Republicans, Democrats wrangle over what's NOT on anti-Obama billboards

ANGELINA COUNTY, TX (KTRE) - Two Angelina County billboards send a clear message, but it's what's not written that has people talking.

"There are certain guidelines with political advertising, where you're required to do that, and we just didn't feel like this fell in that classification," General Manager of JM Outdoor Mark Hicks said.

Hicks sold the ad space on the billboards. One is located on East Loop 287 in Lufkin and another on Hwy 59 near Burke.

The message reads, "More taxes! More welfare! More government! Vote Obama out!"

However, there's no "political advertising paid for" disclaimer on the signs indicating who's footing the bill for the ad space.

The two people responsible for the message want to remain anonymous, and Hicks said since it wasn't a political group or a candidate wanting to put the sign up, he didn't require a disclaimer.

"I think that free speech trumps any argument that somebody may have that they don't like this particular ad," Angelina County Republican Party Chairman Bob Flournoy said. "I obviously agree with the message, but I don't think it's a violation of the election commission's not really during the election process unless you figure that President Obama has been running for election since the day that he got elected."

"President Obama announced the fourth of April of this year that he plans to run for re-election, so that makes him a candidate and in a federal race, which falls under the Federal Election Commission," Angelina County Democratic Party Chairman Jim Wark said.

Although the Federal Election Commission won't comment on the specific situation, under campaign finance law, "A disclaimer must appear on any "electioneering communication" and on any public communication by any person that expressly advocates the election or defeat of a clearly identified candidate or solicits funds in connection with a federal election."

Under FEC regulations, billboards fall under public communication.

"I think we have to guard our right to free speech very carefully, very jealously," Flournoy said. "I think we have too long not made our positions and our voices known. People need to be encouraged to speak out. They know what this is all about, so yes, they need to go take out one that they like for President Obama."

"It's a funny thing that the Republican party and the Tea party people do not think the laws apply to them on billboards or other manner," Wark said.

"We're not going to take political sides being a business and if somebody came in and had an advertisement that was pro-Obama or another candidate, absolutely," Hicks said. "It just boils down to, it's got to be something that maintains a certain level of decency."

Some say it's about free speech, others say it's a matter of how the you interpret the federal regulations.

Hicks said the billboards started running July 1, 2011 and are set to run for another five months. He also said he reserves the right to turn anyone away.

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