Though Political Committee Chair of the Sierra Club of Western North Carolina Group Ken Brame donated a combined $300 to three of the four local candidates that the environmental organization ultimately endorsed, he says his personal contribution did not influence the endorsement process.
"This was a personal contribution," he says. "There are several filters to make sure there was a fair process [for the organization's endorsements]."
According to mid-year campaign finance reports, Brame donated $100 to City Council candidate Cecil Bothwell's campaign on Feb. 7; $100 to mayoral candidate Esther Manheimer's campaign on April 17; and $100 to City Council candidate Gordon Smith's campaign on April 21. In mailers recently sent out to Asheville residents from Manheimer's campaign, five bullet points outlining her qualifications and experience are listed, but only the Sierra Club's endorsement is bolded.
"Any member of the Sierra Club is free to make any personal contribution to any candidate they wish. We would certainly hope that someone in a leadership position with our organization would make contributions to candidates and elected officials who share our values on protecting our environment," Judy Mattox, who serves as chair of the Sierra Club of Western North Carolina, said in an emailed statement.
Xpress has requested the full list of the seven members on the local Sierra Club's political committee to cross-reference campaign contributions to endorsed officials.
According to Brame, the political endorsement process includes a review of candidate's voting records or public statements on environmental issues; a questionnaire responses; and an interview with the candidate. From there, the seven-member committee votes. A super-majority is required to make an endorsement. After that, Brame explains, the endorsements are reviewed by the local chapter and then sent to the state's Seirra Club for approval.
Though Brame says this contribution was personal, he notes that he likes to send a supportive message to the candidates he sees as current positive environmental policymakers or future policymakers.
Brame says he will personally contribute to the four endorsed candidates.
"I only make financial contributions to candidates that the Sierra Club has endorsed in the past or that share my environmental values. In the case of Esther, Cecil, and Gordon, they had all been endorse previously by the Sierra Club. The one exception would be that I may make a contribution to a candidate in races where the Sierra Club usually doesn't make endorsements such as judicial races," Brame said in an email.
Caitlin Byrd can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 251-1333, ext. 140.
This report will be updated as Xpress receives more information.