Meet The Puppet Master Who’s Turning North Carolina into a Tea Party Utopia

The pope of oz

When North Carolinians elected Republican Pat McCrory in November, they thought they were getting a “moderate” Republican.  Indeed, McCrory’s public record looked like a moderate Republican, he sounded like a moderate Republican and if you follow the logic about ducks, that means that as governor, McCrory would be a moderate Republican.

North Carolinians are seeing the flaw in duck logic, because something happened to their once moderate Republican governor.  It’s like the moment he was handed the keys to the Governor’s mansion he turned into a Tea Party militant overnight.

Yes, the State of North Carolina is turning into a Kochtarian Utopia, with McCrory as the face of a Moderate Republican and multi-millionaire Art Pope, playing the role of Dick Cheney. Mr. Pope is the CEO of Variety Wholesalers Inc. and has been active in Republican politics throughout his adult life. That is, after he co-founded The Libertarian Party as a 20-year-old college student, studying political science at UNC – Chapel Hill.

Pope, who  counts the Kochs among his friends, makes the administrations of Rick Snyder, Scott Walker, and even Florida’s Rick Scott look like amateur hour.  When Republicans won control of the State’s legislature in 2010, for the first time since 1870, 75% of the funding  that made it possible came from “independent” groups with ties to the personification of all that is glorious in the eyes of the Tea Party, the  great, white Art Pope.

Once the Republicans gained control of the State’s legislature for the first time in over a century, Pope provided his expertise in gerrymandering which means, as is the case in the Republican controlled House of Representatives in Washington, even when they lose, they still retain control.

Since McCrory took over the Governor’s mansion with Pope as his budget director, the litany of Tea Partyesque legislation has been spell binding. Attacking women’s rights, access to education, savage cuts to unemployment benefits, voting suppression on steroids and much, much more. Also proposed under Art  Pope’s watchful eye, Romneyhood, a constitutional amendment for a right to work for less, and government handouts for homeschooling.  As Think Progress said, Pope with McCrory as his face is rapidly turning North Carolina into a Tea Party Utopia.

“With no remaining checks to Republican rule in North Carolina, the state has now become a haven for some of the most ideological — and ill-considered — tea party fantasies dressed up as legislation.”

It’s a dizzying pace, especially for people who say they don’t like government on their backs, but are more than content to make government an albatross on the backs of average North Carolinians.

We wouldn’t see proposals to impose any religion, let alone a specific religion, on the populace of North Carolina under a “moderate” Republican Administration and it certainly doesn’t make sense under Libertarianism. Yet, that’s just one of the laws proposed by the Pope/McCrory Administration.  This is particularly ironic, since Pope is familiar with the first amendment, when it comes to his “right” to throw as much money as possible at races where Republicans can’t sell their ideas.

Of course, he didn’t see it that way when he wrote the following in the National Review:

“I’m a conservative Republican and I exercise my First Amendment rights by supporting conservative public-policy and issue-advocacy organizations, grassroots activism, voter education, and Republican candidates. With the obvious importance of North Carolina in next year’s national elections, the Left now wants to silence me.”

If Pope and McCrory have their way, NC’s Racial Justice Act that sought to take racism out of North Carolina’s criminal justice system will be a thing of the past.

This is symptomatic of the Tea Party’s version of libertarianism, in which free speech applies to the uber rich when they buy politicians, but freedom of religion is reduced to “allowing” North Carolinians to choose which Church, spouting the state religion, they will attend.  Somehow, the first Amendment that Pope pointed to when defending his “right” to buy the State’s government no longer matters under the Pope/McCrory Administration.

It’s the sort of “libertarianism” that frowns upon assuring civil protections of people who are vulnerable to discrimination in favor of preserving the racists’ ‘freedom’ to be racists.

But wait, there is so much more. North Carolina shows us why the Tea Party is drawn to having inexperienced “fresh faces.”  It’s so much easier for Dick Cheney types  to pull their strings behind the curtain.

In 2012, Pope served as the co-chair for Pat McCrory’s transition team before he was appointed to be the state’s chief budget writer in McCrory’s Administration.  When his appointment as Budget Director was announced, observers of North Carolinian politics knew what lay ahead. McCrory serves as the Public face of his Administration, with Art Pope pulling his strings from behind the scenes.

