Two national articles have brought attention to the falsehoods in Bill Moyers’ PBS documentary attacking the John William Pope Foundation.
In the first, Paul Chesser writes in The American Spectator that Moyers failed to give a complete picture of foundation giving in North Carolina:
… while [Art] Pope’s giving has been significant, the notion that he has “bought” a state that was “for sale” is absurd. Had Moyers or Jane Mayer [author of a hit piece on Pope in 2011 in The New Yorker) … sought to paint an accurate picture of North Carolina’s political scene, they would have reported that left-of-center foundations and donors fund their policy groups and candidates to a much greater extent than has Pope. Instead they excluded that information — intentionally.
When Mayer pieced together her New Yorker report in 2011, she contacted John Hood, president of the John Locke Foundation (and my employer until 2007). As Hood explained, Democrat legislative candidates in 2010 enjoyed a $2 million advantage in funding over their Republican counterparts — roughly $16 million to $14 million. Hood also said he informed Mayer that the largest grantmaker to NC public policy nonprofits is the Winston-Salem-based Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation, which the previous year gave $6.7 million to liberal groups, compared to the Pope Foundation’s $5.7 million to the Locke Foundation, Civitas Institute, and other conservative nonprofits. And as the Pope Foundation pointed out in its rebuttal to the Moyers program, in 2011 alone Z. Smith Reynolds and other foundations gave between $10 million and $11 million to such groups, while the Pope Foundation — virtually alone in conservative grantmaking in the Tar Heel state — gave $5 million.
“I provided Mayer with a list of the grant recipients and encouraged her to give her readers an accurate picture,” Hood wrote in October 2011. “She chose not to report any of these details… that speaks volumes.”
In a second article, Jason Stverak of the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity highlights the humanitarian charitable work of the Pope Foundation — charitable work entirely ignored by Moyers:
Yet Pope’s work hardly stops at promoting free-market policy. Unlike many other policy-focused foundations, the John William Pope Foundation has been extraordinarily generous in helping the least fortunate among us. Under Art’s guidance, the Pope Foundation has spent more than $9 million in grants to soup kitchens, homeless shelters, food banks and other charities aimed at giving the poor a hand up.
Evident as the breadth and depth of Pope’s generosity may be, Moyers and his allies have done their best to muddle this picture and paint him as the big, bad wolf of North Carolina, accusing him of “buying” the state government through his foundation’s grants to free-market nonprofits.
This claim is not only offensive ― as it implies that North Carolina’s voters blindly follow the work of political nonprofits without ever thinking over the issues themselves ― but entirely misleading, as the Pope Foundation spends considerably less in North Carolina than comparable left-leaning foundations.
In fact, the state’s largest liberal foundation spent nearly twice as much as the Pope Foundation in 2011. It’s no surprise that Moyers conveniently excludes this tidbit, which alone debunks the idea that Pope has “bought” anything in the Tar Heel State.