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Clear Channel forced to take down 'voter fraud' billboards

In yet another victory for the forces of good versus evil, Clear Channel Outdoor has agreed to immediately take down 30 billboards across Cleveland that drew complaints of racism and intimidation. In gigantic lettering, the billboards proclaimed that "VOTER FRAUD IS A FELONY!"

Jim Cullinan, Clear Channel’s spokesman, said the company will go even further by continuing to donate 10 other billboards which will feature “counter” messages.

City Councilwoman Phyllis Cleveland, who first called attention and objected to the billboards, helped lead the effort to bring them down. She welcomed Clear Channel's decision as "fantastic news."

"That's a wonderful resolution to this issue," she said.

The black community in Cleveland overwhelmingly supported Councilwoman Cleveland’s position. The billboards indicated that voter fraud is punishable by up to three and a half years in prison and a $10,000 fine. They depict a judge’s gavel.

The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, a nationally renowned poor peoples' legal aid source, and a voting rights advocacy group based in Washington, D.C., (and for whom I once worked as a paralegal in its Chicago office), pointed to the fact that the overwhelming majority of the billboards were in Cleveland’s predominantly Hispanic and black neighborhoods. The same billboards have also surfaced in Cincinnati and Milwaukee -- again, only on the black or brown sides of each town. The Lawyers’ Committee wrote a cease-and-desist letter to Clear Channel Outdoor requesting that they remove the signs in all locations.

Clear Channel’s initial response to the black community and the Lawyers’ Committee was the typical corporate stance. It's PR folks stated that Clear Channel was contractually obligated to display the signs through Nov. 6, and therefore could not remove them without exposing itself to a breach-of-contract lawsuit. That contract also called for the client’s identity to remain unknown.

But! After mounting criticism and threats of a national boycott of its 1,200 radio stations and other corporate entities, Clear Channel took a second look at "the contract." Apparently after consulting with its own legions of very well paid attorneys, Clear Channel found an unexpected but convenient loophole deep within the recesses of the contract. Seems it has a written "corporate and superceding policy" over and against using anonymous political messages on its billboards. Therefore, the once ironclad contract was legally null and void on its face, and was unenforceable. Without issuing an apology to anybody, Clear Channel did admit that it had “erred” in signing the contract in the first place.

On Saturday, Clear Channel would still not disclose its client's name, but agreed to take down all of the offending billboards everywhere and immediately.

Opinion:

For those who still cannot fathom that “voter ID” equals voter suppression, I offer three Allvoices.com articles: (1) http://www.allvoices.com/contributed-news/13216684-gop-operative-arrested-for-trashing-voter-registration-forms; (2) http://www.allvoices.com/contributed-news/13102138-pennsylvania-voter-id-law-struck-down-in-court; and (3) my own http://www.allvoices.com/contributed-news/12488635-republican-response-interposition-and-nullification.

Here you will find historical precedent and current efforts to suppress minority voting going all the way back to the ratification of the 15th Amendment, which granted black men the right to vote for the first time in this country.

Also note that the current efforts to suppress the vote are most vigorously being done in so-called swing states such as Ohio and Wisconsin.

And, of course, voter fraud has actually been uncovered as of late—by Republican Party operatives in several of these swing states.

The reason for these laws, bills and efforts is really very simple: When every eligible voter votes, Republicans lose. So, rather than make voting easier for everybody, Republicans would prefer to pick their own voters, and render everyone else “ineligible,” “illegal,” or “fraudulent.”

If you like writing about US politics and Campaign 2012, enter "The American Pundit" competition. Allvoices is awarding four $250 prizes each month between now and November. These monthly winners earn eligibility for the $5,000 grand prize, to be awarded after the November election.

References:

http://twitchy.com/2012/10/17/angry-liberals-go-after-clear-channel-to-take-down-anti-voter-fraud-billboards/

http://www.aflcio.org/Blog/Political-Action-Legislation/Clear-Channel-Refuses-to-Take-Down-Voter-Suppression-Billboards

http://act.credoaction.com/campaign/clearchannel_billboard/