Civitas: ‘Shadowy Network’ of N.C. Liberals Unveiled With ‘Mapping the Left’

A conservative think tank, co-founded by chain-store billionaire and former State Budget Director Art Pope, put up a new website last week called Mapping the Left.

The stated aim of the site is to shed light on a “vast, shadowy network” of “the radical liberal left in North Carolina.”

Brian Thornburg is a media technician at the Friday Center. He said he’s disappointed that he apparently didn’t rate a mention on the Mapping the Left website created by the Civitas Institute.

So he, along with many others, signed a petition, to request being added. Is he Spartacus?

“You know what?” he said with a laugh. “I am Spartacus.”

In the spirit of that petition, which appeared soon after the Mapping the Left website went up on Jan. 22, Thornburg said he thinks that humor is the best response.

“I think a lot of people are looking at it as a point of pride that they are recognized in this particular website,” said Thornburg. “If you are seen there, then you must be doing something right.”

Persons and organizations who do rate being mapped for their supposed shadowy left-wing activities include retired UNC basketball coach Dean Smith, for his support of People of Faith Against the Death Penalty; and the N.C. Coalition Against Sexual Assault.

Monika Johnson-Hostler is executive director of the N.C. Coalition Against Sexual Assault. She first heard from WCHL about the organization’s inclusion on the website.

When informed that it seems to be based on funding from the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation, as well as a connection to Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina, Johnson-Hostler said that there’s nothing “shadowy” about that, nor is there anything “shadowy” about the NCCASA’s recent set of initiatives.

“It includes things like looking at sex-offender management,” said Johnson-Hostler. “We supported the Anti Human Trafficking Commission and the Safe Harbor Bill last year, which of course, had huge bipartisan support.”

North Carolina’s Safe Harbor/Victims of Human Trafficking bill of 2013 was co- sponsored by Republican Senators Thom Goolsby and Tamara Barringer, and Democratic Sen. Ellie Kinnaird of Orange County. It passed unanimously in both chambers and was signed into law that year by Republican Gov. Pat McCrory.

The Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation’s chart on the Mapping the Left website shows the organization connected to around 70 others. The foundation’s former executive director, Tom Ross, came under attack in a Civitas Review Online post titled “Tom Ross Revealed: An Agent of Far-Left Change.”

Citing an interview Ross gave to the Triad Business Journal in 2002, the Civitas article criticizes Ross for “backing progressive public policy,” while also questioning his job as UNC System president.

Ross was recently forced out of that job by the UNC Board of Governors, with scant explanation. The BoG’s chairman, John Fennebresque, has insisted the decision was not political.

Susan Myrick, an elections policy analyst for the Civitas Institute, insists that the timing of the Mapping the Left website has no connection to Ross’s recent ouster.

“Oh my, no,” she said. “This work on this website has been going on for several years now.”

She said the site is meant to educate the public about the vast left-wing network in North Carolina, thus disproving, she said, any notion that there is some kind of right-wing conspiracy in the state.

“We knew all along that there was a really large left-wing network of organizations,” said Myrick. “And over the years, we saw it grow and grow. And then we started watching it work together so well.”

WCHL asked Myrick how Dean Smith and the N.C. Coalition Against Sexual Assault figure in this alleged network. Myrick had this to say:

“It is interesting to find these organizations that you think have the righteous mission, such as the Coalition Against Sexual Assault, or the Coalition Against Domestic Violence,” said Myrick. “You find out that they are political in nature.”

Leslie Winner, the current executive director of Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation, said her organization is proud to invest in strong public schools; building local communities and economies; and making it easy for citizens to vote.

“I think that Civitas has an odd definition of the left,” said Winner. “Included in the Z. Smith Reynolds list of left-wing funding was a grant to the Triangle Community Foundation for a Disaster Relief Guide for North Carolina.

“I never knew that disaster relief was a lefty cause.”

Accusations Surrounding Moral Mondays Increase

RALEIGH – Nearly 675 people have been arrested so far in the weekly Moral Monday demonstrations against the Republican-led North Carolina General Assembly. Heading into the 10th Moral Monday, protesters will likely be even more exasperated due to the Senate passing House Bill 695 last week.

The legislation requires tighter abortion restrictions in the state, which opponents say drastically diminishes a woman’s reproductive freedom. The bill, which was pushed through the Senate in less than 24 hours with little public notice, returns to the House for a final vote Tuesday morning.

A challenger of the Moral Monday protests, Francis De Luca, president of the conservative think tank group, the Civitas Institute, recently published an article asserting that the Civil Disobedience leader and NAACP state chapter president Reverend William Barber is profiting from the protests.

The headline, which appeared on the Civitias website, read “William Barber Rakes in Taxpayer Dollars – Leads — Moral (no it is) — Money Mondays!”

