Morgan Asks Help in Fight Against Pope
State House Speaker Pro Tem Richard Morgan is going after his mortal enemy, Wake County businessman Art Pope.
In a letter, he calls Pope a "menace," and a "danger to the values North Carolinians hold dear."
He sent a letter dated Oct. 19 to "friends, business leaders and interested parties" asking for help to pay legal fees incurred during his fight with Pope.
Pope and Morgan are longtime enemies. Pope, who owns Variety Wholesalers, contributed money to an issue-advocacy group called the Republican Legislative Majority that produced anti-Morgan pamphlets and distributed them in Moore County prior to the May 2 primary, which Morgan lost to Joe Boylan.
Morgan said in the letter that he is used to writing fundraising letters for campaigns, but not for something like this.
"Never before have I had to ask anyone to help with legal expenses," he wrote. "But now the stakes are too high and, for once, I must ask for your help."
In the letter, Morgan accused Pope of using his money to control the General Assembly. He called the Republican Legislative Majority a "front" that Pope used to affect the last two elections.
"His clear and specific purpose has been to try to destroy my reputation," Morgan wrote, "along with the good names of other fine North Carolinians who serve with me in the North Carolina House of Representatives."
Morgan challenged Pope's contributions to the Republican Legislative Majority after the primary. The state Board of Elections ruled in August that nothing illegal took place.
Now Morgan is looking for help in paying for the expenses.
Morgan brought up the name of Rep. Stephen LaRoque, whom Pope sued for libel after LaRoque accused Pope of "buying" seats.
Morgan wrote: "Pope's strategy is to use his corporate millions to control members of the North Carolina General Assembly by making some beholden to him and punishing others who dare to disagree with him.
He said that Pope is pulling the strings of the General Assembly.
"Pope's approach could set our state back 50 years," he said.
Morgan is asking people to join the fight, by contributing to the Richard Morgan Legal Expense Trust.
"Enough is enough," Morgan wrote. "I am trying to do something about this menace."
The Pilot was unable to reach Morgan for comment on the letter.
Pope said Tuesday that Morgan's time is over.
"Richard Morgan does not seem to realize that he lost the election, and he lost his complaint before the state Board of Elections," Pope said.
When asked to respond to Morgan's charges that he is trying to manipulate the legislature, Pope said that he was just a Republican who wanted to see a Republican majority. He said he is not going to harm the integrity of the General Assembly.
"That's silly and false," Pope said.
Morgan teamed with Democratic House Speaker Jim Black, Pope said. He believes their leadership has set the state back decades. Black, he said, has "given the state scandal after scandal."
Pope felt it was ironic that Morgan would accuse him of punishing people who do not agree with him, since that is exactly what he said Morgan did as speaker. He dismissed staffers, placed enemies in "broom closet"-sized offices and rewarded obedience with pork barrel money, Pope said.
"I don't punish people," he said. "Richard Morgan is the one who abused the power of the legislative office."
After receiving a faxed copy of Morgan's letter, Pope called The Pilot back and pointed out that the trustee Morgan named for the legal expense trust is M. Jackson Nichols, the Democrat candidate Pope defeated in a 2000 state House election.
Matthew Moriarty can be reached at 693-2479 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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