News & Updates
Check back for regular updates on Art Pope’s presence in the news.
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?
On August 6, 2014, North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory announced that Art Pope will step down as state budget director. Pope served as state budget director since January 2013, staying on for one additional year at the governor’s request.
Press Release from the Governor’s Office:
Governor Introduces New State Budget Director – August 6, 2014
Raleigh, N.C. – Governor Pat McCrory announced today that Art Pope will step down as state budget director. Pope, who has served as budget director since January 2013, will return to the private sector.
“Art Pope has been an invaluable public servant for the people of North Carolina,” Governor McCrory said. “His knowledge and leadership helped produce historic tax reform while producing two balanced budgets that put North Carolina back on the road to prosperity. He has dedicated much of his life to the betterment of North Carolina and it has been a privilege to have him at my side.”
Pope’s public service began in 1985 as Special Counsel for Governor Jim Martin. He was later appointed the State Goals and Policy Board, which was given the task of evaluating balancing the state’s capital needs for public school facilities, prisons and road construction.
Pope previously served in North Carolina House for more than 7 years. As a legislator, Pope served on both the Finance and Appropriations committees, where was one the primary sponsors of legislation to create the state’s “Rainy Day Fund.”
Governor McCrory announced that Lee H. Roberts will succeed Pope as the state’s new budget director.
“Lee has a terrific sense of fiscal sensibility and responsibility, and I’m excited to have him join our team,” said Governor McCrory. “North Carolina state government will thrive under his oversight. His experience in the global marketplace will provide a useful and original perspective, and his leadership skills will further our administration’s goal of thoughtful, deliberate stewardship of taxpayer dollars.”
Roberts has extensive experience in financial management. He recently served as managing director of Piedmont Community Bank Holdings in Raleigh. He was the executive vice president and chief operating officer of VantageSouth Bancshares, a bank holding company.
He also founded a real estate investment and advisory firm, Coley Capital, LLC. He has worked for Morgan Stanley & Co., Cherokee Investment Partners and as an associate with Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld LLP.
Roberts received his undergraduate degree in political science from Duke University. He graduated cum laude from Georgetown University, where he received his J.D.
Governor McCrory appointed Roberts to the North Carolina Banking Commission in 2013. He also serves on the Board of Trustees for the Ravenscroft School, is the vice president of the Duke Alumni Association and is involved in many other area organizations.
The Burlington Times-News offers this human interest story about Alice Allen, a longtime employee of Roses who is about to retire after 52 years on the job:
As a senior in high school, when Alice Allen was hired part-time at Roses to assemble Easter baskets, working her way up through the company over the next five decades was never her intention. But 52 years later, Allen is ready to retire.
Allen has weathered some uncertain times with the company, including the company filing for bankruptcy in the 1990s before Variety Wholesalers took over the Rose family’s chain.
“That saved everybody’s job,” she said. “There wouldn’t be a Roses if they wouldn’t have bought the company.”
And it’s a good thing they stayed afloat, at least for all the workers she’s given jobs over the years.
“I’ve hired a lot of people throughout my time here,” she said. “I’ve hired people, then hired their children — and I’ve gotten a few of their grandchildren. Three generations of people.”
The editorial page of the Raleigh News & Observer writes that Deputy Budget Director Art Pope raised “proper questions” about the University of North Carolina system’s proposed $2.8 billion budget for the 2014-2015 fiscal year:
A stern cautionary note from state budget director Art Pope to the University of North Carolina system comes down to this: This is my second memo about the state budget. You guys must not have gotten the first one.
Pope has sent UNC system officials back to the budget drawing board, and because he is viewed as the top adviser to Gov. Pat McCrory and the most influential person in the executive branch, the message will be received.
Pope told university officials in a Feb. 28 memo that they’re asking for too much money. He noted that to satisfy the university system’s request for a budget increase of $288 million, or 11.3 percent, the state would have to make “major reductions” in other agencies, including the court system and public schools. He noted the state also has a major obligation with Medicaid, the health care system for the poor and disabled.
The university system is seeking the money as the legislature readies to convene this spring to adjust the second year of its two-year budget.
[It's] fair and appropriate for Pope to question the UNC system’s budget request. Peter Hans, chairman of the UNC system’s Board of Governors, gave exactly the right response in saying he and the board “welcome tough questions about how the university proposes to spend public dollars.” He said Pope was “doing what taxpayers should expect him to do.”