The New Yorker has a good, thorough article on Art Pope, right-wing political benefactor in North Carolina. It’s interesting, and demonstrates the pervasive nature of Pope’s influence on NC politics, education, and culture. However it does make some of the same mistakes often made in discussions of money and politics.
The first is the mistake of assuming that money is always corrupting. The fact that someone–candidate, group, movement, whatever–is funded by a particular benefactor is not in and of itself a charge. This position functions as a form of ad hominem argument, and I’ve argued against it before for “our” side as well as theirs. Art Pope and the groups he funds are wrong on lots of issues, and deserve to be called out for being wrong on them. The article provides several examples of times when Pope-funded campaigns engaged in intentional deception; that’s wrong, and should be condemned. But the fact of their funding source is not a priori evidence of their wrongness.
The second mistake is confusing the source of the money with what it’s trying to do. Referencing a 2004 incident in which I played a major role:
Pope reacted angrily to the notion that some professors consider his money tainted. “We’re in retailing!” he said. “It’s not as if it’s blood diamonds!”