Fire dept: We were unaware of GOP 9/11 fundraiser’s political nature

Larry Pierson, deputy chief of the Swannanoa Fire Department, says that no one at the department was informed that a recent fundraiser held by the Buncombe County Republican Party was political in nature or that it would directly benefit that party’s get-out-the-vote efforts.

“What was proposed to Chief [Anthony] Penland was that this would be a ‘rappelling-a-thon’ to help cure cancer,” he tells Xpress. There was never any mention of any political objective, political fundraising, or any other political intent.”

The event was held on the ninth anniversary of the September 11 tragedy. In a promotional YouTube video advertising the event, BCGOP Chairman Chad Nesbitt said that they were holding the fundraiser “in order to defend ourselves from socialistic terrorism” and that the Republican party would need to have a high GOP turnout of voters who “believe in God and America.” The money raised at the event, asserted Nesbitt, would go to “advertising in the media and our guerilla marketing campaign to get the voters energized to vote.” Neither Chief Penland or Deputy Chief Pierson were aware of the promotional video.

“We would hope that anyone intending to use our facility would provide us with their clear intent,” continued Pierson. In order to address such concerns moving forward, Chief Penland is now requiring that organizations state their intentions in writing so “so there’s no confusion.”

Pierson told Xpress that many groups often use the 90-foot tower at the Bee Tree training facility — for which they do not charge a fee — including the Erwin High School Army JROTC, which participated in the event that day. “I don’t even think the ROTC program were told it was a political event.”

Xpress also spoke with Capt.Gene Hare, who’s in charge of the JROTC program at Erwin. He said that his group’s participation was limited to setting up the equipment: “They told us when we first started that they needed help on the rappelling part of it,” Hare tells Xpress. “We set the tower up, and provided them with a colorguard and then we left.” Erwin’s JROTC provided the colorguard when then-presidential candidate Hillary Clinton visited Asheville on April 24, 2008.

— Michael Muller, staff reporter

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58 thoughts on “Fire dept: We were unaware of GOP 9/11 fundraiser’s political nature

  1. Dionysis

    It looks like someone just got caught lying by omission. If this is what local GOP ‘leadership’ is all about, the competition should just take a long nap. The local GOP/Stomper hybrid seems to be shooting itself in the foot, hand and every other appendage.

    This is kind of fun to watch.

  2. Asheville Native

    Is it just me or is ol’ Chad losing credibility (did he ever have any?) at light speed? Of course he’s always going to blame liberals, terrorists, socialists and a few more surely. I think it’s time for him to own up to the fact the he’s a aircraft carrier sized anchor on the Buncombe
    County GOP. Stop preaching to the choir Chad. It’s a tired act.

  3. Lamont Cranston

    And we place our trust in their judgment with firehoses in their hands while your property is on fire???

    Go for it.

  4. Piffy!

    They had no idea that a GOP fundraiser would be ‘political in nature’?

    Please.

    And I had NO idea my car would run on gasoline.

  5. Piffy!

    [b]The local GOP/Stomper hybrid seems to be shooting itself in the foot, hand and every other appendage.[/b]

    almost as if it is by DESIGN.

  6. Star

    I think we should also be questioning the fire department on this. If something is led by a political party how can you think it won’t be “political in nature”?

  7. Asheville Native

    Chad is an aircraft carrier sized anchor on the Buncombe County GOP. Way to go Chad!!! Keep up the fine work, with people like you “leading” the GOP the Democrats haven’t a care in the world on November 2nd.

  8. Suzie

    I appreciate the Xpress digging for the facts reported here, but I’m disappointed that Chad Nesbitt or some other representative of the Buncombe County GOP was not asked why they chose to fight “socialistic terrorism” at a socialistic institution, the fire department. I think it’s a fair question, and that we deserve an answer. As Lance pointed out in his earlier comment, we abandoned the free market for fire fighting long ago, opting for a socialistic approach, as with our police departments, public libraries, and national parks. The right likes to ignore the inarguable fact that we live in a hybrid capitalist/socialist system, and that it’s worked very well for generations to serve and not enslave us.

