CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Brace yourself: The first shot has been fired in the TV ad wars in the race for North Carolina Governor, and already there are third party groups, money being funneled from one group to another and threats of legal action.
A group called the North Carolina Citizens for Progress launched the ad last week. But the Democratic Governors Association freely admitted to the Raleigh News and Observer that it paid for the TV spots.
The ad questions former Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory’s ethics in accepting a six figure salary and stock options for a company called Tree.com while he was part-time Mayor of Charlotte.
The McCrory campaign immediately threatened legal action if television stations and cable systems did not take the ad down. And on Monday McCrory filed a formal complaint with the Federal Communications Commission, calling the ads false and illegal.
At issue is whether McCrory used his position as Mayor of Charlotte to lobby on behalf of the company. McCrory wrote a letter to the NC Secretary of Commerce to try to win tax breaks for Tree.com’s predecessor company, Lending Tree, in 2006. Three years later McCrory joined the Board of Tree.com and was paid more than $140,000 in cash and stocks.
McCrory’s spokesman says the former Mayor was just trying to keep the company from moving out of state and he was doing what any mayor would do to save local jobs. McCrory was not a registered lobbyist for Tree.com.
But the ad questions whether McCrory is the person to “clean up” Raleigh and concludes with the stinger: “You’ve got to be kidding.”
"That is a serious personal attack accusing Pat McCrory of being a criminal,” said McCrory spokesman Brian Nick. “Pat has a very good name and has served a distinguished career and the people of Charlotte know that."
The McCrory campaign has fired off news releases saying one unnamed cable system around Asheville and another TV station, WXII-TV in Winston-Salem have dropped the ad.
But the General Manager of WXII, Hank Price, refused to confirm the report saying, “We never comment about business decisions.”
An attorney for the non-profit NC Citizens for Progress, which placed the ads, accused the McCrory campaign of trying to “bully and mislead” TV stations. The group says the ads are accurate. And it says no television station or cable system has dropped the ad, including WXII.
Last week the Republican Governor’s Association launched an ad targeting the Democrat in the race for Governor, Walter Dalton. The ad ties Dalton to the incumbent Governor Bev Perdue and calls him her “right-hand man.” Political reporters at the Raleigh News and Observer and WRAL.com concluded the claim was misleading.
Dalton spokesman Schorr Johnson said the campaign did not launch the anti-McCrory ad but,
“Obviously from the McCrory campaign’s reaction, it hit a nerve.”