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CAMPAIGN 2000

NAACP Complains of Pro-Bush Calls

Campaign: Civil rights group says voters in two states have been misled that it supports Texas governor's bid.

November 03, 2000|MASSIE RITSCH | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Voters in Michigan and Virginia are being misled into thinking the National Assn. for the Advancement of Colored People supports George W. Bush for president, the nonpartisan civil rights group complained Thursday.

Two people in each state have reported receiving telephone calls, purportedly from the NAACP, that urged them to vote for the Republican presidential candidate, NAACP leaders said. But the 91-year-old group has never explicitly endorsed a presidential candidate, "and we don't intend to do so now," Chairman Julian Bond said in a Thursday call to reporters.

Two of the women who received the calls, both supporters of Bush rival Al Gore, could not say where they came from; neither wrote down a toll-free number that they were told to call.

"We have no idea who is behind this," Bond said, "and we're making no charges who is behind this."

Bush's campaign denied any connection to the calls. Spokesman Ray Sullivan said that by election day the campaign will have made 62 million phone calls to voters directly urging them to back Bush and that there was no reason for subterfuge.

NAACP officials alerted the Department of Justice and the attorneys general in Michigan and Virginia about the calls allegedly misrepresenting the group's position.

"We are aware of these allegations and are in the process of determining what if any action is warranted," Justice Department spokeswoman Kara Peterman said.

Although the NAACP has not directly endorsed a candidate, it is involved in political activities that would seem to favor Democratic presidential candidate Gore.

In one recorded phone message going out to 1 million homes in several closely contested states, President Clinton asks voters on behalf of the NAACP to go to the polls.

The group also is paying for a get-out-the-vote television ad retelling the story of James Byrd Jr., the black man who in 1998 was dragged to death in Texas by three white men in a pickup truck.

The ad reminds viewers that Bush, the state's governor, did not support a hate crime bill proposed in the Texas Legislature following the crime. But the ad does not endorse a candidate.

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