Art Pope

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Art Pope
Budget Director of North Carolina
In office
January 6, 2013 – September 2014[1]
Succeeded by Lee Roberts
Member of the North Carolina House of Representatives
from the 61st district
In office
In office
Personal details
Born James Arthur Pope
(1956-05-05) May 5, 1956 (age 59)
Fayetteville, North Carolina
Nationality American
Occupation Businessman, attorney, philanthropist

James Arthur "Art" Pope (born May 5, 1956)[2] is a North Carolina philanthropist, businessman, attorney and former government official. Pope is president and chairman of the John William Pope Foundation. He is also the CEO and chairman of Variety Wholesalers, a group of 385 retail stores across 15 southern states.[3]

He previously served in the North Carolina House of Representatives and recently served as the Budget Director for North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory.[4]

He co-founded the John Locke Foundation; and is active with the John William Pope Center for Higher Education Policy.[5]

Early life and education[edit]

Pope was born May 5, 1956 in Fayetteville, North Carolina, to John W. and Joyce Wilkins Pope. He spent his early childhood in the town of Fuquay-Varina, North Carolina. He moved with his family to the capital city of Raleigh, North Carolina in the early 1960s. Pope graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1978 with a B.A. with honors in political science, and went on to earn his J.D. from the Duke University School of Law in 1981.[2]

Professional life[edit]

Pope was engaged in a general law practice as an associate attorney with the firm of Skvarla, Boles, Wyrick and From in Raleigh, from 1982 through 1984. In 1984, Pope took a leave of absence from the firm to work as the director of organization for the North Carolina gubernatorial campaign of Jim Martin. Pope served as special counsel to Governor Jim Martin in 1985.[2]

In 1986, Pope joined the family business, the retail discount chain Variety Wholesalers. Pope has held several positions with Variety Wholesalers Inc., first as general counsel, then vice-president of administration and information systems, chief financial officer, executive vice-president. Beginning in 2006, Pope began serving as president, CEO, and chairman of the board.[6] Variety Wholesalers, Inc. is a privately held company based in Henderson, North Carolina, which owns more than 385 retail stores in the southeast including the Roses and Maxway stores, and employs more than 7,000 workers. It originated in 1930 as a small group of retail stores owned by the Pope family and has expanded by purchasing a number of other retail chains to become one of the largest in the US. The company is still privately owned by the Pope family.[7][8][9] [10]


Pope is chairman and president of the John William Pope Foundation, which he founded with his father, John W. Pope, in 1986.[11] The Pope Foundation has nearly $150 million in assets. It has made over $89 million in grants since 1986, including over $9 million in grants made during the fiscal year ending June 30, 2010. The foundation has four areas of activity; humanitarian, public policy, education, and the arts. [12]

Eighteen percent of the grants went to support higher education, including Campbell University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. According to the Washington Post, "Art Pope is one of the most generous donors to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, having lavished millions on his alma mater." [13] His gift to Campbell University was the largest in the history of the Law School. [14]

Ten percent of the Pope Foundation’s grants support community philanthropy, including the Habitat for Humanity in Wake County and Food Bank of Eastern & Central North Carolina. In 2012, for the foundation's 25th anniversary, it raised $300,000 at a dinner for Step Up Ministry, a Raleigh chairty that serves 600 homeless and poor people annually to move to stability, housing, and employment. [15] In December 2012, the Pope Foundation announced $810,500 in grants to community charities, schools, churches, and the arts.[16] To counter the effects of the federal government shutdown in October 2013, the Pope Foundation gave $185,000 in grants to "13 food bank-type groups" in central, eastern, and western North Carolina.,[17] including three charities in Vance County.[18]

The Foundation’s support for the arts includes grants to the North Carolina Symphony, Carolina Ballet, North Carolina Theater and North Carolina Opera.

