By Jason Stverak
Art Pope is a humanitarian, philanthropist and free-market advocate who has dedicated his life to serving the people of North Carolina. But you’d never know that if you took the words of liberal activist Bill Moyers at face value.
A LEADER: Under Art Pope’s guidance, the John William Pope Foundation has spent more than $9 million in grants to soup kitchens, homeless shelters, food banks and other charities aimed at giving the poor a hand up.
In the wake of a string of recent political defeats, Moyers and his allies have chosen to sling mud and falsehoods at Pope instead of working through the democratic process to achieve their goals.
Pope is chairman and president of the John William Pope Foundation, which bears his father’s name, and works tirelessly to advance liberty and other humanitarian causes in North Carolina.
Through Pope’s work, North Carolinians have learned more about common-sense free-market policies.
Yet Pope’s work hardly stops at promoting free-market policy. Unlike many other policy-focused foundations, the John William Pope Foundation has been extraordinarily generous in helping the least fortunate among us. Under Art’s guidance, the Pope Foundation has spent more than $9 million in grants to soup kitchens, homeless shelters, food banks and other charities aimed at giving the poor a hand up.
Evident as the breadth and depth of Pope’s generosity may be, Moyers and his allies have done their best to muddle this picture and paint him as the big, bad wolf of North Carolina, accusing him of “buying” the state government through his foundation’s grants to free-market nonprofits.
This claim is not only offensive ― as it implies that North Carolina’s voters blindly follow the work of political nonprofits without ever thinking over the issues themselves ― but entirely misleading, as the Pope Foundation spends considerably less in North Carolina than comparable left-leaning foundations.
In fact, the state’s largest liberal foundation spent nearly twice as much as the Pope Foundation in 2011. It’s no surprise that Moyers conveniently excludes this tidbit, which alone debunks the idea that Pope has “bought” anything in the Tar Heel State.
Moreover, the petty attacks on Pope overlook our country’s history of leaders who organized their fellow citizens under the banner of liberty. The Founding Fathers came from all corners of society, but most were wealthy men who used their wealth and positions of influence to serve the greater good.
Pope could have rested on his laurels after achieving private-sector business success, but instead he decided to put his money into philanthropy. We should celebrate this type of civic-minded leadership, not discourage it through shameful, politically motivated media hit pieces.
Moyers’ attacks on Pope are nothing more than a sad commentary on the left’s conception of the political process. When Pope found his side in the minority, he organized his allies behind ideas and embraced the democratic process. If the left were willing to do the same instead of distorting, assailing, and scapegoating, perhaps discourse in North Carolina would be a bit more civil.
Jason Stverak is president of the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity.