Category: In the Headlines
Published in National Review Online August 12, 2021.
Jane Mayer’s Conspiracy Theory of Lies
By ART POPE & RICK GRABER
August 12, 2021 6:30 AM
Here we go again.Jane Mayer, author of Dark Money, purports to expose another plot by the Right to take over American politics and governance. This time, the so-called “dark money” trail leads to The Bradley Foundation, a private grant-making organization that we lead as chair and president.
Mayer paints a story in The New Yorker that The Bradley Foundation is orchestrating and funding an “aggressive assault on democracy” by sowing doubt about the 2020 election results, paving the way for state legislatures to restrict voting laws, and laying the groundwork to challenge future election results.
In her piece and subsequent media interviews, she states that “since 2012, the foundation has spent some eighteen million dollars supporting eleven conservative groups involved in election issues.” Using this number is designed to mislead readers. Mayer appears to include all funding to a grantee even if election issues play a relatively small role in their work.
In addition, the Foundation does not make “dark money” grants. All grants are publicly disclosed on a quarterly basis.
It’s also absurd to suggest that the Foundation started making election-related grants in 2012 somehow knowing there would be a presidential election in 2020 with one candidate making allegations of fraud, as if we had a crystal ball. Bradley’s grants can never be used for political purposes — much less to overturn elections. All grants are made to nonprofits that are required to meet IRS guidelines that prevent them from engaging in political activity.
What does The Bradley Foundation fund with its grants?
In 2020, Bradley gave only $500,000 in grants to groups doing election-integrity work, all of which is routinely disclosed. It’s a significant sum, but nowhere near Mayer’s invented figure.
It pales in comparison to the hundreds of millions of dollars some groups on the left poured into election issues. It’s also small compared with the more than $10 million we gave to local arts, education, and community groups during that same period.
This giving is in keeping with our longtime mission to advance the principles of a free and vibrant society, and in turn preserve our constitutional democracy. We support efforts that encourage voter participation and give Americans the confidence that their votes matter.
Unfortunately, Mayer is not alone in perpetuating a false and dishonest media narrative that fuels greater distrust. In an era of cancel culture, even questioning whether the election system can be improved gets one labeled “conspiracy theorist.”
There are many genuine and valid reasons to want to ensure the integrity of elections.
The right to vote for candidates whose ideals best represent one’s own is a bedrock of the American experiment. Fair elections at every level, whether for school board, state representative, or U.S. president, are integral to the preservation of our republic. If our election system has integrity, we continue to have faith in the democratic process, regardless of who wins or loses an election.
Currently, concerns about election integrity are bipartisan and nationwide. According to a recent poll, only 55 percent of Democrats say they “completely trust” the election process. Clearly, there is work to be done to restore confidence.
It is reasonable for every election to go through a postmortem about what can be improved, but last year’s election merited even greater scrutiny. The pandemic and an increasingly polarized electorate guaranteed that 2020 would be an unprecedented election year.
And that it was.
Nearly half of voters cast a ballot by mail or absentee. Compare that with 2016, when only about a quarter of votes were cast by mail. Or the widespread ballot harvesting that occurred, which opens the door for activists on both sides of the aisle to tamper with or throw out someone’s ballot. Or the hundreds of millions of dollars from the Center for Tech and Civic Life that were given to the country’s most populous cities, which overwhelmingly vote left.
To be clear, questioning and assessing whether there are vulnerabilities within the election system is not equivalent to saying there’s rampant voter fraud or that the election was rigged. Rather, it’s a recognition that changing voting rules can — and have in previous elections — lead to numerous problems. Lost ballots, stolen ballots, and ballots sent to outdated voter rolls are all issues with common-sense solutions that still make it easy for people to vote.
As citizens of this exceptional country, our goal should be to have an election system that encourages voter participation, ensures that each person’s vote counts, and instills faith in the process. Sadly, Ms. Mayer’s inflamed and inaccurate reporting makes achieving that goal much more difficult.
Art Pope is Chair of The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation. Rick Graber is President and CEO of The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation.