Barber fired back and denied the claims, saying that De Luca was “desperate to do something to rally their shrinking army” and divert attention away from the issues the NAACP is fighting against.

You can read Barber’s full response below.

Adding another twist in the plot, ministers active in the Moral Monday protests have called off behind-the-scenes talks with Republican legislators, saying one lawmaker broke their agreement when he disclosed the discussions.

The Charlotte Observer reported that Republican Sen. Jeff Tarte of Cornelius initiated talks to try to find common ground between protesters and the General Assembly. A group of 10 lawmakers and about a dozen ministers met twice.

Tarte then talked about the secret meetings to a reporter after being asked his opinion of the weekly protests. Eight ministers responded by signing a statement saying they’re ending the talks because Tarte broke the agreed upon condition to keep them under wraps.

Moral Monday is set for 5 p.m. on the lawn of Halifax Mall across from the General Assembly.


Barber’s Statement in Full:

Statement by Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II on July 4, 2013 On Last Week’s Attacks by the Civitas Institute

Pastor, Greenleaf Christian Church (DOC), Goldsboro, NC

President, N.C. Conference of NAACP Branches

Chair of the Board, Rebuilding Broken Places, Inc.

While my large extended family, my wonderful church members, and tens of thousands of friends from Moral Mondays celebrated our nation’s birthday, I was obliged to step away from precious time with my immediate family to write this statement in response to an attack launched last week against my church members and myself.  Let me talk about the context of the attacks and then refute them with the facts.

On July 1, 2013, North Carolina became the first state in the nation to cut unemployment insurance payments to 170,000 down-on-their-luck job seekers. Unemployment insurance is a lifeline that can be the difference between eating and starving, shelter and homelessness, hope and despair. The current leadership of the General Assembly and the Governor cut this lifeline, knowing that extending the benefits would have been of zero cost to North Carolina and would have helped save tens of thousands of families from financial ruin.

The N.C. Budget Director, Mr. Art Pope, who is responsible for advising the government in making these moral budget decisions did not say a word about this act of cold disdain toward our neighbors looking for work.  Mr. Pope has, I understand, temporarily relinquished direct control over Civitas and his other right-wing outfits, in order to serve as the Budget Director of North Carolina. The man Mr. Pope hired to run Civitas, one of his main propaganda outfits, was responsible for the most recent attach against my church and myself.  We wonder whether Mr. Pope had time to approve the attack.

Mr. Francis De Luca was apparently upset by the largest turnout yet for Moral Monday on June 24, where thousands of women and workers made a powerful moral and constitutional critique of the extreme right-wing policies of the General Assembly and the Governor.  As I write, thousands of people have attended Moral Mondays and nearly 700 people of all backgrounds and political affiliations have chosen to engage in nonviolent civil disobedience. Because they are without a doubt upset by the fact that an opinion poll shows less than one in five North Carolinians approve of the General Assembly, Civitas and those it supports have engaged in political hysteria calling us among other things “outside agitators” and “morons.”

In the face of a sustained and viable critique further energized last Monday, the same week, the 28th of June, Mr. De Luca, decided to make it Immoral Friday and launched a personal attack against me on the Civitas website, stating in no uncertain terms that I was personally “raking in” great sums of money while leading the “Moral Mondays” protests against the policies of his financial backer, Mr. Pope, and his political allies, Messrs. Tillis, Berger and McCrory.  Since it is impossible for Civitas and its Tea Party allies to answer the moral-constitutional critique, they desperately resort to the Old South tactics of the Mississippi Sovereignty Commission.

Tea Party extremists, who take their marching orders and daily talking points by Mr. Pope’s network of propagandists such as Mr. De Luca, are obviously beside themselves with anger.  Every Monday, the people come from all over the state to protest their mean policies.  The people coming to Moral Mondays follow Article 1 Section 12 of our state constitution and their deepest moral values. Their instruction has been quite direct:  Stop the mean, absurd and self-defeating policies of extremism.

Last week, apparently they could take it no longer.  They were desperate to do something to rally their shrinking army, to bolster the spirits of the dour-faced legislators who we see sneaking around the General Assembly, averting their eyes from the thousands of people who are protesting their policies.

Now if Mr. De Luca, using Mr. Pope’s money and network, were just attacking me, I would take comfort in the scripture’s reminder to the victims of such attacks:

Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: 

for theirs is the kingdom of  heaven. 

Blessed are you, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, 

and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. 

Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: 

for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.          Matthew 5:10-12

But Mr. De Luca and, we suspect, others in the highest levels of the Pope network, did not limit his attack to just myself.  Instead they chose to insinuate the noble efforts of our church members and other supporters were working with me on what Mr. De Luca’s concocted “scam.”  Because the attack was caused by my actions, I am obligated to fend off the wolves from my flock and set the record straight.

