Clear Channel To Remove Controversial Voter Fraud Billboards

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The same billboards appeared in Milwaukee.

I really missed the boat on this one when I wrote about it last week. I thought it was plain old wingnut paranoia, when it was really part of a plan to suppress minority voter turnout. In any event, Clear Channel is actually going to do the right things and take them down:

CLEVELAND, Ohio -- Clear Channel Outdoor will remove 30 billboards across the city that drew complaints of racism and intimidation with their message of "Voter fraud is a felony," the company said Saturday night.

Jim Cullinan, a spokesman for Clear Channel Outdoor, said the billboards will come down immediately. He said the company continues its donation of 10 other billboards that will have messages to counter the offending ones.

City Councilwoman Phyllis Cleveland, who objected to the billboards and helped lead the push for others to respond to them, called Clear Channel's decision "fantastic news."

"That's a wonderful resolution to this issue," she said.

Cleveland's black community and civil rights activists begain complaining earlier this month about the billboards, which state that voter fraud is punishable by up to 3 1/2 years in prison and a $10,000 fine. The ads also show a gavel. The Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, a voting advocacy group based in Washington, D.C., noted that the billboards were placed in predominantly Hispanic and black neighborhoods in Cleveland, as well as in Cincinnati and Milwaukee. The group sent a letter to Clear Channel Outdoor requesting that the company take down the signs.

Clear Channel had said it could not remove them because its client, a private, out-of-state family foundation, has a contract that keeps them in place through Nov. 6, Election Day. The contract also has a clause keeping the name of the family foundation anonymous.The company has said it has a policy against putting anonymous political messages on its billboard and that it erred in agreeing to that contract.

On Saturday, Clear Channel still declined to reveal the name of its client, but said it wanted to correct the error.

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