Half of the Pope Foundation’s grants have gone to support public policy and think tanks in North Carolina, with the largest single recipient being the John Locke Foundation. The Pope Foundation has donated more than $28.7 million to think tanks, including $17 million to the John Locke Foundation,[19] for which Art Pope was the founding chairman.[20] Seventeen percent has supported national conservative and libertarian public policy think tanks, including The Heritage Foundation and the Cato Institute. [21]

In 2005, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill asked the John William Pope Foundation for a $4.8 million grant to enhance its curriculum in Western civilization. In 2006, after wrangling between the university administration and some faculty and students who opposed the proposal,[22] the Pope Foundation declined to fund the proposal. Instead, the Pope Foundation donated $100,000 a year for a visiting scholars program and student fellowships for the study of Western civilization, as well as $2 million for an endowment for salary enhancements for assistant football coaches.[23] In 2011, the Pope Foundation gave the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill $3 million for its Student-Athlete Academic Support Center.[24][25] In 2014 the Pope Foundation donated $1.3 million to endow a professorship and grant program at the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center. [26]

Public service[edit]

Pope co-founded the Libertarian Party of North Carolina as a college student in 1976.[5] He has been active with the Republican Party since the late 1970s, serving in a variety of roles ranging from precinct chairman to chairman of the North Carolina GOP State Convention. Pope has also served as a delegate to the Republican National Convention on three occasions. Pope was appointed to serve on the North Carolina State Goals and Policy Board from 1985-1989. He also served on the North Carolina Capital Planning Commission.

Pope was first elected to the North Carolina House of Representatives in 1988 to represent House District 61. He served four complete or partial terms in office, winning elections in 1988 and 1990, being appointed to fill a vacancy in 1999,[5] and winning another election in 2000.[2] He was elected Republican Joint Caucus Leader during the 1991-1992 session.[27] Pope was awarded the Order of the Long Leaf Pine, the state's most prestigious award for public service, in 1992 at age 36.[28]

Pope vacated his House seat to run for the office of Lieutenant Governor in 1992. After winning a three-way Republican primary in May 1992, Pope lost the general election to Democrat Dennis Wicker.

In June 2011, Pope was appointed to the board of directors for Golden LEAF (Long-term Economic Advancement Foundation), a nonprofit grant-making organization whose mission is to spur economic development in tobacco-dependent areas of North Carolina. Pope had previously criticized some Golden LEAF funding decisions.[29]

Pope was among several business leaders appointed in September 2012 to serve on a UNC system advisory group tasked with helping to shape the future of the state's public universities.[30] Pope was also a member of the Electoral College in 2012, casting one of North Carolina's electoral votes for Mitt Romney.[31]

In November 2012, it was announced that Pope would serve as a co-chair on North Carolina Governor-Elect Pat McCrory's transition team, and in December Pope was announced as the state's chief budget writer in the McCrory administration.[32][33]

Funding and activism for conservative causes[edit]

According to the News and Observer, Pope "has invested millions in a network of foundations and think tanks, and advocacy groups, both in North Carolina and nationally, that are designed to further conservative and free market ideas."[34]

In 2005, Pope was a founding member of the NC Coalition for Lobbying & Government Reform.[35] He joined former Democratic state Senator Wib Gulley from Durham, NC, in calling for reform of the state’s lobbying laws.[36]

Pope co-founded Real Jobs NC,[19] a 527 organization that ran attack ads against 20 state Democratic legislators in the North Carolina 2010 general elections.[19][37][38][39] Real Jobs NC is funded primarily by the Republican State Leadership Committee, though Pope provided it with an initial $200,000 donation.[39][40]

Civitas Action Inc, a 501(c)(4) non-profit organized by the John W. Pope Civitas Institute think tank, also sent out mailings against Democratic candidates in the North Carolina 2010 general elections, and is funded primarily by Variety Stores, which is owned by Pope.[19]

Pope also played an active role in the 2010 redistricting of North Carolina's electoral map as a pro bono legal adviser during the process. The redistricting effort assisted in shifting the state's U.S. House delegation from 7-6 Democratic to 9-4 in favor of Republicans.[39] Pope has been a long time supporter of legislation to establish an independent nonpartisan redistricting commission. [41]He has advocated doing away with the public financing of judicial elections in North Carolina.[42] As an alternative to the election of judges, Pope stated he supported the appointment of judges by the governor with confirmation by the state legislature.[43]

Through personal campaign donations and corporate donations to independent expenditure efforts, Pope supported Republican candidates in the 2010 elections for the North Carolina General Assembly in 2010.[19] Of the $30 million spent on North Carolina legislative races during the 2010 election,[44] it was reported that Art Pope’s company donated approximately $425,000 as independent expenditures that favored Republicans, and groups tied to Pope spent $2.1 million to influence the campaign.[19]

After his selection as Governor Pat McCrory's budget director, Pope resigned his positions as a member of the board of directors of Americans for Prosperity and as a board member of Civitas Institute and Civitas Action in North Carolina.[45]


