GREENSBORO, N.C. - Two ads are all over your TV these days. One says senate candidate Deborah Ross was against the sex offender registry. The other says she supported it. So which commercial should you believe? The two ads go back to 1995 when Deborah Ross worked with the American Civil Liberates Union. Senator Richard Burr's campaign says she worked against the registry and was more interested in protecting sex offenders' rights than victims. Ross's camp says, "Of course Deborah supports a sex offender registry, she always has." Just that she wanted to tweak it. So we pulled the original files to let you judge for yourself.
Burr’s campaign ad traces back to an internal ACLU memo Ross wrote as a lobbyist saying the sex offender registry "bill would make it even harder for people to reintegrate into society and start over and could lead to vigilantism." And she is on record saying the original proposal was "not a good public policy" because "we've seen in other states that having the information has encouraged (people to use it) for purposes that aren't legal or constructive."
Ross’s ad has a fellow democrat, Fountain Odom. He sponsored a later version of the sex offender registry, and he tries to clarify in an open letter: "Deborah Ross showed leadership, asked tough questions and worked with me to make my bill and our state's sex offender registry better."
Another Democrat – former state senator Linda Gunter sponsored an even earlier version of the registry. After the claim about Ross came out, she wrote an editorial that: "Ross has never opposed the idea of a sex-offender registry. She supported my bill." Again, these are both democrats backing a democrat.
For something a little more objective, there are 18 times then state representative Deborah Ross voted for improving the sex offender registry. Including requiring more types of criminals to register and make punishments tougher for criminals who fail to register.
Burr's spokesperson also sent us this statement:
"As the top lobbyist for the ACLU, Deborah Ross opposed the creation of the North Carolina Sex Offender Registry out of concern for the privacy of sexual predators and then spent five years criticizing the sex offender registry with little regard for the safety of victims or potential victims. Ross fought against the bill that simply created the sex offender registry and later objected to a bill that put the sex offender registry online. Ross' priorities were clear: protect the privacy of sexual predators even if it meant more danger in North Carolina communities."
And Ross’s spokesperson also sent us this statement:
"Of course Deborah supports a sex offender registry, she always has. Just ask the Washington Post, which reported that she did not oppose the bill but instead expressed concern 'that publicly naming an offender might inadvertently expose a victim who is a member of the same family.' Or ask the Raleigh News & Observer editorial board, which concluded that Burr's attack is 'ridiculous.' Or ask the sponsor of the bill, Fountain Odom who has said repeatedly that Burr is 'flat-out lying.' Senator Burr's campaign is once again attempting to distract from his record of looking out for Washington special interests and not the people he was elected to serve. That's exactly why people are sick of politics and it's exactly why they're calling for a change."
There is one part of the ads that is a little more clear cut. Ross’s ad says Burr voted against funding the sex offender registry. Burr did vote no. But that vote was on a massive bill that included funding all kinds of things. Not just the sex offender registry. And his campaign says there was previous vote on just the sex offender part of that bill where Burr voted for it. So that claim in Ross's ad-- is false.
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