quote:In the spring of 2010, the conservative political strategist Ed Gillespie flew from Washington, D.C., to Raleigh, North Carolina, to spend a day laying the groundwork for REDMAP, a new project aimed at engineering a Republican takeover of state legislatures. Gillespie hoped to help his party get control of statehouses where congressional redistricting was pending, thereby leveraging victories in cheap local races into a means of shifting the balance of power in Washington. It was an ingenious plan, and Gillespie is a skilled tactician—he once ran the Republican National Committee—but REDMAP seemed like a long shot in North Carolina. Barack Obama carried the state in 2008 and remained popular. The Republicans hadn’t controlled both houses of the North Carolina General Assembly for more than a century. (“Not since General Sherman,” a state politico joked to me.) That day in Raleigh, though, Gillespie had lunch with an ideal ally: James Arthur (Art) Pope, the chairman and C.E.O. of Variety Wholesalers, a discount-store conglomerate. The Raleigh News and Observer had called Pope, a conservative multimillionaire, the Knight of the Right. The REDMAP project offered Pope a new way to spend his money.
quote:Phillips argues that the Court’s decision, in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, has been a “game changer,” especially in the realm of state politics. In swing states like North Carolina—which the Democrats consider so important that they have scheduled their 2012 National Convention there—an individual donor, particularly one with access to corporate funds, can play a significant, and sometimes decisive, role. “We didn’t have that before 2010,” Phillips says. “Citizens United opened up the door. Now a candidate can literally be outspent by independent groups. We saw it in North Carolina, and a lot of the money was traced back to Art Pope.”
Though conservatives like Pope took the lead in exploiting the new possibilities for corporate spending, the use of ostensibly nonpartisan advocacy groups has been proliferating on both the left and the right. Fred Wertheimer, who heads Democracy 21, another group that works for campaign-finance reform, says, “Tax-exempt organizations that are supposed to ‘promote the social welfare’ are being improperly used by Democratic and Republican supporters alike to engage in extensive campaign activities.” He just filed a complaint about the practice with the Internal Revenue Service. “The disastrous Citizens United decision has opened the door wide to influence-buying,” he says.
quote:That same fall, Chris Heagarty, a Democratic lawyer, ran for a legislative seat in Wake County, which includes Raleigh, where Pope lives. He had previously directed an election-reform group, and was not naïve about political money. Yet even he was caught off guard by the intensity of the effort marshalled against him. Real Jobs NC and Civitas Action spent some seventy thousand dollars on ads portraying him as fiscally profligate, and Americans for Prosperity spent heavily on behalf of his opponent. One ad accused him of having voted “to raise taxes over a billion dollars,” even though he had not yet served in the legislature. Another ad depicted Heagarty, who has dark hair and a dark complexion, as Hispanic. (He is Caucasian.) The ad was sponsored by the North Carolina Republican Party, to which Pope had contributed in 2008. Heagarty said, “They slapped a sombrero on a photo of me, and wrote, ‘Mucho Taxo! Adios, Señor!’ ” He said, “If you put all of the Pope groups together, they and the North Carolina G.O.P. spent more to defeat me than the guy who actually won.” He fell silent, then added, “For an individual to have so much power is frightening. The government of North Carolina is for sale.”
Somewhat of a derail thought, when I saw the title, I started thinking in terms of international deals where countries might sell each others states... Wonder if anyone's thought about if we might link the 48 to Alaska by buying two or three provinces from Canada via the Queen or later descendants at some time, a few from Mexico, or some smaller island nations? I almost can imagine a deal between Mexico and the US as the end result of a conspiracy involving drug cartels where the US Army moves in to eradicate them in exchange for citizenship rights for current resident illegals and all residents of some Mexican states alongside our border plus Baja California or some other state, as these particular states become part of the USA. Hmmm. Anyone wanna write a story about that?