Hunt the Cure — the local cancer charity that was associated with a recent fundraiser held by the Buncombe County Republican Party — will no longer benefit financially from from event, according to the organization’s founder, John Boggs. Boggs has asked that any monies initially raised by the GOP on its behalf (an unspecified percentage of the donations were to be given to Hunt the Cure) be instead now be given to St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital. “We’ve been getting a lot of negative publicity from this,” Boggs tells Xpress. “We’re not political. We remain neutral.”
When asked to elaborate, Boggs claims that he has received “dozens” of harassing phone calls from Democrats and “people posing as journalists.”
When asked how it was that he knew the people were members of the Democratic Party, Boggs says “they told me they were. if you want to know anything else, contact Chad Nesbitt.” Nesbitt is the chair of the local GOP.
Bogg’s wife, Anne Ponder — a cancer survivor herself — appeared in a promotional video advertising the fundraising event, which occurred at the Bee Tree Fire Department Training facility on the ninth anniversary of the 9/11 tragedy.
According to Dorothea Alderfer, treasurer of the Buncombe County Republican Party, the 9/11 fundraising event raised a total of $310. “From a fundraising standpoint, it was a big disappointment,” she tells Xpress. “It was not a success for any of us.”
Alderfer went on to say that she hasn’t written any check to St. Jude’s and had never heard of Boggs.
“Nobody’s asked me to write a check,” Alderfer says. “This is the first I’ve heard of it.”
The fundraising event, which centered around rappelling from a 90-foot tower, has attracted some controversy from a range of Democratic officials and even some Republicans. Democratic Party Chairman Charles Carter, in an interview with Xpress earlier this month, commented “When you see a party chairman who uses the memory of 9/11 and the memory of the people who passed away to raise money for a partisan effort … I’m curious if the Republicans in Buncombe County really endorse that.”
The North Carolina Board of Elections is looking into the local GOP for possible campaign violations because the fundraiser — political in nature — was held at a facility that receives federal funding and local tax dollars. Xpress has contacted officials with the BOE, but has yet to receive any response.
The Swannanoa Fire Department, which runs the Bee Tree facility, has also distanced itself from Nesbitt and the Buncombe Party Republican Party. In an interview with Xpress last week, deputy chief Larry Pierson said 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.
Both Nesbitt and Carter recently spoke with WLOS reporter Russ Bowen about the event and the political fallout with the BOE in a segment that aired last night.
Given the amount of money raised, Alderfer thinks the whole issue has been blown out of proportion. “This whole affair,” she tells Xpress, “is a tempest in a teapot.”
— Michael Muller, staff reporter