- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 8, 2001

NEW ORLEANS — The hottest topic among NAACP members attending the organization's 92nd annual convention here is not election reform, racial profiling or slavery in Sudan.
"What's the status of [President Kweisi] Mfume's contract?" one older gentleman asked another.
"Well, we've given him three or four offers, and he just hasn't found one he likes yet," came the reply from a member of the board of directors.
With that, the two chuckled, knowing the popular Mr. Mfume, a former Democratic congressman, will get what he needs, even if it is in the range of a reported $400,000. That would be a big increase over his salary in 1998, which was $238,364, according to the latest tax returns available for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
Mr. Mfume, at the end of a five-year contract, said yesterday a new deal should be ironed out by the end of the five-day convention here.
"It's not as good as Alex Rodriguez, but it's not a minor league deal, either," Mr. Mfume said with a smile.
The heft of marquee political names is notably absent from this year's conference.
Last year, presidential contenders George W. Bush, Al Gore and Ralph Nader spoke to the group.
This year is more notable for the public officials not here than for those who are. President Bush and Secretary of State Colin L. Powell declined to appear, citing other duties. Mr. Bush on Friday submitted a video that will be played during one of the afternoon sessions.
"We knew early that the secretary of state wouldn't be able to make it," Mr. Mfume said. "And we know that several other presidents have not been able to attend during their first year in office; Carter didn't, Reagan didn't, Bush didn't and I don't even think Clinton did."
In the place of high-ranking administration officials will be such speakers as Mary Frances Berry, head of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights; Sen. Christopher J. Dodd of Connecticut and Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee from Texas, both Democrats; and Surgeon General David Satcher.
The conference, which is expected to draw nearly 20,000 of the group's 500,000 members, will offer workshops on mostly political topics. One workshop will be about election reform. The organization is pursuing lawsuits against the state of Florida and seven counties, contending thousands of black voters were "disenfranchised" in November's presidential election.
During a sparsely attended noon press conference, Chairman Julian Bond addressed a point that has been debated recently among partisans on both sides of the political aisle: the politics of the NAACP and its tax-exempt status.
"We are rigidly nonpartisan," Mr. Bond said, speaking of a voting bloc that voted 93 percent to 7 percent against Mr. Bush. "When blacks were more Republican, we were accused by Democrats as being partisan."
One of the top issues at the convention will be whether to organize a boycott of Mississippi because the state's flag has a small Confederate cross in the upper left-hand corner.

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