The Buckhead Reporter was inundated with emails today containing links to a post by local blogger Robert Stockwell, publisher of Financial Deconstruction.
In a post published the morning of Dec. 3, the day of city election runoffs, Stockwell cites an anonymous source that claims “street money” is being used to get out the vote in support of candidates backed by Mayor Kasim Reed. One of those candidates is Atlanta Board of Education Chairman Reuben McDaniel, who running against challenger Cynthia Briscoe Brown.
Last night I learned from someone who is very knowledgeable about the current Board of Education campaign that a significant Super PAC is spending $25 thousand today to get out the vote in specific Districts with what is called “walking around” or “street” money. Wikipedia defines this as:
….an American political tactic in which local party officials are given legal cash handouts by … [a] campaign in exchange for the official’s support in turning out voters on election day.
As noted in the definition, there is nothing illegal about the practice, but it is important that the voters know that it is underway and that it could have a significant impact on today’s runoff election. This practice has been used in prior Atlanta elections and could easily have been the determining factor in a mayoral election that was decided by less than 800 votes Citywide.
Stockwell says the money is being used to back candidates supported by Reed’s Political Action Committee.
The Buckhead Reporter reached out to the mayor’s spokesman, who directed questions to Continue Atlanta’s Progress, an Independent Committee. The Atlanta Journal Constitution reports that the committee is largely backed by Reed.
Committee spokesman Jeff Dickerson said the Financial Deconstruction report doesn’t accurately portray the committee’s get out the vote effort.
“It’s accurate to say there’s a get out the vote effort,” Dickerson said. “I would say that it’s inaccurate as far as the reference to street money or walking around money … Those phrases 25 or 30 years ago meant that you were paying people to vote and that’s certainly not the case.”
So what exactly is the committee doing?
“You hire a political operative who goes out and encourages people to go to the polls,” Dickerson said. “You can do that any number of ways through fliers, getting fliers to churches the Sunday before. There are a number of tactics to help people remember to go to the polls.”
Dickerson said while the get out the vote effort is in support of candidates backed by Reed, Reed is not personally directing the get out the vote effort. The mayor’s spokesman agreed, saying the mayor doesn’t control how the committee money is spent.