Communications giant Clear Channel—bought by Mitt Romney’s former firm Bain Capital in 2008—continues to refuse to take down billboards in Ohio and Wisconsin that voting rights experts say have just one purpose: to intimidate and suppress the African American and Latino vote in those two states. Those votes could mean the difference between President Obama winning re-election or Mitt Romney taking the White House.
The billboards—rented to a secret advertiser that Clear Channel refuses to reveal—are in neighborhoods where the majority of residents are people of color. The billboards carry the message that “Voter fraud is a felony!" that is punishable by up to 3½ years in prison and a $10,000 fine. Voter fraud, as study after study has shown, is virtually nonexistent. But it has been the rallying cry for Republican lawmakers to pass voter suppression measures in 19 states, including Ohio.
The AFL-CIO, voting rights and civil rights groups have urged Clear Channel to take down the billboards, but the company, which syndicates extremist right-wing talkers such as Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck and others, refuses.
Said AFL-CIO Executive Vice President Arlene Holt Baker and Ohio AFL-CIO Secretary Treasurer Pierrette “Petee” Talley in a joint statement:
Every election year we see offensive, underhanded tactics by groups who don’t want everyone to have access to the voting booth. This year, intimidating billboards that point out voter fraud are appearing in predominantly African American communities in Ohio, despite little to no evidence that voter fraud exists.
They urged Clear Channel to remove the billboards and replace them with information that will help voters exercise their fundamental right to vote in this year’s critical election.
In what appears to be a move to deflect criticism, Clear Channel says it was a “mistake” by the salesperson to allow the group to remain anonymous. “But once we put them up and signed a contract, we had to live with the anonymity,” Jim Cullinan, vice president of marketing and communications for Clear Channel Outdoor, told The Washington Post.
If somebody wants to win an election no matter what, they can say OK, I’m going to chop off maybe a half-percent of the vote here, a quarter-percent here until bingo, you’ve chopped off 2 to 4 percent of the vote. If you do it a little here and a little there, you get away with it and it doesn’t seem like a big deal.
In March, The Daily Beast and Newsweek reported that:
Fourteen directors of Clear Channel, the company that hosts the Rush Limbaugh show, have contributed $726,400 to Mitt Romney since 1994, most of it in the current presidential campaign.
The AFL-CIO My Vote, My Right website offers hands-on information on voter registration, voter ID laws and steps to take to protect your right to vote on Election Day. Find out what you need to know to make sure your vote counts this year. Get information on voter registration, your voting rights by state and more at the AFL-CIO’s MyVoteMyRight.org.
Have questions about your voting rights? Call 866-OUR-VOTE (866-687-8683).
Watch this video from ColorofChange.org: