when the federal government closed for 16 days.
The John William Pope Foundation made its yearly donations to Vance County charities a few months early this year to help offset the impact of the shutdown.
“We heard on the ground that the federal government shutdown was having an effect on these charities doing this humanitarian work and what we decided to do was to expedite our end of the year funding to cover the shortfall caused by the shutdown,” said David Riggs of the Pope Foundation.
The foundation is a private family foundation focused on humanitarian charities in Wake and Vance counties.
The foundation donated $5,000 to Area Christians Together in Service, $10,000 to Life Line Outreach Inc. and $20,000 to the United Way of Vance County.
Twanna Jones, executive director of ACTS, said her organization has not received a Pope Foundation grant in the past.
“They heard about the great work that we were doing in the Vance County community,” Jones said.
ACTS provides a daily soup kitchen on weekdays, a food pantry, backpack buddies, and Meals on Wheels for the disabled and elderly.
Jones has plans to expand her operation with a mobile feeding program that supplies meals to all areas of need.
She said the grant money would help with the expansion as well as day-to-day operations.
“My goal is to have a seven-day a week soup kitchen that feeds twice a day,” Jones said.
For the first time this year, ACTS will serve lunch on Thanksgiving Day from 10 a.m. to noon.
(Note: A subscription is needed to view the entire article, but there is no cost.)
Responding to false statements recently made in a syndicated column, Pope Foundation Executive Vice President David Riggs corrected the record in this letter to the editor in The News & Observer:
The Aug. 20 Other Opinion piece “The massacre of the N.C. model” by Bloomberg’s Al Hunt contained false statements about Art Pope and the John William Pope Foundation.
Hunt wrote, “Pope has given to the Republican Party through his political action committee, foundations and personal contributions.” This is unequivocally false. Art Pope is a proud Republican, but he does not have his own political action committee. His personal contributions to the Republican Party do not come close to $1 million, even over his lifetime.
The Pope Foundation, a charitable organization, has never contributed anything to the Republican Party. By reprinting Hunt’s false statement that the Pope Foundation contributed to the Republican Party, you falsely accused the foundation of a major violation of the IRS Code and campaign finance laws.
The Pope Foundation has given millions of dollars to charities, including humanitarian, arts, education and public policy nonprofits. Humanitarian charity helps those in immediate need, treating the symptoms of poverty. The Pope Foundation’s support for public policy groups and those empowering individuals has the long-term goal of curing the underlying causes of poverty.
Publishing the false and defamatory statement that the Pope Foundation gives to the Republican Party was a disservice both to your readers and to the charities supported by the Pope Foundation.
EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT, JOHN WILLIAM POPE FOUNDATION