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 Multiple media outlets reported my proposal—for the ordinance to be rescinded and H.B. 2 to be repealed.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.  

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