People of Color United

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This article is part of the Center for Media & Democracy's spotlight on front groups and corporate spin.

People of Color United is D.C.-based group with funding ties to J. Patrick Rooney [1], former insurance chairman and Republican who founded the Fairness Foundation.[citation needed]

The Washington DC-based nonprofit organization was founded by the conservative, Bradley Foundation-supported group DC Parents For School Choice in early August 2004.[1] People of Color United immediately began "airing radio ads ... asking if U.S. Sen. John Kerry takes 'the black community for granted?'"[2]

The four radio ads, which do not mention President Bush, ran in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Toledo, Columbus and Cleveland, Ohio; Kansas City and St. Louis, Missouri; Detroit, Michigan; and Milwaukee, Wisconsin - all on "urban black radio" stations in swing states. They generated attention for their negative and often personal attacks, including:[3]

  • "Boy, does Kerry come across as rich, white and wishy-washy!"
  • Regarding Teresa Heinz Kerry's referring to herself as African-American, since she was born and grew up in Mozambique: "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."
  • Regarding a May 2004 vote on extending unemployment benefits, which Kerry missed due to campaigning and which lost by one vote due to Republican opposition: "Maybe Kerry thought the more of us who are unemployed and hurting - the more likely we would vote Democratic!"

"Virginia Walden-Ford, president of People of Color United and the voice in the ads, said she spent between $50,000 and $70,000 to air them for four weeks. Walden-Ford said many of the conservatives who backed DC Parents for School Choice helped pay to make and run the ads. 'I want people to think about how they're voting,' said Walden-Ford, who appeared on stage in Washington with President Bush in February as part of a speech he made on school vouchers. 'I think a lot of black people vote Democratic because that's how we always voted. I did for many years. I wanted people to think about the accomplishments of the [Bush] administration and how it affects black people's lives.'"[4]

Major Republican donor and American Legislative Exchange Council "Private Enterprise Board" member J. Patrick Rooney donated $30,000 to the People of Color United radio ad campaign. Walden-Ford described him as the campaign's biggest donor. Rooney is "the former chairman of Golden Rule Insurance Co. and the founder of a new firm, Medical Savings Insurance Co. Both firms specialize in medical savings accounts, created by Republican-backed 1996 legislation, and health savings accounts, which were created by President Bush's 2003 Medicare prescription drug legislation." [5]

Rooney, who is white, "disputed that there is a financial motivation behind his support for the People of Color United radio ads. 'I have a long history of involvement with and support of the black community,' Rooney said. '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. I don't know what it has to do with health savings accounts.'"[6]

SourceWatch Resources

External links

  • "Democrats Counter GOP's Black Radio Scam-Paign,", September 16, 2004.