Pope Foundation responds to Bill Moyers’ unfair attack

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Bill Moyers, through Moyers & Company, recently released a documentary titled “State of Conflict: North Carolina.” Broadcast through the PBS network on Jan. 3, the one-hour program falsely portrayed the charitable work of the John William Pope Foundation and of our Chairman and President, Art Pope.

“State of Conflict: North Carolina” repeated the false claim that Art Pope and the Pope Foundation “bought” the state of North Carolina, mostly through giving to public policy nonprofits that advocate for common sense free-market reforms. Mr. Moyers presented nothing new in his documentary — in fact, he’s late to the party. Many left-wing operatives have hurled similar accusations for years. The claims have never stuck because they are entirely false.

But Mr. Moyers doesn’t merely repeat a falsehood. Worse, he conceals the fact that the Pope Foundation is not the largest grantor to public policy groups in North Carolina. While the Pope Foundation gives around $5 million to conservative, free-market organizations in North Carolina each year, that number pales in comparison to the $10 million to $11 million given annually by left-wing foundations to progressive groups in the Tar Heel State.

In 2011 alone, three progressive foundations gave generously to left-of-center, liberal groups in North Carolina: The Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation ($9.2 million in grants), the Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation ($614,000 in grants), and the A.J. Fletcher Foundation ($588,000 in grants).

If North Carolina can indeed be bought, as Mr. Moyers and his allies claim, then shouldn’t it go to the highest bidder, the side that spent the most money?

At the very least, journalistic integrity would require Mr. Moyers to present a complete picture of the philanthropic landscape in North Carolina. The fact that he ignored giving to liberal causes by the Reynolds Foundation and other philanthropies shows his bias and unreliability.

Ironically, Mr. Moyers not only conceals spending by progressive foundations in North Carolina, but he also is Chairman Emeritus of the Schumann Media Center, a philanthropy that made almost $2 million in grants to left-of-center nonprofits in 2011. Eighty-five percent of the Schumann Center’s grant making is to groups that promote a liberal agenda. Given those facts, for Mr. Moyers to criticize the Pope Foundation for making grants to free-market groups is the epitome of hypocrisy.

Moyers’ double standard is evident by the sponsors of his documentary. Eleven large foundations, with billions in total assets, support Moyers’ program and financially back progressive causes. Yet Moyers chose to single out the Pope Foundation, whose $10 million in annual giving is dwarfed by the grant making of these larger foundations.

On the topic of the Pope Foundation’s giving, Mr. Moyers distorts our philanthropic portfolio. In addition to supporting public policy nonprofits, the Pope Foundation devotes millions to humanitarian causes, including soup kitchens, medical missions, food banks, and homeless shelters. Over its 25-year history, the Pope Foundation has made more than $9 million in grants for direct humanitarian support.

While it is absolutely crucial to help people in need and to treat the symptoms of poverty, the best long-term solution is to cure the underlying causes of poverty, and raise people out of poverty permanently. The Pope Foundation does believe that the best way to cure poverty is the creation of jobs and prosperity, through a market economy, subject to the uniform rule of law, that protects the equal rights of all individuals. To accomplish this end, and with the belief that our democracy benefits from a full and open debate on public policy issues, the Pope Foundation also annually funds a large number of public policy organizations.

The Pope Foundation is disappointed that Bill Moyers, the Schumann Center, and the 11 philanthropies that support his program would choose to falsely portray the charitable work of the Pope Foundation.

David W. Riggs
Executive Vice President
John William Pope Foundation


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