Jane Mayer, staff writer for The New Yorker, sat down for an interview Monday night on MSNBC's "The Rachel Maddow Show." Mayer and Maddow discussed conservative multimillionaire Art Pope, who has recently had a major financial influence on North Carolina politics. Mayer's report about Pope, "State For Sale," appears in the most recent issue of The New Yorker.
Maddow prefaced the interview with Mayer by explaining that Barack Obama and Joe Biden won North Carolina in 2008 by the "slimmest of margins." She went on to say that "Republicans in North Carolina are doing everything they can to change the voting rules in that state so a victory like the one Obama got there in 2008 can never happen again."
Pope, Maddow said, was linked to "three-quarters of all the independent money" that helped elect a Republican-controlled legislature in the state. "He targeted 22 races, he got a Republican into office in 18 of those 22 races. One guy, three-quarters of the outside money in the entire election, one guy," said Maddow.
Mayer, who interviewed Pope for her article, described to Maddow the man and his influence:
"In many ways he is the one man who is single-handedly bankrolling a kind of a conservative takeover of the state. At least that's how the Democrats see it down there. It's a state that as you said is just completely key to Barack Obama's reelection, and it's a state that is traditionally neither completely red nor blue, it's kind of a purple state, but it went blue in 2008, and basically the Republican party took one look at it and thought they've got to make sure that it doesn't go that way again in 2012. So there's been a lot of very careful and smart thinking going into the state and a ton of money."
Pope "has kind of an empire of discount stores and is a long-time far right activist," said Mayer.
She went on to explain that Pope "has a vision of America that requires kind of turning back the tide of history to before the New Deal basically. And he will say it has nothing to do with his business interests, but it does include things like opposition to the minimum wage law," as well as "opposition to most taxes, and to all kinds of government services." Mayer continued, "his political vision dovetails with his self-interest, but it goes beyond that I think really with him. He's something of a kind of an ideological purist and a zealot to some extent."
After describing Pope's political history of having served multiple terms in the state legislature, as well as having failed in a run for statewide office, Mayer said, "in a way you can see him as a frustrated politician whose ideas did not sell at the ballot box, and when he didn't really get power that way, you can see that he funded an empire of, kind of a conservative opinion machine, and poured money into political races."
Mayer summed up Pope's causes as aligning with "the Republican party, and small government, almost you know anti-government, and low taxes."
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