Thursday, October 26, 2006

Conquered By Temptation

I am way too old to be surprised or disappointed, but still I find myself in both predicaments.

The news that Alice Huffman, President of the California chapter of the NAACP, being paid $12,000 per month to lobby on at&t’s behalf in the recent state franchising legislation goes beyond surprise or disappointment straight to shock and disgust. No doubt her title as NAACP head put her in a perfect position to pull down this cash, which she did not earn on behalf of the chapter but on her own behalf. Then again, this payola comes in second to the $160,000 she took on behalf of big tobacco.

I really have no idea who Alice Huffman is, for while she may be big news in California politics, she certainly does not command a national stage. While Alice may be a legend in her own mind, she is what they would call a “small potato” to anyone outside of the Golden State. In fact she is so obscure she doesn’t even Google well. I finally tracked down her picture and she looks nice enough, so I have to conclude she is just greedy.

I have great respect for the NAACP and great admiration for the many accomplishments it has made over the years. However, Alice, through her avarice, has compromised the reputation of the California NAACP and dare I say, the entire NAACP.

Alice says she was assured by at&t that they would build their Project Lightspeed in black neighborhoods. What I want to know is does Alice still believe in Santa Claus? Is she waiting for the Easter Bunny to deliver lovely chocolate delicacies in the Springtime? Does she stay up nights worried about Chupacabra?

Of course what Alice did (I can’t blame the NAACP for something somebody did all by themselves, leadership or no) seems to have been of no consequence when it came to setting up a hearing on media consolidation. There the NAACP was front and center to voice their dismay over the amount of black representation in mainstream or otherwise media. Not to mention the very real problem of women and minority ownership of media.

The irony couldn’t be more palatable.

Alice enthusiastically supports Ma Bell in her bid to wipe out local franchising, weaken PEG access and engage in redlining, the very things that take power out of the hands of the people, especially minorities, and yet, I am sure she has plenty to say about media consolidation and its effects on the black community.

Maybe because nobody from Viacom or Clear Channel have sent her a check yet.

Alice ain’t alone. They are everywhere. Some people think that if Democrats win control of the House and/or the Senate, all these media consolidation and national franchising issues will become history.

But I remember oh so well the public interest set-aside on satellite. Congress sent the FCC a mandate to decide if it was going to be four percent or seven percent public interest set-aside for individual and educational speech on the satellite systems. The FCC, under a Democratically appointed Chair during the Clinton administration ruled “four percent,” the lowest number they could assign.

And more recently, how many Democrats have joined Republicans in an effort to destroy local franchising and PEG?

So it does make sense that groups that are supposed to fight for and protect civil rights would stumble if the number were big enough. Too bad we couldn’t have collectively raised $13,000 a month for Alice to lobby on our behalf. Things might have turned out very differently in California.

see Capitol Weekly and the Los Angeles Times

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