State deals with campaign advertising issues

Nov. 04, 2012 @ 08:45 AM

FOREST CITY — Now is the time when voter mailboxes will be flooded with campaign mailers distributed from various groups and candidates.

One such mailer has drawn the ire of one candidate.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, voters in Rutherford County began receiving a campaign mailer claiming that Phil Feagan, the Democratic challenger for the NC Senate, was tied to "a radical liberal group that supports gay marriage."

The mailer was addressed from the North Carolina Republican Party, based in Raleigh.

Now, while attack ads are not uncommon during the election season, Feagan vehemently denied the claim made by the advertisement.

"They don't address my own positions, but attack me over some mysterious group that's supposedly supporting me," Feagan said. "But, we don't even know what group they're talking about."

Nowhere in the mailer does it list the group that is backing Feagan and, he said that there is no group that has endorsed him that matches that matches that statement.

The issue comes on the heels of an advertisement issue that the North Carolina Republican Party issued regarding a television ad paid for by the State Employees Association of North Carolina against GOP Lt. Gov. candidate Dan Forest.

In their complaint to the North Carolina Board of Elections, the NC GOP said that the television ad did not comply with state law that required such television advertising to contain an "unobscured, full-screen picture containing the disclosing individual ..."

"We sent a copy of the complaint and there was a correction made to the ad," said Amy Strange, campaign finance compliance specialist with the North Carolina Board of Elections. "We viewed the ad and determined that it is in compliance."

Strange said that the State Employees Association had "other corrective measures" that needed to be addressed and, on Wednesday, those issues were being worked on to bring into compliance.

Emails to the North Carolina Republican Party headquarters, regarding either issue, were not returned.

In addition to bringing a complaint to the State Board of Elections, Strange said that Forest's campaign also filed a failure to disclose on television campaign advertising complaint with the State Board of Elections.

"By filing that notice of complaint, it preserves the right of the candidate to bring action in civil court to seek remedy 90 days after the election," Strange said.

Thus far, Strange said that the Board of Elections has received approximately 50 complaints, ranging from campaign finance to advertising issues. In 2011, she said they received 64 complaints and, in 2008 — the last presidential election year — the state had 72 complaints.

She said that getting complaints about campaign advertising is not outside the norm.

"We always see a couple," Strange said. "It is far more common to see complaints that the legend is incorrect and less common to see complaints of libel."

As with the issue surrounding the latest mailer, Strange said that the candidate can file a complaint with the Board of Elections for review and investigation.

"We haven't discussed it yet, but we will look into it and make a determination later," Feagan said.