Art Pope wants to make it clear: there is no such thing as "Pope Inc."
Today, in a meeting with News & Observer reporters and editors, the conservative businessman and former legislator made reference to the phrase "Pope Political Inc." in a 2006 N&O story that chronicled Pope's influence on the right in North Carolina.
"Literally we had some people calling, saying, 'Can I get a job with Pope Inc.'?" Pope quipped. "Well, no you can't."
Pope of Raleigh is the chairman and CEO of Variety Wholesalers, Inc., a company that owns 400 discount stores in 14 states. His family foundation, the John William Pope Foundation, is a benefactor of several think tanks, including the John Locke Foundation, the John William Pope Center for Higher Education and the John W. Pope Civitas Institute.
Pope points out the groups all have different boards with broad membership. There is no central management or direction, like you would have in a corporation, Pope said.
Instead, he said, the foundation is something akin to Winston-Salem-based Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation, which has a history of giving to causes on the left of the political spectrum.
And, Pope said, don't forget the Pope Foundation also gives to non-idealogical charities. He cited a recent $1 million donation to Hospice of Wake County for its new building.
Pope says he had no involvement with the new policies of the Wake County school board, though he did donate money to the Wake County Republican Party, which backed the candidates now rewriting the board's policies.