As the Charlotte Observed noted:

“Many people find it difficult to think dispassionately about Pope because he has become such a polarizing figure – knight of the right to his admirers or a somewhat sinister Daddy-Warbucks-Dick-Cheney-string-puller to his critics.”

But for McCrory, a rookie governor with little Raleigh experience, having Pope at his side during the early months of his administration has been an asset. (my emphasis)

The litany of legislation that Pope and McCrory’s Republicans passed and are currently in the process of passing coincide with the Kochtarian version of freedom, in which corporations are free to do what they want, the rich are free to live as they want, and small government means regulating as many aspects of everyone else’s life as possible.

Bill Cook, one of those Republicans who benefitted from an influx of Pope money, introduced North Carolina’s version of voter suppression laws.

Most of the proposed voter suppression legislation is the same boilerplate laws we saw passed by Republicans before the 2012 election. However, the Pope/McCrory voter suppression package has a couple of additional laws that only a Kochtarian can see as an enhancement of liberty. First up is a law to remove the child deduction from parents whose children vote where they go to college instead of in their home town.  It has the same effect as a poll tax,  even if Pope and McCrory would deny that it is a poll tax.

Of course, Voter Integrity Project of NC which has ties to Art Pope, are salivating over this law. Like good soldiers of the Koch controlled Tea Party, they’re armed with talking points,  so they don’t have to worry their little heads by thinking about what they are advocating.

North Carolinians will be hearing about how this law, proposed by one of Art Pope’s puppets, is really just about “equalizing” the vote because college students are such a privileged lot. This message provided courtesy of one of Art Pope’s “grassroots” organizations will appear to be a “grassroots” concern, with Art Pope, once again, pulling the strings.  Granted, recognizing why this policy is constitutionally problematic would mean taking a look at the 24th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution which prohibits both Congress and the states from conditioning the right to vote in federal elections on payment of a poll tax or other types of tax. But Pope’s puppets need not worry about it.  He does all the thinking, and all they have to do is propose his law and parrot his message. It’s so much more efficient when one person does the thinking and makes all the decisions, you know.

The Voter Integrity Project operates much like those other wonderful “grass roots” organizations, Americans For Prosperity and the Tea Party where Pope (and his bff’s the Koch Brothers” also have ties, in which “grassroots” really means “top down.” Their sugar daddies run the show, while the “grass roots” members act as broadcasters of their sugar daddy’s message. after legislators bought by their sugar daddies propose the policies envisioned by Art Pope and the Koch Brothers.

Pope isn’t stopping at voter suppression though.  As the person responsible for writing NC’s budgets, Pope is using the budget to eliminate NC’s Judicial Public Finance Program.

In short, the program provides public financing for judicial elections, rather than the sort of “grass roots” financing that comes from people like Art Pope.  Considering that Pope believes that money is speech, his opposition to this program is predictable.  After all, money is only speech when the money in question belongs to the uberrich and besides, public financing of elections sort of puts a damper on the uberrich’s financial megaphone silencing the voices of everyone else.  Then there’s practical reality.  To assure the laws proposed by the legislators that Pope invested in remain in tact, Pope needs the ability to buy judges to rubber stamp his laws should they, somehow be subject to constitutional challenges.

Just think of it, the same guy who writes the law, buys a lawmaker to propose it and has his “grassroots’ organization broadcast his talking points.  Just in case you people get uppity and decide to challenge the will of Pope, if he gets his way, he’ll have bought judges to rule in his favor.  It’s so efficient and so consistent with the liberty that Kochtarianism stands for.

As Paul Blumenthal of the Huffington Post reported:

“Most of the attacks [against judicial public financing] were really coming from one source, and that’s the political network that’s largely funded by Art Pope in North Carolina,” Chris Kromm, Director at the Institute for Southern Studies, a liberal non-profit in North Carolina, alleged.”

The lesson of North Carolina is a reminder of the sort of Republican Party we’re dealing with today.  It’s a Republican Party controlled by people who believe they are entitled to buy legislators and judges to silence the voices of Americans who don’t belong to the billionaire boys club. It’s a party of plutocrats that not only can’t relate to most Americans, and all American values, but hold contempt for both. The real leaders aren’t those moderate faces on the campaign trail, they are those men hiding behind the curtain.

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