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Monday, June 22, 2009
BORN IN THE USA?
Billboard cartel says no
to questioning Obama
Trade group headed by Democrat donor
discouraged acceptance of eligibility ad
Posted: June 21, 2009
7:14 pm Eastern
OAAA chief Nancy Fletcher
WASHINGTON – A fourth billboard company has rejected a campaign designed to raise visibility on questions surrounding Barack Obama’s eligibility for office – this time by claiming the Outdoor Advertising Association of America, a trade and lobbying group that claims to promote freedom of speech, actually discouraged acceptance.
The OAAA, headed by President and Chief Executive Officer Nancy Fletcher, a Hillary Clinton financial contributor in 2008, reportedly advised some members not to accept ads from WND that asked, “Where’s the birth certificate?”
Fletcher, who refused to respond to WND inquiries about the action of the OAAA, points out on the group’s website that “outdoor advertising is regulated by multiple layers of government.”
“Yet while there are so many changes in the industry and in American lifestyles, certain principles haven’t changed,” Fletcher writes.” For more than two centuries, the American republic has drawn strength from its Bill of Rights and the Constitution. The Founding Fathers put a premium on freedom as they wrote clear safeguards against an overbearing government. In particular, the First Amendment protects free speech and the Fifth Amendment protects property rights. Debate is honored and encouraged in a free society. Indeed, people have debated outdoor advertising regulation since the first postings, and debate will continue. As the world changes around us – in ways we perhaps cannot contemplate – we know Americans share deep respect for free expression and for private property.”
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Nevertheless, at least one billboard company, Steen Advertising, backed out of a commitment to lease billboards to WND after a sales executive said the company was warned off the campaign by the OAAA.
“We are not going through with the deal,” wrote Candice Berju, account executive for Steen, to a representative for WND Tuesday, June 16. “No one spoke as to what the campaign was, I had to find out on my own. The OAAA has advised companies not to run this campaign.”
When WND called Berju for further explanation, a company supervisor in Delaware put the call on hold for 10 minutes. When she returned, she said both Berju and her boss would decline to comment.
“Where’s The Birth Certificate?” billboard in Pennsylvania
“I was just told to let you know to direct any of your questions to the OAAA,” she said.
Later, WND reached Berju directly.
“I’ve no comment on this,” she said. “Sorry, I’m not answering anything.”
A WND reporter asked if he could speak to her supervisor.
“No,” she said. “I can’t help you with that. I’m not commenting on anything. Have a good day.” With that, she hung up.
Repeated calls were placed to OAAA officials and went unreturned.
The OAAA’s board of directors is dominated by top executives from the billboard industry – especially CBS, Clear Channel and Lamar, the three big players that explicitly turned down WND’s campaign without explanation.
Interestingly, however, it was the lobbying and trade association that first publicly labeled the birth certificate campaign “misleading.”
Just one day after WND broke the story of CBS’ rejection of the eligibility billboard campaign, the OAAA issued a press release defending the decision.
“What was strange about this, from my perspective, was that no one – not even me – questioned CBS’ right to reject the campaign,” said Joseph Farah, editor and chief executive officer of WND and the initiator of billboard effort. “We simply reported the fact that this giant media conglomerate, that Rush Limbaugh would probably characterize as part of the ‘state-run media,’ was doing what we have witnessed the Big Media do over and over again – protect Obama at all costs.”
Since OAAA’s job is lobbying for influence in Washington and negotiating the hurdles of a heavily regulated industry, it is understandable, Farah says, that it jumped to the defense of the president.
“It’s understandable,” he said. “It’s even predictable. But it is not moral. It is not right. It is not ethical. It is not in the spirit of a vigorous and free and independent media. These guys are looking for favors from government. The press is supposed to be watchdogging government.”
Farah also points out that the OAAA doesn’t issue many press releases. The June 4 release on the WND eligibility campaign was one of only seven issued this year by the organization.
“Something tells me this eligibility campaign really struck a nerve in Washington at the headquarters of the OAAA,” said Farah. “Keep in mind, this organization has not yet commented on the hullabaloo over the Calvin Klein billboard in New York City. As far as I know, the OAAA did nothing to prevent that tasteless and immoral outdoor advertising from being shown to millions. The OAAA has been silent about campaigns supported by its members questioning the very existence of God. Yet, ask a question about Obama’s birth certificate and you suddenly represent a threat to all that is good decent.”
While no one outdoor advertising company alone – or even three or four – could prevent a national billboard campaign from making an impact – the OAAA membership represents most of the industry. As the organization itself explains it: “The nearly 1,000 OAAA member companies generate more than $7.2 billion annually in ad revenues, representing more than 90 percent of industry income, and donate space to charitable organizations in excess of $390 million each year.”