  9. lovefood

    Likely story. The GOP wants to do a fundraiser…I wonder if it’s political in nature. Sounds more to me like the fire department got caught doing something that some objected to, and then tried to change the story.

  10. Dionysis

    “Likely story. The GOP wants to do a fundraiser…I wonder if it’s political in nature. Sounds more to me like the fire department got caught doing something that some objected to, and then tried to change the story.”

    A reasonable suspicion; however, it seems a stretch that the Chief and Deputy Chief would both publicly lie to a reporter, whereas Chad Nesbitt seems to have a tendency to make stuff up and to accept things without verifying (“we did what they told us to”, something any good leader frequently says).

  11. Ken Hanke

    A reasonable suspicion; however, it seems a stretch that the Chief and Deputy Chief would both publicly lie to a reporter, whereas Chad Nesbitt seems to have a tendency to make stuff up and to accept things without verifying (“we did what they told us to”, something any good leader frequently says).

    There’s also the possibility that this was presented to the fire dept. as an event to raise money for that cancer charity the apparently non-existent proceeds were going to “in part” be donated to.

  12. Dionysis

    “There’s also the possibility that this was presented to the fire dept. as an event to raise money for that cancer charity the apparently non-existent proceeds were going to “in part” be donated to.”

    Indeed, that is a very distinct possibility. Even though Mr. Nesbitt is apparently afraid of sitting down with a reporter and answering reality-based questions, it would seem that if ever there was a time for the local GOP leadership to step up and clear the air, it would be now. However, I am not inclined to wager that it will happen. Chad might get ambushed by some rabid, socialistic terrorists waiting in the bushes for him to walk by.

  13. Michael Muller

    Update from The American Independent:

    NC: Money from GOP 9/11 fundraiser spent on political activity would likely violate campaign finance laws
    State election board: County party’s third quarter financial disclosure needed for determination
    By Aaron Sarver

    Any proceeds from a fundraiser held at the Bee Tree fire station in Swannanoa on September 11 by the Buncombe County GOP spent on political activities would likely result in campaign finance violations, says Adam Ragan, campaign finance compliance specialist with the North Carolina State Board of Elections.

    The Swannanoa Fire Department (which oversees Bee Tree) receives federal funding and local tax dollars, making its facilities off-limits for political fundraisers unless the facility is reimbursed for use of the facility. Anthony Penland, chief of the Swannanoa Fire Department, told the North Carolina Independent News that no fee was paid for use of the facility by the Buncombe County GOP. Penland said he thought the fundraiser was to “raise money for cancer,” and that he was unaware that the fundraiser would benefit the local Republican Party. Penland added that, “we don’t charge for people to use our facility. I’m not a political guy, Democrats, Republicans whoever are welcome to use it.”

    Buncombe County GOP chair Chad Nesbitt has not returned calls for comment.

    To read the complete story, go here:
    http://www.americanindependent.com/nc-money-from-gop-911-fundraiser-spent-on-political-activity-would-likely-violate-campaign-finance-laws/

  14. Michael I must commend you for doing some actual news reporting as opposed to being a PR hand maiden for Chairman Nesbitt. Ask a few simple questions. Get some interesting answers. Good work.

  15. Barry Summers

    I’m thinking now that Chad is actually a Democrat.

    Actually, Orbit DVD, the consensus seems to be that he is some type of Manchurian Candidate. At a younger age, he must have been brainwashed & programmed to achieve a position of power in the Republican Party, then wreak havoc on it until his cover is blown. He still believes he is a proud member of the GOP, but won’t quit until it goes the way of the dodo bird and the Whig Party.

  16. Barry Summers

    I think the sinister plot has been revealed…how ‘bout that Martin? What a visionary,…….. sending his stepson off for programing.

    He’s the Angela Lansbury of Buncombe County.

  17. Piffy!

    [b]I’m disappointed that the Xpress could not figure out such a fiendest (sic) plot. [/b]

    but hopefully not surprised.