Art Pope is named a board member for New Republic Partners, which is a Charlotte-based investment management and wealth advisory business with backing from the Belk, Close and Bowles families.
Business North Carolina, By David Mildenberg, February 16, 2021
Veteran N.C. banker Ralph Strayhorn and money manager Tom Hoops started New Republic Partners, a Charlotte-based investment management and wealth advisory business with backing from the Belk, Close and Bowles families. Board members for the company include Raleigh retail-chain owner Art Pope and former N.C. State Treasurer Janet Cowell.
New Republic Partners has $1.35 billion in assets under management, which officials say would make it the sixth-largest Registered Investment Advisory firm in the Carolinas and among the 50 largest in the Southeast. The company also owns Roanoke Rapids-based New Republic Bank and has about 30 employees, about half of them based in Charlotte.
The John M. Belk Endowment, the M.C. Belk Pilon family interests and the Springs-Close-Bowles family interests will be clients and shareholders. The combination brings together heirs of two families that for generations controlled the Belk department store chain and Springs textile empire while exerting enormous influence over civic and business affairs in the Carolinas.
A private equity group bought Belk for $3 billion in 2015. Springs Industries, once the largest textile employer in South Carolina, combined its business with a Brazilian textile company starting in 2001 and no longer manufactures in the Palmetto State.
New Republic Partners plans to offer investment, wealth advisory and credit solutions for individuals, families, endowments, foundations, and advisors. Investors with $10 million or more are the target market for the firm’s “complete wealth management services,” says Hoops, who is president and chief operating officer. But the business will also market to accredited investors, usually typified as having a net worth of $1 million or more, he said.
“This is a very challenging time to be an investor and their portfolios need to look different than they have historically … with more access to the private markets including private equity and private credit,” Hoops says.
“The alignment of our professional team, investors, board members and founding family clients creates a strong foundation for the firm,” adds Strayhorn, who is the CEO.
Strayhorn is a former bank CEO who also headed a private consultancy, Cape Point Advisory, that worked with 15 banks during the 2007-09 financial crisis. Hoops is a 35-year veteran of the investment management industry who was a top investment executive at Wells Fargo and predecessor institutions. Most recently, he was a member of the executive committee at Legg Mason Global Asset Management, where he led global product strategy, M&A and strategic investing.
“The investment team at New Republic Partners brings innovative thinking and a high degree of expertise,” says M.C. Belk Pilon, president and board chair of the John M. Belk Endowment. She will be a member of New Republic’s board along with Sam Bowles, who is joining the business as a managing director. He is the son of former Springs Industries CEO Crandall Bowles and Erskine Bowles, a Charlotte investment banker and a former UNC System president. Pilon is the daughter of the late John and Claudia Belk. John Belk was a former Charlotte mayor who led Belk Store Services for many years, while Claudia Belk was a local district court judge.
“We partnered with New Republic Partners because they expanded our capabilities in ways that other asset managers and advisors could not,” Sam Bowles said in a release.
New Republic’s staff includes people who have worked for the Belk and Close family offices, overseeing their investments.
Having a small commercial bank gives New Republic broader opportunities, Strayhorn says. The company converted a former savings bank started in 1988, which has offices in Roanoke Rapids, Burlington and Rocky Mount, into a state-charted bank that is a subsidiary of New Republic’s holding company. Other parts of the business include the advisory firm and a broker-dealer, New Republic Securities.
The Indy Week acknowledges their potentially misleading and false claims that were corrected by Art Pope.
Posted by The Indy Week: Wednesday, August 19, 2020
Last week, writing about the funding relationship between the Raleigh Fine Arts Society and the John William Pope Foundation, Brian Howe wrote that its chairman, Art Pope, “has a long history of supporting policies that harm marginalized communities: bankrolling the 2010 Republican takeover of the N.C. legislature, HB 2, climate-change-denial campaigns, and more.”
Art Pope wrote to contest these claims:
“The Indy Week corrected false statements made about the Pope Foundation in its August 12 print issue but replaced it with equally false statements about me.
First, I did not “bankroll” a “2010 Republican takeover of the N.C. legislature.” During the 2010 legislative elections, Democrats outspent Republicans, I was not the largest donor, and the “takeover” consisted of the Republicans winning 59% of the statewide legislative vote in a fair election in districts drawn by Democrats.
Second, I had no involvement with, much less bankrolled, the enactment of H.B. 2. After its adoption, I was publicly critical of both the Charlotte ordinance and of H.B. 2. Multiple media outlets reported my proposal—for the ordinance to be rescinded and H.B. 2 to be repealed. This was the solution eventually enacted by Charlotte, the legislature, and Governor Cooper, respectively.
Third, regarding bankrolling “climate-change-denial campaigns,” I do support a vigorous policy debate on environmental and related economic issues. It is unfortunate that in today’s toxic political environment, the pejorative term “climate change denier” is given to any person or organization that questions any aspect of the Green New Deal, which alienates potential allies on specific environmental issues.
Finally, I believe that the overall policies that I support, based on the principles of individual liberty, with equal justice and rights for all, protected by a constitutional government, will improve the well being of marginalized communities. To be sure, there is much work to be done and promises to be fulfilled, but I believe we can have civil conversations about the best way to help marginalized communities without attacks. Indy should stick to the facts and let its readers decide for themselves their beliefs and opinions.”
The INDY concedes that Pope has publicly criticized HB 2 and that the source for our claim that he “bankrolled” it, Facing South, is partisan. As for our other claims: The New York Times has reported that “Mr. Pope has used a family fortune to endow conservative research groups and donate to tax-exempt organizations that unseated Republican moderates as well as Democrats,” while The New Yorker has reported that “Tax records show that Pope has given money to at least twenty-seven groups … including organizations opposing environmental regulations, tax increases, unions, and campaign-spending limits.” If we find we erred on further review, we’ll issue a correction. We acknowledge that “bankrolled” may have been too broad a term. As for HB 2, we stand corrected.
The North State Journal, March 31, 2021
In this Aug. 6, 2014, file photo, outgoing State Budget Director Art Pope smiles in Raleigh, N.C., as he talks with the press after Gov. Pat McCrory announced that Pope would be stepping down from his post. The Senate picked on Thursday, June 25, 2020, longtime conservative donor and former lawmaker Pope to the state public higher education system’s Board of Governors. The 32-15 vote electing Pope to the 24-member body tasked with overseeing the 17-campus University of North Carolina system comes as lawmakers neared the end of their legislative session. (Chris Seward/The News & Observer via AP, File)
RALEIGH — A former state lawmaker and budget director was selected on Thursday to join the UNC Board of Governors by the N.C. Senate.
The 32-15 vote electing Art Pope to the 24-member body tasked with overseeing the 17-campus University of North Carolina system comes as lawmakers neared the end of their legislative session.
“He has been a dedicated public servant to North Carolina,” said Sen. Brent Jackson, a Sampson County Republican. “He will be a valuable asset to our UNC Board of Governors.”
Pope will serve on the board for one year starting July 1, replacing former Republican state Sen. Bob Rucho, who resigned from the board in recent days.
Sen. Harry Brown (R-Onslow) echoed Jackson’s comments. “His experience as state budget director will be very helpful in understanding the UNC budget and leadership on Board of Governors” said Brown during a committee hearing on the nomination.
Pope, a well-known businessman and philanthropist, comes to the board having previously worked as former Gov. Pat McCrory’s state budget director. He’s also been a member of the state House and staunch ally of conservative causes.
Some Senate Democrats were furious on social media about the choice, saying it would reinforce the impression that the board is partisan. But no Democrat spoke up against the pick during Thursday night’s floor vote.
Pope believes he has a track record of working with others that could help him as he joins the board.
