Although the November election is not on most people’s minds right now, the negative advertising and dirty politics have already started.
A television commercial that ran on WFMY, WGHP and WXII wasn’t in favor of anyone but made serious accusations of impropriety against state Sen. Trudy Wade, Rep. Jon Hardister and Rep. John Faircloth, all from Guilford County. The commercial basically accuses them of selling their votes for campaign donations from Duke Energy.
The commercial states that Wade, Hardister and Faircloth “voted to let Duke charge us to clean up their coal ash mess.”
One problem with the commercial is that the legislature has no control of Duke Energy electrical rates; but Wade, Hardister and Faircloth didn’t have to get involved in having the advertisement withdrawn. On June 28, Duke Energy sent a letter to Michael Weisel of NC Common Ground, which purchased the advertising, with copies to the three television stations requesting “that you immediately cease airing this advertisement.”
The letter states, “The advertisement contains patently false information that is misleading not only to Duke Energy customers, but to the broader community as well.”
The letter notes, “Cost recovery for coal ash basin closure is an issue solely within the jurisdiction of the North Carolina Utilities Commission, which regulates the rates that Duke Energy Carolinas and Duke Energy Progress are permitted to charge their customers.”
The commercial goes beyond simply stating that the three legislators voted to allow Duke Energy to increase it rates to recover coal ash recovery costs, but states that Duke Energy donated to the campaigns of all three and states that the legislators were dancing the two-step with Duke Energy, implying that Duke Energy donated to their campaigns in exchange for a favorable vote. Since the legislature has no authority to set electricity rates, the advertisement is false on its face.
Duke Energy didn’t like that part of the advertisement either. The letter states, “The advertisement improperly uses this faulty premise to imply that Duke Energy paid off legislators and gained the ability to charge customers for coal ash recovery as a result. Again this is patently untrue and disparaging in nature.”
Duke Energy didn’t stop there, it also sent a letter out to its employees in the area explaining that legislators have no control over electricity rates and donations are made by DukePAC to pro-business candidates, not based on individual votes.
When asked about the advertisement Hardister said, “The Democrats are desperate. They are very frustrated they have been in the minority for several years and are willing to engage in dishonest politics in an attempt to get back in the majority. As Republicans we’ll have to work to set the record straight.”
The advertisement in question was paid for by NC Common Ground, which is tied to Fair Courts Now, Aim Higher Now and all are tied to North Carolina Citizens for Protecting Our Schools, which is a 501(c)(4). According to the IRS a 501(c)(4) is a social welfare group that can engage in political activity, but is also allowed to keep its donors secret.
It’s one of those campaign loopholes that allow money from unknown sources to be used for political activity.
This is only July, and with the election four months away, political advertising like this is only going to increase.