An ad released today by the National Republican Congressional Committee against Democratic candidate Kathy Manning has drawn a swift rebuke from the Community Foundation of Greater Greensboro, with the nonprofit’s president calling it “false.”
Titled “Imagine the Damage,” the 30-second spot begins with a sky view of downtown Greensboro as a narrator announces that it’s 2013, and then shows a pile of cash rising while smiling volunteers accept clothing donations. The narrator continues, “The Community Foundation of Greater Greensboro operated at a $30 million surplus, helping local families and strengthening our community… until liberal Kathy Manning took over.”
Then the ad shows Manning, with the pile of cash rapidly falling, and the screen turns to red, showing a worried and mistrustful young mother holding a small child. “The very next year, under Manning’s watch, the foundation lost $3 million,” the narrator continues.
The final passage shows Manning in front of the US Capitol, with the red filtering giving the clouds a distinctly apocalyptic cast, and the narrator concludes, “Imagine the damage liberal Kathy Manning would do in Congress.”
Walker Sanders, the president of the foundation, told Triad City Beat that Manning served on the nonprofit’s board of director from 2008 to 2016, including as chair in 2014 and 2015, noting that she was a volunteer as opposed to a member of staff. Manning was one of the chief fundraisers for the Steven Tanger Center for the Performing Arts — also a volunteer role.
“It’s an absurd characterization,” Sanders said. “It’s a completely false advertisement. They should be ashamed of themselves for running such a thing.”
An official response to the NRCC posted on the website today indicates that in 2013 the foundation raised more than $29 million in private contributions for the performing arts center, adding, “These restricted gifts resulted in CFGG reporting a dramatic increase in revenue for that year. There was no $30 million surplus in our operating budget.”
The foundation began another campaign the following year to build LeBauer Park based on a gift from the estate of Carolyn LeBauer. “The advance of funds for this project resulted in CFGG reporting a dramatic increase in expenses for that year,” the foundation said. “There was no $3 million loss in our operating budget.”
The statement expresses concern that “the reputation of CFGG could be harmed” by the ad, and Sanders said the foundation’s lawyers will be in touch with the National Republican Congressional Committee.
The foundation is asking local TV stations to not air the ad. Sanders said his organization has a good relationship with the stations, adding, “I wouldn’t be surprised if they make the decision to not air it once they know the facts.”
The National Republican Congressional Committee, commonly known as the NRCC, is a political committee devoted to maintaining the Republican majority in the US House. NRCC Communications Director Matt Gorman could not be reached immediately for comment.
Manning is challenging Republican incumbent Ted Budd in the 13th Congressional District, which stretches from Greensboro westward to Iredell County.
“We appreciate the selfless dedication of the Community Foundation of Greensboro and all the good work the organization does for this community,” said Elizabeth Oglesby, Budd’s campaign manager, in an emailed statement to City Beat. Oglesby did not respond to a question about whether the campaign intended to denounce the ad or ask the NRCC to withdraw it.
Budd is appearing tonight at a campaign event in Charlotte with President Trump. Budd and Mark Harris, his counterpart in North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District, are both running in tight races against Democratic opponents.
This is not the first time Manning has been the target of attack ads from outside groups. Earlier this month, an ad by the Republican-aligned Club for Growth Action PAC drew attention to Manning’s record of donations to Democratic politicians, including Nancy Pelosi, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, implicitly shading Manning’s campaign promise to vote against Pelosi for House speaker.
Also, earlier this month, America First Action Inc. — a super PAC set up to support Trump — spent $601,660 to air an ad that portrays Manning as a wealthy elitist while drawing attention to her husband, Randall Kaplan’s involvement in a hotel development tied to a parking deck to be built with public funds approved by Greensboro City Council. Politifact declared that the claim — which also appeared in a nearly identical ad aired by the Budd campaign — is false.
The Budd campaign has also drawn fire from outside groups. LCV Victory Fund, a committee set up by the League of Conservation Voters; the women’s advocacy group Women Vote!; and the Democrat-aligned House Majority PAC have together spent $962,659 in ads attacking the Republican incumbent.
This story has been updated to reflect a statement received from the Budd campaign on Oct. 27 at 7:55 a.m.