Vote NO on Prop 94, 95, 96 & 97 Update

The following (partial) text is from today’s SacBee. Exposing the “pay to play” in CA political circles warrants it’s own blog post.

“NAACP head is paid by tribes, backs their plan

The president of the California NAACP has been paid more than $40,000 in consulting fees – and the organization itself has received $60,000 – from a coalition of Indian tribes at the same time the civil rights group has endorsed four ballot measures pushed by its tribal benefactors.

The payments to Alice Huffman, who has served as president of the state conference of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People since 1999, continue a three-year pattern in which Huffman’s political firm has been paid hundreds of thousands of dollars by special interest groups.

Those same interests, including tobacco and pharmaceutical companies, have also donated tens of thousands of dollars directly to the state NAACP while receiving the organization’s backing.

It is commonplace for political campaigns to hire consultants for outreach to various constituencies and ethnic groups. But Huffman’s dual role as a paid political strategist and president of a respected civil rights organization has raised questions about whether the group’s endorsement can be bought.

In an interview, Huffman insisted there was no link between the money and the endorsements.

“I take it as a privilege to be able to work on their behalf,” she said of the tribes.

She signed her most recent consulting contract with the tribes after the NAACP’s October convention, she said, when the group endorsed the Indian gambling deals – now known as Propositions 94, 95, 96 and 97.

The four measures, which would allow four Indian tribes to add 17,000 slot machines at their casinos, are on the Feb. 5 presidential primary ballot.

Opponents of the compacts declined to comment on the endorsement. Roger Salazar, spokesman for the Yes on 94, 95, 96 and 97 campaign, said the contract and the endorsement were unrelated.

“She has tremendous reach into the African American voting communities, and we wanted to bring that experience to the campaign,” Salazar said.

Huffman’s firm, AC Public Affairs, operates out of the same office as the state NAACP. State records show it received about $40,000 in December from a campaign account funded by the tribes seeking compacts – the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians, the Morongo Band of Mission Indians, the Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians and the Sycuan Band of the Kumeyaay Nation.m apart from, and previous to, the (ballot measures).”

Larry Gross, director of the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Southern California, said the arrangement “didn’t pass the smell test” and is “ethically questionable.”

“If one is in a position of representing a community, which is what the NAACP is,” Gross said, “there is an obligation to be ethically neutral and certainly not to be receiving large amounts of money from one side of a political issue.”

She said the Morongo tribe gave the state conference $50,000 in 2007 and $25,000 the year before. Agua Caliente donated “only” $10,000, she said. “And I raised hell. I wanted more,” she said. The Pechanga tribe gave $15,000 in 2006. Those three tribes are seeking new slot machines on next month’s ballot.

“This is called partnerships,” Huffman said. “We don’t hate corporate America over here at the NAACP because we need corporate America.”

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