PHILADELPHIA — Conservative black organizations are formed and funded by white Republicans, NAACP President Kweisi Mfume said yesterday in an address to a packed ballroom at the group’s annual convention here.
“When the ultraconservative right-wing attacker has run out of attack strategy,” Mr. Mfume said, “he goes and gets someone that looks like you and me to continue the attacks.”
Paraphrasing a line from a 2002 speech by NAACP Chairman Julian Bond, he said, “And like the ventriloquist’s dummies, they sit there in the puppet master’s voice, but we can see whose lips are moving, and we can hear his money talk.”
In a speech punctuated by cheers from the audience, Mr. Mfume said: “They can’t deal with the leaders we choose for ourselves, so they manufacture, promote and hire new ones.”
Organizers of the convention, the 95th annual gathering of the group that boasts of having more than 500,000 members nationally, are focusing on November’s election. Some attendees sported buttons supporting Democratic presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry and tonight can attend a free screening of Michael Moore’s Bush-bashing movie, “Fahrenheit 9/11.”
Mr. Mfume said that foes of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People tell them that “we are whining, that we are too liberal, that we are using the scapegoat of victimization and that we are even unpatriotic.”
Mr. Mfume named a list of conservative efforts, including school vouchers, saying that “they want to do away with many of our rights and much of the legacy of the NAACP. … But those days are over and we aren’t going back, so run your little right-wing media. Put a whisper here and an innuendo there. It won’t work.”
Both liberal and conservative activist groups maintain tax-exempt status, although IRS rules prohibit partisan activity.
The National Center for Public Policy Research, for example, funds Project 21, a group that promotes conservative views in the black community. The most recent tax forms for the groups, from 2002, show the National Center took in $6.6 million, 81 percent of it from individual donors.
“We have received money from people who are Republican, but not from the Republican Party,” said David Almasi, who serves as both executive director of the National Center and director of Project 21. “But think about the idea that, at one point, Jesse Jackson was getting some of his travel paid for by the Democratic National Committee.”
NAACP tax forms for 2002, the last year available, showed revenue of $36 million, with $27 million in donations. Anonymous major contributors gave the NAACP millions in 2001, including one individual who gave $2 million and two who donated $1.2 million each.
Mr. Mfume’s remarks about black conservatives are “hypocritical,” said conservative commentator Armstrong Williams, because “the NAACP could not survive on membership fees; it relies on corporations.”
“The NAACP should know about funding from big groups, because it is funded by liberal white organizations,” Mr. Williams said. “It gets money and backing from the [National Education Association], the AFL-CIO, and look at who is sponsoring its convention.”
Wal-Mart, Shell Oil, General Motors and American Airlines are among the corporations that have publicly presented checks ranging from $100,000 to $250,000 to the NAACP at past conventions.
The marquee event today is the scheduled appearance of Bill Cosby, who has been criticized recently for his candid take on black America. NAACP officials say they have already cautioned the actor-comedian about his remarks at tonight’s $75-a-seat event.
“I know that it has been an issue, and he has assured us that he will be giving a comedy performance,” said an NAACP representative, speaking anonymously. “Of course we have talked to him about it.”