The newly established group People of Color United (PCU) began running a series of radio ads August 2 that challenges John Kerry's record on "helping and hiring Blacks."
Some of the content is misleading. One ad blames Kerry for ensuring that jobless workers won't be eligible for an extra 13 weeks of unemployment benefits. It's true Kerry missed a crucial vote in which an extension of benefits fell just one vote short of Senate passage, but the measure was defeated mainly because Republicans voted overwhelmingly against it.
The group's name is misleading, too. "People of Color United" says about half its funds have come from Republican insurance-company owner J. Patrick Rooney, who is white.
These 60-second and 30-second ads are running mostly on radio stations aimed at the African-American community. They're off base on a couple of points.
People of Color United
Announcer: Unemployed? Know someone who is? Would an extra 13 weeks of unemployment benefits have helped? Thanks to John Kerry we'll never know. That's right.
Apparently - to make sure we vote against President Bush - Kerry made sure people who have lost their jobs, won't get an extra 13 weeks of unemployment payments! The facts...
Recently, the US Senate voted on a bill to extend unemployment benefits an extra 13 weeks...It needed 60 votes to pass...99 out of 100 Senators voted - Kerry did not! It lost by one vote!
Maybe Kerry thought the more of us who are unemployed and hurting - the more likely we would vote Democrat!Kerry did not vote to extend unemployment benefits an additional 13 weeks. If he had voted for it - it would have passed...and we'd have an additional 13 weeks of unemployment benefits! Why are we supposed to help someone who didn't help us? Stay tuned!
The most substantial attack charges that Kerry "made sure" people who lost their jobs "won't get an extra 13 weeks of unemployment." The ad refers to a vote May 11, 2004 that would have extended unemployment benefits for 13 additional weeks.
It is true that Kerry was absent that day, campaigning, and that made him the only senator not voting when the measure failed -- by a single vote.
Kerry could have made it back for the vote had he wished. According to Congress Daily, the timing of a vote on the extension measure had been under negotiation for at least a week, and was finally announced the evening before it happened. The vote didn't take place until 12:37pm, according to the Congressional Record. Kerry was campaigning that day in Louisiville, Kentucky, which is just one hour and forty minutes from Washington by air. Louisville has several regular commercial flights that would have gotten him to Washington in time for the vote.
However, the main reason the measure failed was that most Republicans voted against it, and because Republicans raised a point of order to ensure that 60 votes, rather than a simple majority of those voting, would be needed for passage. (The vote was 40-59: 60 votes were needed to pass because the measure required a waiver of pay-as-you-go provisions of the Budget Act.)
There were 39 Republicans and one Democrat voting against, with 47 Democrats and only 12 Republicans voting in favor.
The ad asks, "Why are we supposed to help someone who didn't help us?"
Kerry campaign aides say that he has voted at least 30 times to extend unemployment benefits over the course of his Senate career.
No Color in Kerry's "Innermost Circle?"
Another ad claims that Kerry "has no one of color in his innermost circle." Here the group may be on more solid ground.
CNN.com reported in mid-April that none of Kerry's top nine campaign positions were filled by people of color.
People of Color United
Announcer: Is John Kerry taking the Black community for granted?
Recently CNN reported that the Kerry campaign has - Quote, "no one of color in his innermost circle." Julian Bond, chairman of he NAACP told the New York Times - Quote, "I don't think you can be a serious contender for the votes of people of color - if you don't have people of color making the decisions in your campaign."
Paula Harris, founder of the Andrew Young National Center For Social Change said a Kerry comment regarding Blacks is - Quote "another example of the mentality of some members of the Democratic Party who take Black votes for granted."
John Kerry has been in elected office for 22 years, and we don't know what he's done to earn our votes . And if he hasn't had Black folk involved in key positions during that entire time - getting some involved in the next few months doesn't impress me! Maybe he'll say something to prove he isn't taking us for granted. I doubt it - but stay tuned.
Those included campaign manager, campaign chairperson, media adviser, policy director, foreign policy adviser, general election manager, convention planner, national finance chairman, and head of the vice presidential search team.
The ad fails to mention that one of Kerry's deputy campaign managers is African American, according to CNN, which also listed as Kerry campaign advisers three African American members of Congress and one former Cabinet secretary who is also African American.
We asked the Kerry campaign for an update of the current racial makeup of the top campaign staff, but received no response.
