Political Miscellany 7/9/08

The NAACP will hold its 99th Annual Convention on July 12-17 in Cincinnati. The theme of the Convention is “Power, Justice, Freedom, Vote.” More than 8,000 NAACP members, delegates and visitors are expected to attend.

Although there are many who doubt the relevance and effectiveness of the NAACP, it still has enough pull to attract two prominent guests: Sen Barack Obama will speak to the convention on July 14, and Sen John McCain will speak on July 16. More information on the Convention is here; but be aware that some of the information at that link is outdated (as of July 8, it incorrectly showed that Obama will speak on July 17… it’s hard to understand why nobody’s updated that web page yet).

Two black Democrats are big-time dark horses in their races for political office-pun intended.

Vivian Davis Figures is running for one of Alabama’s US Senate seats against Republican Jeff Sessions. Figures, who represents Mobile in the Alabama state senate, won 64% of the Democratic primary vote in early June.

Vivian Davis Figures of Alabama
Vivian Davis Figures

Figures faces an uphill battle. As of May 14, Sessions had raised $5,533,702, and had $5,533,702 in cash on hand. Meanwhile, Figures had raised just $199,044, and had only $14,006 in cash on hand. It will be virtually impossible for her to run a competitive campaign without more funding. But it remains to be seen if the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee will be willing to help out much, given that Figures is so far behind financially. These financial numbers are from the excellent website OpenSecrets.Org.

In Sessions’ last senate election, held in 2002, he got 59% of the vote, versus just 40% for Democratic challenger Susan Parker.

Meanwhile, Erik Fleming is running for US Senate against Republican incumbent Thad Cochran in Mississippi. Fleming won the Democratic primary for the Senate seat over Shawn O’Hara in March.

Erik Fleming of Mississippi
Erik Fleming

As of May 14, Cochran had raised $1,703,470, and his cash on hand was $1,176,851. Meanwhile, Fleming, who is a former member of the Mississippi House of Representatives, had not even filed a financial report yet.

Fleming previously ran for Mississippi Senator against Republican incumbent Trent Lott in 2006. Lott out-raised Fleming by $3,351,178 to $43,157, and Lott got 64% of the vote compared to just 35% for Fleming.

As with Figures’ campaign, it is unlikely that any national Democratic Party organization will want to throw money at what appears to be a lost cause.

MSNBC reported that Sen John McCain met with “a small group of black Republicans” who advised him to continue making outreach to African American voters. said in an interview. The group included Michael Steele, the former Maryland lieutenant governor; Texas Railroad Commissioner Michael Williams; former Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell; and former Rep. J.C. Watts.

Donna Brazile, who was the campaign manager for Al Gore’s 2000 presidential campaign, has gained prominence as an articulate technocrat within the Democratic Party. Another black woman, Leah Daughtry, is gaining a reputation as a Democratic technocrat as well – although, it may not be the kind of reputation she’d want.

Daughtry is one of the highest ranking officials in the Democratic Party. She is the chief of staff of the Democratic National Committee, and is also the CEO of the Democratic National Convention in Denver this August.

In its May 2008 issue, Essence magazine honored Daughtry in its “Bold and Beautiful” tribute to “inspiring black women” of strength, wisdom, and courage.

But Daughtry has taken some criticism for her management of the National Convention. The New York Times, in a recent article titled Delays and Rising Costs for Convention Raise Worries for Democrats, says that “only in the last month has the Obama campaign been able to take over management of the convention planning with the candidate claiming the nomination, and his aides are increasingly frustrated, as the event nears, at organizers who they believe spent too freely, planned too slowly and underestimated actual costs.”

The Times article led to a joint statement from Daughtry and DNC Chairman Howard Dean stating that

We are proud to stand at the helm of the finest Convention team we’ve known. As the arm of the national Party tasked with planning and organizing the Democratic National Convention in Denver, the Democratic National Convention Committee has been at this for more than a year. And we take great pride in our work. That’s why we were astonished to read in Sunday’s New York Times such a gross misrepresentation of the groundwork that has been laid to date…

…Despite uninformed criticism in the New York Times and the city’s worries about the color and fried nature of food among other things, our focus remains on putting on an historic event that helps keep Senator Barack Obama on a path to victory in November. When August comes, the eyes of the world will be watching. And we’ll be ready.

Daughtry, who is Pentacostal and pastors a small church in Washington, DC, is the daughter of Rev. Herbert Daughtry. New Yorkers might recognize Rev. Herbert Daughtry as a long time community activist from Brooklyn. The Hill, Newsweek and the New York Times have noted that she could be a factor in attracting members of the faith community to the Democratic Party.