            Greenleaf’s Church’s History, Character, and Missions:  The church I pastor is made up of laborers, mothers, fathers, senior citizens, young people, veterans, active duty members of the air force stationed in Wayne County, teachers, carpenters, disabled, white and black people.  Our church has always been involved in community ministries, long before the congregation called me to serve them.

Greenleaf Christian Church, a member of the Disciples of Christ denomination, is a congregational church (  Greenleaf was founded by former slaves after liberation by the Army of the United States of America in 1865.  After 130 years of struggle to maintain and develop a strong church in Goldsboro, in 1995, the congregation took a long hard look at our surrounding community and asked ourselves, “Why are we here?  What should we do about the context in which our church sits?”

Our answers to these questions led our church, located at 2110 N. William Street in Goldsboro, to invest over $1 million of our hard-earned wages to purchase land and a building that was an eyesore across the street from our church.  We combined our investment with grants and private business investments to create a not-for-profit corporation, which we named Rebuilding Broken Places.  We dedicated it to the social, educational and economic needs of our community.

The Corporation’s Board is diverse.  No member, including me, receives any compensation. We don’t receive a single dime from the services we provide to our community.  NO money comes into the coffers of our church.  RBPCDC is audited annually by a highly respected auditing firm.  Republicans, Democrats, Independents, and those who have given up on politics, have generously supported our efforts.  Private businesses and banks have supported our efforts to revitalize the community.  We welcome visitors to share their thoughts, work, and generosity with us as we do what we believe is our moral duty: to look out for the least of these. Theologically we believe people of faith must do this by developing opportunity and community uplift as well by denouncing policies that contradict a commitment to justice, fairness, and the ethic of love for all.  And we invite others to come and see what we have tried to do.  It has always been public. In fact our vision will be featured in two weeks at the General Convention of the Christian Church.

Since its founding over 16 years ago, Rebuilding Broken Places CDC, a separate entity from the church but inspired by the church, has initiated or inspired millions of dollars of developments, creating jobs and expanding the property tax base of Goldsboro and Wayne County. Through our FAITH FORCE INITIATIVE (Faithfully Asserting Initiative to Help Families Organize Resources for Community Economic Development), RBPCDC has participated in building through partnerships with families, nonprofits, government, developers, and banks more than 60 affordable single family homes for people of low to moderate income. Our Greenleaf Grace Village is a 41 unit home for low-income seniors. And we built and run a 90-student preschool academy.

Also out of the Rebuilding Broken Places center, flows several of our many community programs including:

  • STOP THE FUNERAL Initiative, which collaborates with law enforcement and others to address drug and gang violence in our communities;
  • Computer Classes through Wayne Community College to close the digital divide, free for seniors;
  • Job preparation training;
  • Financial Education Classes;
  • Home Ownership Classes;
  • Micro-Enterprise Loan Facilitators;
  • Diversity Training for organizations, state and local government including local sheriff’s offices and other agencies;
  • Willing to Touch Ministry for friends, families, and victims of HIV Aids;
  • Sickle Cell education programs.

We are now envisioning and developing a Second Chance program facility for training formerly incarcerated men and women in culinary arts, landscaping and tech jobs.  Our Rebuilding Broken Places website has more information.

These are the facts, Mr. De Luca.  I regret you did not take the time to investigate your subject.

But, propagandists are not interested in facts.  They have an agenda.  Their agenda is absurd, harmful, unconstitutional, immoral, and takes our state toward an economic and social disaster. They promote this agenda while deflecting the public’s attention away from acts such as abandoning our current highly effective earned income tax credits for low-income families, rejecting federal Medicaid funds for seniors, who soon will have to choose between a meal and their medicines, and cutting off unemployment insurance payments.  They are trying to further tilt the playing field toward the rich, making it harder for the poor, the out-of work, seniors and minorities to participate in our democracy through voting.  Since they cannot defend their record, they resort to personal attacks on their critics.  But they will not attack my church members or our supporters without a response.  Whether or not they were approved or condoned by Mr. Pope, the financial backer of Civitas, these attacks are pitiful.

Mr. Pope’s right-wing attack machine’s desperation is showing. Mr. Pope, Mr. De Luca, Gov. McCrory, Mr. Tillis, and Mr. Berger and every politician regardless of party would do well to listen to what the Holy Scriptures have said for the past three thousand years; what our constitution has required of us for the past 150 years; and what we have been reminding North Carolina for the past nine Mondays, about public morality.  We invite them to join us on Moral Monday 10.  And when their wrecking crew finally decides to go home, leaving our state in a mess, we invite them to listen to us when we go tell it on the mountain, in the temples, in the churches, in the mosques, in every community meeting and rally across the state of North Carolina until all God’s people get the message of Isaiah 10–no matter how many pitiful attacks they make:

Woe to those who make unjust laws,

To those who issue oppressive decrees,

To deprive the poor of their rights

And withhold justice from the oppressed of my people,

Making widows their prey

And robbing the fatherless.