Bowing to public outrage, Clear Channel will donate space on 10 billboards to counter the ones by anonymous donors meant to intimidate African American voters in Cleveland.
National advertising company Clear Channel Outdoor sold the billboards, which have also appeared in Cincinnati, Columbus, and Milwaukee. The buyer is only identified as "a private family foundation". A Clear Channel spokesman says it's company policy to identify those behind billboard purchases, but says, "Policy was not followed in this case." As the buyer requested to stay anonymous in the contract, Clear Channel will never release their identity.
But after hearing from several African-American lawmakers, including Ohio state senator Nina Turner and City Councilwoman Phyllis Cleveland, Clear Channel has now agreed to donate 10 new billboards Councilwoman Cleveland says will help assure voters across the city.
"In close proximity - if possible - to the original billboards that have gone up," she explains, "the billboard will actually say, `VOTING IS A RIGHT, NOT A CRIME'. The first of those should start going up, probably Monday."
Cleveland says she'd have preferred the original billboards be taken down, but she's still pleased that Clear Channel sympathized with her complaint and others from the black community.
More than 140 billboards in Ohio and Wisconsin warning of the criminal consequences of voter fraud will be taken down starting on Monday after the sponsor chose to remove them rather than reveal its identity, the billboard owner said.
The billboards, which show a large judge's gavel and read "Voter Fraud is a felony - up to 3 ½ years and a $10,000 fine," went up primarily in low-income minority neighborhoods in early October, just weeks before the November 6 elections, and were immediately criticized by voter rights groups as an attempt to intimidate minority voters.
Crews on Monday will begin taking down 30 billboards in Cleveland, 30 in Columbus and 85 in Milwaukee, Jim Cullinan, vice president of corporate communications for Clear Channel Outdoor said.