About 40 concerned citizens gathered at Pritchard Park in downtown Asheville this afternoon, Oct. 12, to demonstrate against what they see as the negative impact of corporate and right-wing front groups on elections in North Carolina. The event was organized by the local chapter of the progressive MoveOn.Org Political Action Committee and featured speeches by Asheville City Councilman Cecil Bothwell, Local Edge Radio hostess Lesley Groetsch and MoveOn N.C. Regional Coordinator Randy Bernard.
At the event, Bernard presented a study called “Buying America” that asserts that nationally, “right-wing front groups have already run $34.5 million worth of ads for backing Republicans in Senate races alone,” compared to $4.2 million in ads backing Democrats. In North Carolina, the study reports, $126,764 has already been spent by “corporate and right-wing special interests to help re-elect Republican incumbent Sen. Richard Burr,” who is being challenged this year by Secretary of State Elaine Marshall, Democrat.
The study faults the January Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United v. FEC for increasing the amount of corporate money in politics, claiming that the ruling gave “special interests the power to spend without limit — and without public disclosure.” According to the report, 32 percent of groups buying election ads nationwide have disclosed the names of their donors this year, compared to 97 percent in 2006.
In addition to decrying the increases in corporate campaign spending, Groetsch urged attendees to vote for Marshall, criticizing Burr for “siding with corporate interests” on a number of issues, from health reform to bills that would regulate oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico and expand national parks around the country.
Bothwell announced at the demonstration that he would like to withdraw the City of Asheville’s support of the local Chamber of Commerce, due to the national organization’s frequent support of Republican candidates. He also proclaimed his support for Marshall and Democrat Buncombe State Assembly candidates — Patsy Keever, Susan Fisher, Jane Whilden. Bothwell also mentioned that he’s going to devote his 60th birthday on Saturday, Oct. 16, as a fundraiser for the “four progressive women who I want to see get elected this year.”
Bothwell went on to assail national media outlets for their lack of covering the influx of corporate money into the election process.
“It’s no secret why the big media don’t report on you here today. They don’t report on what MoveOn’s doing nationwide because they don’t like the idea that people might spend less money on campaigns and buy less advertising,” he asserted. “We need to end the influence of corporations on our elections.”
Photos by Jerry Nelson and Kim Gongre