WRAL Documentary: Who are you?

Posted January 16, 2011
Updated January 21, 2011

It was the infamous question uttered by Congressman Bob Etheridge in an embarrassing viral video that helped cost him his job. Now it is the same question the Congressman and others are asking about donors to a mysterious Washington-based organization that helped defeat him.

A year ago, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling that may keep us from ever knowing the answer.

The video was the turning point in Etheridge’s race against Republican challenger Renee Ellmers in the 2010 election. Until then few people had given Ellmers a chance. She had no political experience, no name recognition and no help from her party.

Then Etheridge lost his cool in a politically orchestrated video ambush. When the video went viral, Etheridge suddenly looked vulnerable and Ellmers became more visible. The race got the national media attention it had lacked and donations to Ellmers’ campaign picked up.

An endorsement from Sarah Palin and a controversial ad about the proposed mosque near Ground Zero in New York helped attract even more attention and financial support. Some of that support came from an organization called Americans for Job Security, which spent $360,000, most of it on TV ads attacking Etheridge late in the race.

Renee Ellmers, Bob Etheridge WRAL Documentary: "Who Are You?"

On Jan. 21, 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that corporations can anonymously donate unlimited amounts of money to third-party groups like AJS to support or oppose candidates. The majority said that such donations amount to free speech.

Many others say the ruling undermines the electoral process and our democracy by giving special interest groups more power to influence elections than voters.

The WRAL Documentary "Who are you?" examines the Etheridge-Ellmers race, how the viral video helped fuel support for Ellmers and how support from anonymous donors funneled through Americans for Job Security helped her win.

You’ll hear from the candidates themselves, as well as experts in campaign finance reform, about the race, how it illustrates the impact of the controversial Supreme Court ruling and what it all means for future elections in North Carolina.

“Who are you?” is hosted by WRAL News anchor David Crabtree. It airs Jan. 20 at 7 p.m.


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  • salinamedlin Mar 17, 2012

    Too many adds that bash their opponent can make the public look at their bashing as desperation.

  • daddybnctown Apr 9, 2011

    As a 28 year UPS employee, I can tell you that Bob Ethridge always used to come and speak to the employess, shake hands and all that every year. THEN, about 5 years ago he stopped coming He didn't return repeated phone calls or invitations to speak to the employees.THAT's why he got FIRED! He lost track of what is important, his constituents at home. Too much time in Washington!

  • nancykadams Jan 31, 2011

    No...I am not a staunched democrat... however, this documentary brought about the awareness that we all need to be reminded of.... Does our vote really count??? Who are the American's for Job Security... Let's be realistic.....WRAL's timing on this issue was right on point for the new Red and Blue regime.... This was an honest, fair and balanced report.... Thank you David....

  • stevenblalock Jan 26, 2011

    Let me get this right. I completely understand that the aim of this "documentary/editorial" is to display Capital Broadcastings/WRAL's dislike of a recently constitutionally upheld law regarding campaign financing. It would be refreshing if they would not veil their political leanings under the documentary label. Both candidates received lots of monies from many unidentified groups. the reality is that Etheridge lost because of his positions and Ellmers won because of Etheridge's positions. She will also lose if her positions do not represent her district. WRAL should stick to reporting what they hear on the Raleigh/Durham police scanner, the weather, the sports and some interesting Tarheel Travellers facts. Finally, tommyaugustine84, on behalf of my uneducated Southern Baptist North Carolinian's let me just say, "bless your little heart". God bless.

  • tommyaugustine84 Jan 25, 2011

    All of you who think this is about Ethridge are ether dumb or deaf. The center peice to this documentary was about the recent changes in campaign finance. I'm sure if Ethridge won with the help of this phantom organization, then all you uneducated-southern-baptist-"Republicans" would be screaming for Sarah Palin to come down to Raleigh and cry about it for you.

  • Micro citizen Jan 25, 2011

    As a citizen of the 2nd district, I voted for Elmers because of the liberal voting record of Bob Etheridge...not because of any TV ad or political contribution. How arrogant and ignorant of Etheridge and WRAL to imply he lost the election because of outside funding. If outside contributions are such a concern, why didn't we hear about them in the Helms/Hunt election years ago when Hunt was bombarded with money from the liberal California entertainment industry? Etheridge lost the votes and respect of district 2 voters. If WRAL continues their one-sided 'news' reporting, they will also lose district 2 viewers...I've already switched my TV to WTVD!!

  • trip2010 Jan 23, 2011

    MR. Etherage has had is 30 Min. policital add. When will you do a 30 Min. policatal add for Congresswoman Elmers?

  • rjwerner Jan 23, 2011

    I watched the "documentary" on line yesterday and wanted to comment but after reading the postings it seems everyone has the same opinion it has to be 10 to 1 that Ethridge was not "harmed" by the outside interests.

    After Obamacare I called Ethridge and said I would now do everything I could the see that he was not re-elected never thinking it could actually happen.

    When your congressman's office tells you that all "town hall" meeting are private and closed you know you have a problem.

  • wiquick Jan 23, 2011

    I started watching this special report and became so disgusted with the bias of the WRAL reporter that I turned it off midway through the story. Isn't it funny that Etheridge received large contributions from Labor Unions who do not represent the 2nd district citizens, yet this did not seem to be an issue for WRAL.
    Bottom line, Etheridge lost the election because he was more interested in representing the left-wing of the democrat party than the largely conservative 2nd district. I pleaded with him NOT to support Obamacare; but, to go slowly and READ THE BILL before voting for it. He ignored the will of the people of the 2nd district and, therefore, lost the election to a lady who pledges to represent US.

  • micoot Jan 22, 2011

    Where the money came from is not the issue in this election. Etheridge lost touch with the constituants. He sided with obama and pelosi on all issues and that is what cost him the election. The people of NC elected someone else because etheridge does not represent the majority.