The half page political advertisement on page 10 (right below the Jo Boggs advertisement) of the November 1, 2015 issue of the Shelby Shopper caught our eye. First, the name appears to be closely related to us, Citizens for Good Government. Second, the advertisement appears to be illegal. Third, we would not have recommended all of the candidates that they recommended. And we challenge their recommendations.
In regard to the first thing that caught our eye, when we Google searched for “Concerned Citizens of Cleveland County” the search included 104,000 hits and “Citizens For Good Government” (Us) showed up as the top three hits with NO hits for Concerned Citizens of Cleveland County. Concerned Citizens of Cleveland County apparently has no internet basis or presence. Who are these people and why did they chose a name so close to our name?
Next, I went on Facebook and searched there. We did find a Concerned Citizens of Cleveland County on Facebook. It is a “closed group” that you have to be a member of to take part in their discussion. Therefore, there was no basis for the candidate endorsements or recommendations made in the political advertisement in the Shopper as noted above that can be seen by a “genuine” concerned citizen. We did not attempt to join the group because of the legal concerns we will talk about next. We did recognize a number of their members and realize they should have known better.
The legal issue, to our understanding, is you have to organize as a political action committee and register with the Board of Elections according to their rules if you raise or spend money regarding political candidates. Advertising in the Shelby Shopper costs money. So, unless this secret group that calls themselves Concerned Citizens of Cleveland County has filed with the Board of Elections, they are in violation of the law. Another violation appears to be what the Concerned Citizens of Cleveland County advertisement says at the bottom, “Paid for by Mangum & Associates, Inc.” It appears that for the advertisement to be “legal” it should have said at the bottom “Paid for by Concerned Citizens of Cleveland County.” And for the Concerned Citizens to have a properly registered with the \election Board as a political action committee and filed the proper financial reports. It is also believed that Mangum & Associates, Inc. is also NOT a political action committee properly registered and with the proper reports filed. Especially with all the rules and regulations regarding corporate donations and holding registration as political action committees. This is a mess.
What Citizens For Good Government does to negotiate the maize of election and campaign rules related to campaign and candidate spending is simple. We stick to the First Amendment of the US Constitution. The right to freedom of speech and freedom of the press as related to news reporting, opinion and evaluation of the facts that are available. You will notice that I often say “Reported by Robert A. Williams” or “Report, evaluation, and analysis by Robert A. Williams” at the beginning of our articles. We then print the articles on our own website. We don’t donate to candidates or receive donations from candidates. Neither do we request permission from candidates to print our recommendations. Remember, “recommendations” is the keyword. We do not endorse candidates, we recommend candidates based on our evaluations of ALL the candidates to chose which candidate(s) we feel are the best candidate(s) for the office considering the wide range of issues and circumstances of the elected office we are reporting on. We even go the extra mile on our marked up sample ballots. We print “Paid for by Citizens For Good Government” on these sample ballots in case a reader prints off on their own accord a copy or copies and passes them around to their family, friends and neighbors as we encourage them to do. Everybody is covered and nobody runs afoul of the Board of Election rules and State Elections Laws. Something the Concerned Citizens of Cleveland County appear not to have done.