    Glad to see Michael Muller might be an ACTUAL reporter, and not another fluffy columnist.

  18. Barry Summers

    “Chad Nesbitt is the kindest, bravest, warmest, most wonderful human being I’ve ever known in my life.”

  19. “my dear boy…wouldn’t you rather pass the time by playing a little solitaire? “

    Is solitaire a sure cure-all for various obsessive ailments? for example, does it work on adolescent, sex obsessed “twitter” frenzies? Inquiring minds are dying to know.

  20. Barry Summers

    Why, because he looks like that guy “Wo Fat” on Hawaii Five-O? I’ve often thought so, too, but thought it insensitive to point that out. Sorry, Michael…

  21. Mr. Muller,
    If you’re inferring that we lighten up on Mr. Nesbitt, may I remind you that he threw down the gauntlet, when he was responsible for the “Good vs. Evil” bs, that’s not to mention the other recent major gaffs. When he apologizes then we can talk. Till then, he’s fair game.

  22. Ken Hanke

    Why, because he looks like that guy “Wo Fat” on Hawaii Five-O?

    Well, the Wo Fat character and the guy doing the demonstration at the beginning of the original Manchurian Candidate are played by the same man.

  23. Barry Summers

    Mr. Muller, If you’re inferring that we lighten up on Mr. Nesbitt…

    Davynne, not to speak for MM, but I don’t think he was inferring anything like that. He & I have been riffing off lines from The Manchurian Candidate, that’s all. All of his comments today, and my responses, are lifted straight out of the movie.

    Well, the Wo Fat character and the guy doing the demonstration at the beginning of the original Manchurian Candidate are played by the same man.

    Have you ever seen this guy and Michael Muller photographed together? AHA!!!

  24. Ken Hanke

    Have you ever seen this guy and Michael Muller photographed together? AHA!!!

    Now, that you mention it, no. And the haircuts are similar.

  25. Piffy!

    where are the moderators to tut-tut all this horrid off-topic banter?! You guys are goign to ruin the internet for everyone! This is supposed to be Serious Business!

  26. John Thompkins

    Technically, the Buncombe GOP did nothing wrong by having the event at a volunteer fire station. According to the Buncombe County Tax office, a volunteer fire station is not a public building. They can refuse use of the building to anyone or allow anyone to use the building dependant upon their Board of Directors rules.

    In the eyes of Buncombe County, any volunteer fire station in the county is a private business with it’s own charter. When they receive tax dollars that is the county paying for a service, not running the business or building.

  27. Barry Summers

    So according to the Chadster, the Buncombe Dem. Party has “always had their fundraisers at high schools and other public buildings that receive tax dollars”. Anybody corroborate this?

  28. Barry Summers

    You guys are goign to ruin the internet for everyone! This is supposed to be Serious Business!

    Isn’t it time for a new nickname? You’ve been wearing that one for over a week now. How tacky.

  29. Barry Summers

    I’m guessing Mumps was good for $300. I wonder who kicked in the tenner?

    Michael, they didn’t charge you admission, did they? You know you don’t have to pay that, right?

  30. LOKEL

    Chad and his flunkies were charging $100 per rappel … so that would mean that only 3 people actually took part in the “event” …. and maybe someone gave an extra ten spot!

  31. formercityemployee

    Ummmm…Maybe the Firemen are smoking something but what were they thinking. Lets see, fundraiser being held by Buncombe County Republican Party. Political or not political? Maybe all the smoke from the fires has killed some brain cells but if they can’t understand that this is political then maybe we need to hire some firemen with at least the intelligence level of a five year old.

  32. So Asheville’s own hanging Chad lost the Republican Party its only City Councilman! Bill Russell switched to “unaffiliated” in the wake of the rappelling stunt. The Buncombe GOP Chair is as disastrous to his own party as the multi-million-dollar-office-decorating character who runs the national party, Michael Steele. We always are a microcosm of the macrocosm here!

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