WEB: Pope Testifies in Day 2 of Morgan Hearing
James Arthur Pope took the stand Wednesday morning to deny vehemently any cooperation between RLM (Republicans for a Legislative Majority) and the campaigns of Republican challengers in May's primary elections.
Speaker Richard Morgan has charged that Pope and RLM violated North Carolina Election law. Pope's testimony was part of day two of a hearing of Morgan's petition before the State Board of Elections.
Pope testified that he had hardly any contact with any of the challengers. His focus was on getting certain issues before the public, he said, and he wanted to stay clearly within the law.
RLM is an advocacy group dedicated to informing the public about how their representatives voted in the General Assembly, Pope told the state board.
Pope's family at one time operated a store on West Broad Street in Southern Pines. Pope's was one of two dime stores in the downtown area-- both long gone. Now, Pope is CEO of Variety Wholesale Inc. and Variety Store, Inc.
RLM is permitted to accept contributions from corporations -- like the two Pope family companies that bankrolled its activities during the primary season -- provided it doesn't get involved in electoral contests
But Morgan, completing testimony he began Tuesday, said it had. Laws he had helped write -- and which were tightened even further this year -- were meant to keep the public aware of the origins of political campaign money and to keep corporate money away from the ballot box.
"It requires disclosure," Morgan said Wednesday. "But (politicians, sometimes) have a sneaky way of doing things. That's not unusual."
RLM, with Pope's blessing, sent many mailings -- all under the 5,000 address limit. He contended RLM's actions were perfectly within the law, which says nothing about how many mailings can go out.
A lot of mailings ought to be viewed the same as one big mailing, Morgan said.
"Multiple times?" he said Wednesday. "That was never the intent of the legislature. This organization was formed for a sinister purpose of hiding that money. I meant to stop illegal funds from corporations funneling money into a front organization controlled by Mr. Pope to soften up anybodywho doesn't agree with the litmus test that comes from that man's mind."
Not so, Pope contended, saying his RLM was formed in response to ads by a Morgan group (Republican Main Street Committee) that he considered false. RLM had the clear purpose of letting people know that their representatives might not be voting in Raleigh the way that they were conveying back home.
"Too often, legislators say one thing to constituents back home, and vote another way up here," Pope said. "My belief was that if RLM got word out -- if they knew how their representative legislators were voting -- that would put on the pressure. They'd be less likely to vote to keep Jim Black as speaker."
Pope admitted that he had called for Black and Morgan to resign. He said he wanted Morgan defeated, as happened in the May primary.
Joe Boylan, who won that primary, has been present for every session of the board -- he was subpoenaed by Morgan but has not been called as a witness.
"I'm wasting a lot of money on my lawyer," Boylan said. "And I am wasting valuable time in the middle of a campaign."
Boylan has two opponents in the general election -- both running without party affiliation.
Testimony from the respondents continues this afternoon.
Check ThePilot.com for updates on this developing story.
More like this story