Politics & Government

A 9th District candidate sues because she was forced to cancel ads for her business

Real estate interests continued to make news in the 9th District congressional election Monday, with an industry group continuing to pour money into the race and one candidate suing election officials for barring commercials about her brokerage company.

The National Association of Realtors political action committee is spending more than $674,000 on ads at three Charlotte TV stations on behalf of Realtor Leigh Brown, according to reports filed by the stations. She’s one of 10 Republicans running in the May 14 GOP primary.

Brown, meanwhile, said she’s suing the Federal Election Commission for forcing her to remove radio ads for her real estate business. The ads ran regularly on Charlotte’s WBT for over a decade. The FEC ordered them to stop as of Sunday.

“They said my ads couldn’t have my voice or my name in it,” Brown said Monday. “Radio makes the phone ring.”

Brown owns Leigh Brown & Associates, a real estate company with offices in Concord and Ballantyne. She told the FEC that business generated by the ads account for 10 percent of her annual commission.

Broadcast ads that mention a federal candidate are considered “electioneering communications” within 30 days of a primary and “targeted to a relevant electorate.” WBT reaches much of the 9th District. Under the rules, Brown would have to report the ads as electioneering communication.

Records show that Brown sought an exemption to the rule that would have allowed her business ads to continue.

The votes of four commissioners were required to grant the exemption. One of the commission’s four members voted against, effectively denying the request.

Brown said the decision will hurt her business.

“You’re doing everything you can to make your phone ring,” she said. “And I feel like the FEC is telling me to choose my business or be a public servant.”

FEC spokesman Myles Martin said he can’t comment on ongoing litigation.

Ads by the Realtor PAC begin airing Tuesday and are scheduled to run through the election. Orders filed with the Federal Communications Commission show the PAC is spending at least $674,000 at Charlotte TV stations WSOC, WBTV and WCNC.

In response to an earlier story about the ads, state Sen. Dan Bishop used the news in a fundraising appeal.

“We knew the special interests would come for us,” he wrote. “That’s what they do when a real conservative threatens to fight the clowns in Washington and support President Trump. . . . Let’s show the folks in Washington that this district belongs to the people – not the special interests.”