California NAACP leader quits after taking money from big business and surety industry to oppose abolition of cash surety bond

California NAACP leader resigns after taking money from big business and the surety industry to oppose the abolition of the cash bond Photo: Alice Huffman, president of the California NAACP, takes speaking at a press conference, May 4, 2016 (AP Photo / Jeff Chiu)

The longtime California NAACP leader resigned amid conflict of interest allegations after her private company earned $ 1.7 million approving the voting measures earlier this year.

Alice Huffman, 84, claimed health issues led to her resignation as chair of the California Hawaii State Conference from the NAACP. She plans to resign on December 1. The allegations have nothing to do with her decision to leave the post she has held since 1999, she said.

“It was a demanding and rewarding job,” Huffman said in an interview with The Los Angeles Times. “But it’s time to hand over the leadership to someone else.”

Huffman comes under scrutiny for her work on various election measures campaigns in the November 2020 election. She is accused of taking money from big business and the bond industry in exchange for his opposition to the abolition of the cash bond, among others.

In addition to her position at the NAACP, Huffman runs AC Public Affairs, a political consultancy in Sacramento that she runs with her sister. Ahead of the 2020 election, AC Public Affairs worked for opposition campaigns on five ballot measures, according to state campaign finance records.

The surety industry’s campaign against Proposition 25 hired Huffman’s company, paying him $ 200,000 to oppose a plan to abolish California cash deposit system. The measurement failed.

The push to abolish the cash bond system in California was led by a group of billionaires.

The the four main donors to a committee called Yes On Prop 25, A Coalition Of Justice Reform And Labor Organizations, were billionaires or the spouse of a billionaire, Forbes reported.

John Arnold of Texas, who donated $ 5 million to support the committee, was the largest individual donor. Arnold is a former hedge fund manager turned philanthropist. He now heads his charitable and activist arm, Arnold Ventures (formerly known as the Laura and John Arnold Foundation).

The second and third biggest donors to Yes On Prop 25 were Steve and Connie Ballmer, who each donated $ 3 million to support its passage. Steve Ballmer was the longtime CEO of Microsoft. Patty Quillin, wife of Netflix co-founder Reed Hastings, has donated $ 1 million to support Proposal 25. Other billionaire donors include Tom Steyer, a retired hedge fund investor and former Democratic 2020 presidential candidate , who donated $ 500,000, and Oklahoma-based philanthropist Lynn Schusterman, who donated $ 250,000.

Proposition 25, a referendum on a law former California Governor Jerry Brown signed in 2018, sought to replace the cash bond with a risk-based algorithm. If passed, the new system would allow some people unable to pay a cash bond to be released until trial depending on the risk they proposed.

Supporters of Proposition 25 included the state Democratic Party, Governor Gavin Newsom and Steven Bradford, vice-chair of the California Legislative Black Caucus.

The main opposition came from American Bail Coalition, a trade association of national bail insurance companies, reported Forbes.

The California NAACP officially opposed the use of an algorithm. “Computer models can be useful in recommending songs and movies, but using these profiling methods to decide who gets a loan has been proven to hurt communities of color,” Huffman wrote in the article. the state. voter guide for the section of arguments against proposition 25.

In a campaign ad for No on proposition 25 Hoffman wrote: “Prop. 25 terminates our right to post bond for anyone, even though they may have been the subject of racial profiling. The prop. 25 replaces the deposit with computer algorithms. University studies show that these algorithms are biased. Some call them black boxes. And the new bureaucracy of Proposition 25 delays justice for the imprisoned innocent people. The NAACP asks you to vote no on Proposition 25.

Huffman’s statement has been criticized as misleading, The Sacramento Bee reported.

While she is correct that Proposition 25 would have ended the bail in the state of California, she is misleading when she says it replaces the bail with a computer algorithm.

While the pre-trial risk assessment model analyzes whether a person is at risk of reoffending or not appearing in court and uses computer algorithms, “judicial officers remain the final authority to make decisions on release or pre-trial detention”, according to the judicial branch from California.

Judges have the power to override these recommendations.

Huffman also weighed in on other controversial proposals in the November poll. She sided with the ridesharing companies that supported Proposition 22, which was approved by voters. The measure will allow Uber, Lyft and their peers to continue to classify drivers as independent contractors, making them ineligible for benefits such as health insurance. Huffman’s company received $ 95,000 for consulting services.

Huffman’s opposition to Proposition 23, to impose new rules on kidney dialysis companies, brought his company $ 85,000. The proposal was rejected by voters.

AC Public Affairs earned $ 740,000 from campaigning against Proposition 15. Ultimately rejected by voters, Proposition 15 would have increased property taxes on businesses to increase funding for schools and local services, the LA Times reported.

Homeowner groups and other proponents of Proposition 21 donated $ 620,000 to the Huffman Company to help it fight a rent control measure who also failed in the election.

Huffman said she hadn’t done anything wrong. She said she only works with campaigns that the state’s NAACP has endorsed and that “her critics are often Democrats who feel she’s gone outside the box,” the LA Times reported.

“Huffman’s dual role as a paid campaign consultant and leader of a much-vaunted civil rights group is an unusual – but legal arrangement,” Cal Matters reported.

Huffman’s small business was paid by five election campaigns in 2020, according to public records – more than it took in the previous election. Many of them are funded by business interests at war with the unions, Cal Matters reported.

While trade deals like this may be legal and routine for political campaigns that hire strategists, it is unusual for consultants to be associated with “a brand as well known as the NAACP for its anti-discrimination work over the years. of the last century, ”Cal Business reported.

Critics said the inner workings of the NAACP lacked transparency.

Darrell Goode, president of the Santa Monica-Venice branch of the NAACP, complained that he was unable to obtain meeting minutes showing how the state board voted on the voting measures . Goode said he sent a request to the National NAACP requesting an investigation of Huffman and other members of the NAACP board, alleging a “lack of transparency and an apparent conflict of interest.”

Goode said in the letter that an investigation is needed to “restore our tarnished image.” Huffman is a member of the board of directors of the National NAACP.

“We’ve raised these issues before,” Goode told the LA Times. “We have told people not to be silent, and we are not silent either. It is more obvious this time because there were so many key proposals for the communities. We must stand up for what is right.

Goode isn’t the only one complaining. In November, the state’s political watchdog, the Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC), received an anonymous letter asking if there was a conflict of interest regarding Huffman and his firm’s involvement in proposals.

“I am very concerned that, in speaking about his leadership of the NAACP, these advertisements are misleading minority voters into supporting positions that may not be aligned with their political interests,” it reads. the complaint.

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The Fair Political Practices Commission said the complaint was under review.

Huffman has denied all allegations of conflict of interest, saying “everything I did was legal.”

The California State NAACP has had problems in the past. In 2016, the FPPC fined him for failing to disclose $ 67,000 spent on lobbying efforts.

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