- The Washington Times - Friday, October 6, 2000

The NAACP insists it's still a nonpartisan organization, even as it runs radio ads criticizing George F. Allen, Virginia's Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate.

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, for the first time in its 91-year-history, is helping to pay for ads critical of particular candidates, including Mr. Allen and two other Republicans from the South and Midwest.

The ads are co-sponsored by the Sierra Club, which picked up most of the tab.

The NAACP says the ads are factual and issue-oriented, and, according to NAACP board Chairman Julian Bond, they stop short of endorsing Mr. Allen's opponent, incumbent U.S. Sen. Charles S. Robb, a Democrat.

"We want our constituents to be as well-informed as they can be," Mr. Bond said.

But some critics of the NAACP's shift said the organization seems to have become little more than an extension of the Democratic Party.

"It's very hypocritical," said Paul Gillis, the former head of Virginia's NAACP.

Mr. Gillis was disciplined earlier this year by national NAACP officials for endorsing the Senate candidacy of Mr. Allen, who served as the Republican governor of Virginia from 1994 to 1998.

Mr. Gillis, now president of the group's Suffolk chapter, said Mr. Bond and NAACP President Kweisi Mfume are "pimping the black community."

The Virginia Senate race enters its final month as one of the most watched races in the country.

Mr. Allen, campaigning on Capitol Hill Wednesday, said it was inconsistent of the NAACP to run the ad after making such a show of punishing Mr. Gillis.

"I'm not saying they can't do it, but when they say so often they are nonpartisan, how is this nonpartisan?" Mr. Allen said.

Mr. Bond insisted his organization is not hypocritical for suspending Mr. Gillis earlier this year. The NAACP just disciplined a branch in Pennsylvania that wanted to sponsor an overly partisan Democratic event.

The chairman said the NAACP, in order to "play on an equal field" with the enemies of civil rights and other groups, set up an affiliate called the National Voter Fund, which is responsible for the commercials.

Andrea Pringle, communications director for the National Voter Fund, echoed Mr. Bond's comments.

"We do not endorse, won't endorse," she said. "We will not advocate defeat."

The ads, which run on urban music stations, are intended to educate black voters about environmental issues and, like other NAACP ads, to step up the participation level, Miss Pringle said.

One of the commercials tells listeners that while serving as governor, Mr. Allen "sued the Environmental Protection Agency to stop the cleanup of air pollution and smog that can trigger asthma attacks."

Mr. Allen said a Virginia Commonwealth University study found the environment improved during his tenure, and the state went from four air quality non-attainment areas down to one.

"They can't criticize me on welfare reform because welfare reform has been a success," he said. "They can't criticize me on the abolition of parole because the crime rates are way down and Virginia is safer. They can't criticize me on jobs because we brought in unprecedented new investment in Virginia."

Mr. Allen himself criticized the fact that the donors to the NAACP fund don't have to be reported.

Miss Pringle said the voter fund, with about $9 million from "many" donors, could run more ads that address candidates' histories. She did not want to talk about funding.

Mr. Gillis said he was speaking for himself, not as an NAACP member, when he threw his support behind Mr. Allen in March.

Mr. Gillis, who was president of the state conference of the NAACP from 1995 to 1997, went further, apologizing at a press conference at the state Capitol for past remarks about Mr. Allen.

During his time as state president, Mr. Gillis made a sideshow of taunting then-Gov. Allen, calling him "Howdy Doody" and even heckling him during a television interview at Virginia's yearly political gathering, the Shad Planking.

The NAACP suspended Mr. Gillis, reinstating him in July.

Now he's not sure he wants to remain a member much longer. His term as president of the Suffolk chapter ends in December.

"The organization is being turned inside out by bringing in these people who have these moral character issues," said Mr. Gillis, a member since 1969.

• Stephen Dinan contributed to this article.

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