Some of the charitable campaigns of the OAAA and its major affiliates, though, take on at least some of the characteristics of political pandering when you consider the organization’s lobbying role.
For instance, in January, the OAAA launched a billboard campaign called VS/US to “remind all Americans of those values and virtues they have in common after the rancor and vitriol of the presidential campaign.”
“We felt it was important to do something to help bring the country together after so much debate and division,” said Fletcher. “Outdoor is probably the best way to spread a message like this, because it reaches everyone in a way that makes them think.”
This campaign runs through November on the digital boards of all OAAA members.
Meanwhile, Clear Channel in Wisconsin went even further in its bid to bring everyone together after the inauguration. It launched a free public service campaign that many considered to be an extension of the Obama campaign from the preceding year.
Electronic billboards throughout the southeastern part of the state flashed an image of Obama with the words, “Yes, we can.”
Clear Channel Outdoor President Paul Sara said at the time the billboards were inspirational, not political.
“Those three words of ‘Yes, we can’ pretty much says it all,” she said. “Do what we have to do to see this crisis through. I don’t see why we would get any flack from it. It’s a positive message and again, we’re trying to send, we’re trying to send a message from our president and again, those three words are very powerful.”
Farah couldn’t help juxtapose that three-word catchphrase with his own four-word slogan – “Where’s the birth certificate?”
“These people have a very strange sense of what is political and what is not,” said Farah. “Apparently, support for Obama is not political, but questioning is – and it’s also, by definition, misleading. It’s scary that people like this are actually working as media professionals. They have no sense of standards at all. And they have no clue about the proper role and responsibility of the media in a free and open society.”
Farah points out the OAAA claims to “advocate the use of outdoor advertising for political, editorial, public service and other noncommercial messages.” Yet, he says, “If that message is one they disagree with, all bets are off. If that message is one that might potentially compromise their ability to seek favors from government, all bets are off. If that message is one that is not ‘politically correct,’ then all bets are off.”
Nevertheless, Farah says, the “billboard cartel” is not preventing a major expansion of the campaign.
“I want everyone to understand there are still plenty of billboards available to lease,” Farah said. “Many supporters of this campaign have gotten the wrong impression – that we simply have been shut out of further billboard purchases by this political suppression. That is not the case. Donations to the campaign have dropped precipitously because of this false impression. We could buy billboards every single day if we had the financial support we had when this campaign began. But we don’t.”
Farah said it would be a shame if potential contributors were dissuaded from making donations because of this mistaken idea.
“The billboard cartel is on the verge of getting its way – not by blocking the purchase of ad space, but by convincing donors there is no space to buy,” he explained. “Nothing has ever raised the visibility of the eligibility issue like this campaign. If people want that expansion of awareness to continue, all they need to do is support it financially. There are plenty of independent billboard companies eager to work with us.”
The billboard campaign followed an ongoing petition campaign launched several months ago by Farah. It is intended to raise public awareness of the fact that Obama has never released the standard “long-form” birth certificate that would show which hospital he was born in, the attending physician and establish that he truly was born in Hawaii, as his autobiography maintains.
The “certification of live birth” posted online and widely touted as “Obama’s birth certificate” does not in any way prove he was born in Hawaii, since the same “short-form” document is easily obtainable for children not born in Hawaii. The true “long-form” birth certificate – which includes information such as the name of the birth hospital and attending physician – is the only document that can prove Obama was born in Hawaii, but to date he has not permitted its release for public or press scrutiny.
Oddly, though congressional hearings were held to determine whether Sen. John McCain was constitutionally eligible to be president as a “natural born citizen,” no controlling legal authority ever sought to verify Obama’s claim to a Hawaiian birth.
WND has reported on dozens of legal challenges to Obama’s status as a “natural born citizen.” The Constitution, Article 2, Section 1, states, “No Person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President.”
Some of the lawsuits question whether he was actually born in Hawaii, as he insists. If he was born out of the country, Obama’s American mother, the suits contend, was too young at the time of his birth to confer American citizenship to her son under the law at the time.
Other challenges have focused on Obama’s citizenship through his father, a Kenyan subject to the jurisdiction of the United Kingdom at the time of his birth, thus making him a dual citizen. The cases contend the framers of the Constitution excluded dual citizens from qualifying as natural born.
Complicating the situation is Obama’s decision to spend sums estimated in the hundreds of thousands of dollars to avoid releasing a state birth certificate that would put to rest all of the questions.
WND has reported that among the documentation not yet available for Obama includes his kindergarten records, his Punahou school records, his Occidental College records, his Columbia University records, his Columbia thesis, his Harvard Law School records, his Harvard Law Review articles, his scholarly articles from the University of Chicago, his passport, his medical records, his files from his years as an Illinois state senator, his Illinois State Bar Association records, any baptism records, and his adoption records.
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