What Julian Bond Said
PCU accurately quotes an article from the New York Times in which NAACP Chairman Julian Bond said of Kerry, "I don't think you can be a serious contender for the votes of people of color - if you don't have people of color making the decisions in your campaign."
However, the ad neglects to mention that Bond had much harsher words when President Bush selected his inner circle of advisors in 2001. At the NAACP's convention that year he said:
Bond: (President Bush) has selected nominees from the Taliban wing of American politics, appeased the wretched appetites of the extreme right wing and chosen Cabinet officials whose devotion to the Confederacy is nearly canine in its uncritical affection.
Also worth noting is that Bond's NAACP gives Kerry's voting record an average score of 94 percent positive over his 22 year tenure. The NAACP's congressional scorecard gave Kerry a perfect 100 percent rating in ten of those years.
People of Color United
Announcer: John Kerry's record on helping Blacks and hiring Blacks, is pretty weak! So what's he saying to prove he isn't taking us for granted?
He told MTV he likes rap music...He told the American Urban Radio Network, that he'd like to be the next Black President...His wife says she's an African-American...While technically true - I don't believe a white woman, raised in Africa, surrounded by servants - qualifies . I think he is taking us for granted. Stay tuned.
Kerry's "African American" Wife?
A third ad criticizes Teresa Heinz Kerry for calling herself "an African American" - a reference to her upbringing in Mozambique. The AP reports that she has sometimes used this phrase to describe herself at campaign appearances.
The PCU ad says: "While technically accurate - I don't believe a white woman, raised in Africa, surrounded by servants - qualifies."
That's fair enough. But by the same token, "People of Color United" is also flying under false colors, getting roughly half its funding from one wealthy white donor.
People of Color United is an offshoot of D.C. Parents for School Choice, a Washington, DC-based non-profit organization that advocates school vouchers. Both groups are financed largely by insurance-company owner J. Patrick Rooney of Indianapolis, IN, who is white. Disclosure reports aren't yet available for PCU, but the group's director Virginia Walden-Ford (who is black) told FactCheck.org that she estimates Rooney's contributions at $70,000 and said this was about "50 percent" of their total funding as of Aug. 18.
Rooney is the former chairman of Golden Rule Insurance Co. and recently founded Medical Savings Insurance Co. which specializes in the health savings accounts created out of the President's 2003 prescription drug plan, according to the Washington Post , which first reported on Rooney's backing for PCU.
The Post quoted Rooney on August 12:
Rooney: I have a long history of involvement with and support of the black community. . . For 21 years I have gone to an all-black church. They finally elected me over other black people to their church board. I'm one of them.
People of Color United
Announcer: John Kerry for President? How is it we really don't know anything about this guy? You'd think for someone who has been in office for 22 years, we'd know why he's supposed to be our savior. What's Kerry done for us? What's he really believe? Even he doesn't seem to know. Our community doesn't need another wishy washy rich white politician. And boy, does Kerry come across as rich, white and wishy washy! Stay tuned.
"Rich, White and Wishy-Washy?"
The fourth in this targeted series of ads has the announcer asking, "What's Kerry done for us?" and adding, "Our community doesn't need another wishy washy rich white politician. And boy, does Kerry come across as rich, white and wishy washy!"
There's no question Kerry is white and has a rich wife, but how he "comes across" and whether that's "wishy-washy" or not is of course a matter of opinion, not fact.
And everyone -- including white insurance men -- is entitled to their opinion.
"Senate Leaders Fail To Reach Deal On Wrapping Up Corporate Tax," National Journal's CongressDaily, 7 May 2004.
"Deal On Unemployment Amendment Clears Way For $170B Tax Bill," National Journal's CongressDaily, 11 May 2004.
"People of Color United Fact Check," Kerry-Edwards 2004,Inc., 11 August 2004.
Carlos Watson, "Kerry's Inner Circle Lacks Color," CNN.com Inside Politics, 14 April 2004.
Jodi Wilgoren, "Some Blacks and Hispanics Criticize Kerry on Outreach," The New York Times, 29 April 2004: A1.
William Douglas and Amy Worden, "Bush Turns Down Fourth Invitation to NAACP Event," Knight Ridder Newspapers , 10 July 2004.
NAACP Civil Rights Report Card of Sen. John Kerry, accessed 16 August 2004.
Thomas B. Edsall, "Group Runs Anti-Kerry Ads on Black Radio Stations," The Washington Post, 12 August 2004: A1.
Jennifer Peter, "Kerry's Wife Has No Reservations About Speaking Her Mind," The Associated Press, 27 July 2004.