But that may be a problem for other constituencies in the Party. She has gotten flack from gays and lesbians because she opposes gay marriage, although Daughtry says she has not made an issue of this during her work for the Democratic Party. Another concern is that Daughtry doesn’t support a mandatory number of gay delegates at the Democratic Convention.

Roll Call is reporting that Michigan Congresswoman Rep. Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick, whose son is Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, is facing the prospect of a tough Democratic primary election in August.

Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick has been dealing with a scandal involving an affair with his former chief of staff. He has been charged with perjury for lying about the affair during a trial of two police officers who brought a whistleblower lawsuit against the city.

As noted in the Roll Call article: “State Sen. Martha Scott and former state Rep. Mary Waters are challenging the Congressional Black Caucus chairwoman in the Aug. 5 primary. And while Scott might have the higher name identification because of her office, Waters is making waves with a potent ad that attacks the Congresswoman over the mayor’s scandal and uses her own words (in defense of her son) against her.”

Meanwhile, Kwame Kilpatrick is not the only black mayor facing difficulties. An Associated Press story about Baltimore mayor Sheila Dixon reports

Sheila Dixon has reduced violent crime and gracefully handled a variety of crises since taking over as mayor in January 2007, but a two-year state investigation of her financial dealings as City Council president threatens to overshadow her successes. Investigators searched Dixon’s home for more than seven hours Tuesday, and five city employees were subpoenaed to testify before a grand jury.

She denies any wrongdoing, but experts say an indictment could derail Baltimore’s progress. The city, the third most-violent in the nation in 2007, is on track this year to have its lowest homicide total since the 1980s.

Another story from WJZ.com reports

..prosecutors are now investigating whether Dixon received thousands of dollars in gifts from developer Ronald Lipscomb when she voted on tax breaks and zoning for his projects (while Dixon was the president of Blatimore’s City Council from 1999 to 2007).

In a statement to the Eyewitness News, Mayor Dixon says, “In late 2003 and early 2004, I had a personal relationship with Ron Lipscomb. We were both separated from our respective spouses at the time, we traveled together and exchanged gifts on special occasions. Our brief relationship was personal, and it did not influence my decisions related to matters of city government.”

…Documents reveal investigators were after computer records of the relationship when they raided Doracon Contracting last year. Lipscomb is Doracon’s president. In one case, the document states Dixon voted on a $13 million tax break for Doracon–for the Spinnaker Bay building in Harbor East– the same day she and Lipscomb went on a lavish trip to New York.

The whole thing sounds like an episode of The Wire.

Birmingham mayor Larry Langford is under SEC investigation for deals made with financial firms. As reported by The Birmingham News

U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) lawyers have notified Langford, lobbyist Al LaPierre and Montgomery banker Bill Blount that one or all could be named in civil lawsuits claiming improper conduct related to the Jefferson County financial deals that occurred under Langford’s tenure at the county. (Langford served on the Jefferson County, Alabama Commission, including a stint as commission president.)

Langford used Blount as a financial adviser for the county deals. Blount, who received nearly $2.6 million for his role in the deals, employed LaPierre during some of that time. LaPierre has argued he was not paid for county government work. SEC investigators questioned Langford’s financial ties to both men, including $150,000 from LaPierre in 2003 that Langford said last year was a loan that had not been repaid.

BlackEnterprise.com and the Washington Post are reporting separately that the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) is working to address issues it has with the proposed merger of XM Satellite Radio and Sirius Satellite Radio. Under a merger deal that is being negotiated with the Federal Communications Commission,

…a varying number of satellite radio channels have been set aside for minorities. The total number of channels would make up just 4% of the spectrum. African Americans would have to compete with other minority groups for a portion of that percentage.

“Four percent [of the spectrum] is completely inadequate,” argues North Carolina congressman G.K. Butterfield of the CBC . “There is nothing but an opportunity to fail.”

A story at TPM Muckracker talks about what some believe is an election campaign rip-off scheme. TPM says that although black Republican Deborah Travis Honeycutt has gotten over a million and a half dollars in contributions for her Congressional election campaign in Georgia, almost of of the money is going to her fund-raising firm, BMW Direct, and very little is spent on actual campaigning.

In other words: the campaign money is being used to make BMW Direct rich, and not to actually elect anybody. A follow-up to the TPM story is here. A video on the story is here.

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