  1. ^ WFAE: Art Pope resigns as NC Budget Director, Lee Roberts to take over
  2. ^ a b c d Cheney, John L., Jr. (ed.). North Carolina Manual 2001-2002. Raleigh, NC: Secretary of State of North Carolina. p. 570. Retrieved November 27, 2011. 
  3. ^ Hoovers
  4. ^ WRAL: Pope, Shanahan find place in McCrory cabinet
  5. ^ a b c
  6. ^ Mayers, New Yorker Magazine
  7. ^ Real Estate 
  8. ^ About Variety Wholesalers 
  9. ^ "N.C. budget director briefly debates a top critic". Dec 2, 2013. Retrieved 2013-12-23. 
  10. ^ Variety About US
  11. ^ John J. Miller (December 21, 2009). "The Fisherman’s Friend". National Review. 
  12. ^
  13. ^
  14. ^
  15. ^
  16. ^ "Foundation announces $800k in December donations". News & Observer. December 13, 2012. 
  17. ^ "Pope Foundation gives money to ease government shutdown". Retrieved 2013-11-14. 
  18. ^ SARAH MANSUR (2013-10-23). "Pope Foundation steps up, helps three in Vance County". The Daily Dispatch. 
  19. ^ a b c d e f Rob Christensen (October 27, 2010). "Art Pope: a one-man Republican equalizer". The News and Observer. 
  20. ^ Board Of Directors | The North Carolina Institute for Constitutional Law
  21. ^ Todd Cohen (November 21, 2011). "Poverty, free markets focus of Pope Foundation". Philanthropy Journal. 
  22. ^ The Daily Tar Heel :: Pope funds prompt uproar
  23. ^ "Pope Family Gives $2.3 Million for Western Civ, Football Coaches". UNC Alumni Review. October 8, 2006. 
  24. ^ "Pope Foundation gives $3 million to UNC". Philanthropy Journal. April 12, 2011. 
  25. ^ "Gifts totaling $10.5 Million will support the University’s student-athletes in Kenan". University Gazette. April 27, 2011. 
  26. ^
  27. ^ Cheney, John L., Jr. (ed.). North Carolina Manual 1991-1992. Raleigh, NC: Secretary of State of North Carolina. p. 313. Retrieved November 27, 2011. 
  28. ^ Order of the Long Leaf Pine
  29. ^ Art Pope will have say in agency he criticized. The News and Observer, June 15, 2011, by Lynn Bonner, Rob Christensen and Eden Stiffman.
  30. ^ "Key legislators, business leaders on UNC strategic planning group". News and Observer. September 13, 2012. 
  31. ^ News & Observer: Romney awarded NC's 15 electoral college votes
  32. ^ "McCrory unveils transition team, defends selection of conservative-activist Art Pope". Winston-Salem Journal. November 8, 2012. Retrieved November 10, 2012. 
  33. ^ "McCrory names Art Pope to be his chief budget writer". News & Observer. December 20, 2012. Retrieved December 21, 2012. 
  34. ^ Art Pope subject of New Yorker profile | projects
  35. ^ NC Coalition for Lobbying & Government Reform: Coalition Members
  36. ^ "Lobbyist and legislators: How N.C. can do better". News & Observer, March 22, 2005, by Art Pope and Wib Gulley. 
  37. ^ Two outside groups aid N.C. Republican wins - Local -
  38. ^ Republicans take control in historic election - Basnight's 18-year reign as Senate leader ends; Cornelius Rep. Tillis may seek House speaker role. Charlotte Observer, The (NC) - Wednesday, November 3, 2010 Author: Lynn Bonner and Michael Biesecker
  39. ^ a b c Pierce, Olga; Justin Elliott and Theodoric Meyer (December 21, 2012). "How Dark Money Helped Republicans Hold the House and Hurt Voters". ProPublica. Retrieved December 22, 2012. 
  40. ^ Two outside groups aid N.C. Republican wins - Local -
  41. ^ "Gerrymandering in NC results in few competitive races". News & Observer. January 7, 2014. 
  42. ^
  43. ^ "Art Pope: Attorney fees for political campaigns unconstitutional". News & Observer. June 17, 2013. 
  44. ^ Rob Christensen (October 9, 2011). "N.C. isn’t in Pope’s pocket". The News and Observer. 
  45. ^ Thursday, Posted:; Dec 20, 2012. "McCrory names Art Pope to be his chief budget writer". Retrieved 2013-11-12.