Anti-Obama billboard draws angry comments

A state lawmaker says he’ll call his colleagues about not using Lamar Advertising.

By Shelby Schroeder


NILES — A privately funded billboard calling Sen. Barack Obama a socialist is being blasted by some of the Valley’s political players.

“It’s the most ridiculous, inaccurate billboard that could ever be put up,” said state Rep. Robert F. Hagan of Youngstown, D-60th, of the advertisement that proclaims: “Say no to socialism! Say no to socialist Barack Hussein Obama.”

The message flashes on the digital screen across from the Eastwood Mall on Youngstown Warren Road. A photograph of Obama is positioned at the right of the billboard, his face crossed out with a white X.

Clinton Nickas, with the Youngstown bureau of Lamar Advertising, the company that owns the large billboard, would not comment on the company’s policy regarding political ads.

Nickas said the branch’s business manager, Brian Connely, was not available to comment — and that his voice mailbox was currently full “for obvious reasons.”

Nickas also refused to discuss the cost of the advertisement or details of the individual who purchased it, a man named Jack Kapp, as listed on the billboard.

Hagan said he received the same message when he called Lamar but will continue calling and e-mailing the company until the message, which he termed “libelous,” is removed.

“I will be urging all my elected official colleagues not to use Lamar Advertising unless that thing comes down within a week,” he said.

A call to officials at Lamar Advertising’s headquarters in Baton Rouge, La., was not returned late Thursday, and Kapp could not be reached.

Phil Richter, executive director of the Ohio Election Commission, said the advertisement does not appear to be a violation of election laws in the state. Craig Bonar, chairman of the Trumbull County Republican Party, also deplored the advertisement.

“I know private citizens are allowed to do anything they want,” Bonar said. “But the McCain campaign, the Trumbull County Republican Party, and the Ohio Republican Party would not condone it.”

Bonar called the sign “distasteful,” adding that political advertisements should remain positive. He said campaign ads, such as the Democrats’ “Barns for Obama,” reflect better on parties. The billboard accusing Obama of being a socialist is representative of fringe voters, he said.

“We have plenty of good, nice signs for Mc-

Cain-Palin,” Bonar said, suggesting voters stick to campaign-approved signs.

Isaac Baker, spokesman for the Obama campaign, said the ad is a familiar affront by both the Republican presidential candidate and his followers.

“John McCain and his supporters know he is out of ideas and has no plan to fix the economy, so they are resorting to these desperate, absurd attacks. The difference here is very clear: John McCain wants to give a $1 billion tax cut to Exxon, while Barack Obama wants to give a tax cut to the middle class,” Baker said.

Youngstown Mayor Jay Williams said the ad is simply a facet of the political process.

“Part of what makes this country great is that people are free to express their views — no matter how out of touch they are,” Williams said.

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