So says the City Attorney.
Charlotte attorney Tom Ashcraft wrote Mac McCarley and City Manager Curt Walton yesterday citing recent City Source broadcasts on the city’s cable access channel as de facto campaign contributions to incumbent councilmembers now running for re-election or other offices. Ashcraft cited state law which bans the use of “city funds, supplies, or equipment for partisan purposes.”
The profiles are uniformly positive and do not in any way resemble a news broadcast. “The elaborately produced program was full of favorable editorial comments and puffery regarding these incumbents, to the point of being obsequious and even sycophantic at times,” Ashcraft writes.
In fact, the profiles treat the elected officials as city employees doing wonderful things for the city. This type of propaganda is hard enough to stomach when in involves actual hard-working, but still merely human and well-compensated, employees of CDOT or CMUD. When such hagiography is deployed — at taxpayer expense — to the benefit of incumbent lawmakers our system is seriously broken.
Ashcraft goes on to ask for details of the cost of the broadcast and if the city will “be filing campaign finance reports as individuals, political action committees, or other relevant entities under the North Carolina laws on campaign finance?”
Republican candidate for mayor Martin Davis has already filed a complaint with the county board of elections against councilmen and mayoral candidates John Lassiter and Anthony Foxx, citing the TV profiles as an illegal in-kind campaign contribution.
City Attorney McCarley told Ashcraft that the city expects to complete its review of the programs next week.
Update: That was quick. One phone call from Uptown reporter Jim Morrill and Mac McCarley has already rendered judgment. Oh, pray tell, what might it be?
“I categorically deny that those are campaign-related. These videos are sitting elected officials communicating with their constituents. That is a lawful activity for the council members and for the city,” the City Attorney tells Morrill.
So, we can assume that McCarley went back and reviewed a several hours worth of City Source programming between receiving attorney Tom Ashcraft’s complaint on Thursday and speaking for the record on Friday?
That’s how these self-reviews work, folks.