“I’ve been able to work very positively with Democrats and independents my entire career,” Pope said, pointing to his time in the legislature. “I think I hopefully can smooth things down and reach out to the other side, which is the real Art Pope versus the left-wing blog character (portrayal of me).”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
UNC-Chapel Hill trustees honor three with prestigious Davie Awards
Established by the trustees in 1984, the William Richardson Davie Award recognizes extraordinary service to the University or society.
From UNC-Chapel Hill News: University Communications, Thursday, November 21st, 2019
On Nov. 19, Interim Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Board of Trustees presented the board’s highest honor to three individuals who exemplify dedication, commitment and service to the University.
The three recipients of the 2019 William Richardson Davie Award are Kel Landis III of Raleigh, James Arthur “Art” Pope of Raleigh and Teresa Holland Williams of Huntersville.
Established by the trustees in 1984, the William Richardson Davie Award was named for the Revolutionary War hero who introduced and won passage of a 1789 bill in the General Assembly to charter the University of North Carolina. Named for the man considered the father of UNC-Chapel Hill, the William Richardson Davie Award recognizes extraordinary service to the University or society.
Kel Landis III ’79, ’82 (MBA) earned a bachelor’s degree and an MBA from Carolina. He served as a University trustee from 2012 to 2013, as chair of the UNC Board of Visitors and as a member of the UNC Foundation’s Board of Directors. He was an adjunct professor of finance at the UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School, chaired the school’s board of advisors and served as a trustee for the Frank Hawkins Kenan Institute for Private Enterprise. A former CEO of RBC Centura Bank, Landis served as senior advisor for business and economic affairs for North Carolina Gov. Mike Easley. Landis’ philanthropic support of the University spans across campus, including Kenan-Flagler Business School, student financial aid and research initiatives in the UNC School of Medicine. His contributions to public higher education in the state extend beyond Carolina: he is a trustee of Elizabeth City State University. He is a board member for the North Carolina Community Foundation, which provides support for community foundations across the state. Landis currently serves as a member of the Board of Advisors for the Medical Foundation of North Carolina. Landis is a co-founder and active in Plexus Capital, the largest privately-held small business investment company fund complex in the U.S. Plexus makes investments across the country, having invested over $1 billion in small to medium-sized businesses for growth capital.
James Arthur “Art” Pope ’78 earned a bachelor’s degree with honors from UNC-Chapel Hill and also holds a law degree from Duke University. He served as special counsel to North Carolina Gov. Jim Martin and as the state budget director. Pope was elected to four terms as a North Carolina state representative. He is chairman of the John William Pope Foundation, which he co-founded with his late father, John. To date, the foundation has given more than $170 million to support public policy, education, arts and humanitarian nonprofit efforts. In 2018, the foundation committed $10 million to UNC-Chapel Hill for the Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center; the Philosophy, Politics and Economics Program in the College of Arts & Sciences; men’s and women’s track-and-field scholarships; and a research study at UNC Horizons designed to help more women and children break the cycle of addiction and poverty. He currently chairs the board of directors for both the Institute for Humane Studies at George Mason University and the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation. He is chairman and owner of Variety Wholesales, Inc., and its Roses Stores. The company employs more than 7,000 people and serves millions of customers in over 360 communities.
Teresa Holland Williams ’77 earned her bachelor’s degrees in psychology and sociology from Carolina and chaired the GAA’s Board of Directors and the Board of Trustees for Western Carolina University. Williams also served on the Board of Education for Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools. Previously, she served on the Chancellor’s Advisory Committee for the Sonja Haynes Stone Center for Black Culture and History. She was awarded the UNC General Alumni Association Distinguished Service Award in 2018. Her other honors include the Western Carolina University Distinguished Service Award, the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools Volunteer of the Year Award and the Chapel Hill Service League Lifetime Membership Award. She is a founding member of the GAA’s Light on the Hill Society, which funds scholarships to support academically gifted African American students attending Carolina. Williams currently serves as a Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center Board of Visitors member. She promotes public higher education across the state as a member of the Board of Directors for Higher Education Works, a bipartisan organization that advocates for investment in North Carolina’s public universities and community colleges by building support among citizens and engaging leaders.