After first being refused by two billboard companies, Democracy North Carolina was able to place a big sign drawing attention to an investigation of N.C. Sen. Ralph Hise in McDowell and two other counties after all.
Last month, Democracy North Carolina, a voting rights and campaign finance watchdog group, announced it was trying to post billboards in McDowell and Mitchell calling attention to an ongoing investigation by the State Board of Elections into the campaign finances of state Sen. Ralph Hise. But two billboard companies rejected the signs critical of Hise even though Democracy North Carolina said it had a contract with them.
Hise is a Mitchell County Republican and chair of the Senate Select Committee on Elections. His legislative district covers six counties in western North Carolina, including McDowell.
“We’ve been trying to let the voters in Sen. Hise’s district know about his problems for a month, but the billboard industry seems so worried about making him mad that they are refusing to rent us space for our message,” said Bob Hall, executive director of Democracy North Carolina, in a news release last month.
Democracy North Carolina originally had a contract to place a billboard along Interstate 40 in McDowell but this contract was cancelled by the company because it was too controversial, according to Hall.
Instead, that billboard about Hise and the investigation can now be seen in McDowell along U.S. 221 North in the Woodlawn community. It is across from the entrance to American Thread Road.
Democracy North Carolina has placed similar billboards in Mitchell and Madison counties as well.
Hall said to The McDowell News on Monday his group had to go with a different company that was willing to rent the space.
“It was disappointing the major companies wouldn’t rent us this space,” he said.
The billboards will be up at least from July through September. Hall said they could be up longer or maybe with an adjusted message depending on the investigation.
Hise has allegedly withdrawn about $10,000 in excess “loan repayments” from his campaign and also failed to disclose receiving more than $9,000 in donations from political action committees (PACs). Democracy North Carolina says his campaign reports have more missing information and are “the worst of any current state legislator.” The purpose of the billboard is to alert voters in Hise’s district about the ongoing investigation into his finance reports, according to Democracy North Carolina.
“That’s the main reason why we put that billboard up,” Hall said to The McDowell News. “What happens in Raleigh shouldn’t stay in Raleigh. The people in his district need to know he’s under investigation.”
As for the probe into his campaign finances, Hall said “They are not telling us much other than it is continuing.”
In addition, the group has called on Hise to recuse himself from matters concerning the State Board of Elections because of the investigation.
“He is the point person in the Senate as chair of the Select Committee on Elections,” said Hall.
The McDowell News reached out to Hise through email on Monday for his comments regarding the billboards and the ongoing investigation. On Wednesday, he responded back.
“Until the matter is resolved this is my only comment: We recently concluded an internal review of the campaign's finance reports and found some bookkeeping corrections that need to be made,” reads his email.
“We're working to correct those now and have sent a response to the State Board of Elections.”