Voters on their way to the polls in Raleigh on Tuesday were handed green fliers listing the names of six candidates fighting Raleigh-Durham Airport Authority’s lease agreement with Wake Stone to construct a quarry outside Umstead Park.
Saige Martin, who is running for Raleigh City Council against Kay Crowder in District D, filed a complaint with the State Board of Elections claiming the fliers, which indicate they are not funded by any campaign, may violate disclosure rules on campaign contributions. Though Martin is also against the quarry deal, he was not named on the flier.
Martin contacted the INDY this morning after members of his campaign were handed the fliers at the polls. The handouts stated that “The following candidates publicly announced they oppose the RDU quarry and will take action to stop it and protect Umstead State Park,” and named Crowder, as well as council incumbents Russ Stephenson, David Cox, Stef Mendell, District A candidate Sam Hershey, and mayoral candidate Charles Francis. At the bottom of the flier is a disclaimer: “For information purposes only, not authorized or financed by any campaign. Candidates announced their position on August 25 at the public screening of the film 400 Feet Down, at the Rialto in Raleigh.”
Martin says that in addition to being excluded from the list of candidates who oppose the quarry, he was not invited to the film screening at the Rialto.
When his campaign manager, Charles Morgan, filed a formal complaint with the state board of elections Tuesday afternoon, he wrote the fliers present “a slate of candidates implying endorsement by an organization that is not a PAC, can take prohibited contributions for electioneering communications including corporate funds, and has failed to properly report independent expenditure.”
“The disclaimer on the fliers meets no standards for electioneering communications that names candidates, fails to fully inform voters on a public policy issue, and fails to comply with campaign finance reporting of who is actually paying for this electioneering communication,” Morgan writes. “It is apparently an illegal corporate contribution from a non-profit, an attempt by a PAC to conceal donors, or both.”
State Board of Elections spokesman Patrick Gannon said while the fliers may break the rules, “we probably don’t know enough right now to say if it does or doesn’t.”
If the fliers are from a candidate, which Gannon thinks is unlikely, or were produced by a non-profit for over $100, they would require disclosure. If the fliers were printed by an individual, the source would only need to be disclosed if they cost over $1,000.
“It’s a small card, so it probably depends on how many they are printing and distributing, and what other activities they may have engaged in this election,” Gannon said.
Umstead Coaltion’s executive director Jean Spooner did not return a request for comment regarding the flier.
The quarry has been a hot button issue this election cycle, stirring up support from the city’s neighborhood groups and environmentalists. Council members Stephenson, Cox, Crowder and Mendell unsuccessfully voted to join the Umstead Coalition’s lawsuit claiming the four governments that own the airport—Raleigh, Wake County, Durham and Durham County—should have a say in the deal, but lost when the vote deadlocked this summer.
The source of funding for the fliers remains unclear.
Gerry Cohen, a Wake County Board of Elections member and former special counsel to the General Assembly, said that volunteers at another polling station said the fliers were from a loose-knit group of individuals, some of whom copied and reprinted the fliers themselves. That wouldn’t necessarily be against the rules, he said, unless the cost of the fliers exceeded the reporting threshold.
The fliers also link to a website, rduforest.com, and state that a “coalition of residents, organizations, businesses, and entrepreneurs,” are fighting the quarry. It also includes links to the Umstead Coalition and Triangle Off-Road Cyclists, who are involved in the lawsuit to stop the deal.
Support independent local journalism. Join the INDY Press Club to help us keep fearless watchdog reporting and essential arts and culture coverage viable in the Triangle.
In the era of Citizens United, it’s good to see Indyweek step up in outrage at a few hand-copied flyers from average citizens. How about reporting on how much money and from whom the two top-spending candidates’ campaigns were funded. If you can’t afford calculators or MS Excel, I’d suggest Google sheets would do the job for Indyweek for free.
Comments are closed.