October 22, 2012; Source: U.S. News & World Report

Last week, NPQ noted the arrival of billboards placed in central city neighborhoods in Milwaukee warning people about the penalties of voter fraud; the billboards were just a few of the more than 140 stating that “Voter Fraud Is a Felony” that reportedly appeared in swing states across the U.S. Given that there is virtually no evidence of significant voter fraud in the U.S., several organizations had claimed that these advertisements, which had been placed on billboards owned by Clear Channel, were intended to scare people and thereby suppress the vote. When asked, Clear Channel originally said that they had no intention of removing the billboards, which had been purchased by an anonymous donor.

Now, according to articles in U.S. News & World Report and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Clear Channel has decided to take the billboards down after all and replace some of them with ads promoting the importance of voting. Clear Channel has committed to posting 10 billboards stating, “Voting Is a Right, Not a Crime!” It turns out that the reason for this reversal is that the contract with the advertiser violated Clear Channel’s own internal policy requiring political ads to state who paid for them. The anonymous buyer was reportedly given the choice of what to do—identify themselves or have the ads taken down—and opted to have the ads withdrawn.

Why is the buyer of these ads so adamant about remaining anonymous? It makes one think that they knew people would get angry and that there would be backlash. –Rob Meiksins