Portrait of a Democrat
As the political left becomes a dominant force in the Democratic Party nationwide, no figure illustrates the problem this presents better than Alice A. Huffman. Former head of the California Teachers Assocation, head of the California NAACP, a Gray Davis appointed University of California Trustees and now organizer of the Democratic Party’s 2004 national convention, Huffman embodies the values and tactics of the newly dominant wing of the party. Just weeks before the recall election, Huffman attacked the Republican candidate on the grounds that second half of his name — Schwarze-negger — was a derogatory term for blacks. On his election, the Governator retaliated by rescinding Davis’ late-term appointment of Huffman as a university trustee.
Alice Huffman, a longtime ally of San Francisco’s leftist Democratic mayor Willie Brown, is a rising star in the race-baiting, permanent-victim-class wing of the Democratic Party - a not insubstantial constituency. After dropping out of high school to pursue a short-lived rock and roll career, Huffman returned to school at age 30 and ended up with degrees from the Univesity of California at Berkeley in anthropology and management. She started her political ascent as a burgeoning leftist in Jerry Brown’s cabinet. Her first post was as chief deputy in the Department of Parks and Recreation, and she later directed the Office of Economic Opportunity. She worked for Speaker Willie Brown before joining the California Teacher’s Association (CTA) as a lobbyist. Along the way, she also founded her public relations firm and served as President of the Black American Political Association (BAPAC) founded by Brown. After Brown’s move to San Francisco, Huffman’s influence in Sacramento continued to grow, and she netted a spot on Speaker Herb Wesson’s Commission on Police Conduct in 2002.
When it was evident to Gray Davis that he was in real trouble with the pending recall, he turned to people like Huffman to curry favor with specific voter blocs. By appointing Huffman to the Board of Trustees of the California State University, Davis was hoping to secure the black voters Huffman influences. A secondary purpose in placing Huffman at the CSU was to thwart Proposition 54, the initiative on the ballot to limit the government’s ability to categorize people based on race or ethnicity. As the lobbyist for the CTA, Huffman was at the front of the charge to oppose Proposition 209, the successful initiative to prevent the state universities from continuing to offer preferential treatment to certain minorities. (She made it personal by organizing protest rallies against Ward Connerly, the initiative’s sponsor.) Although she only attended two Trustee meetings before Schwarzenegger removed her, the board passed a resolution in September 2003 officially opposing Proposition 54. No doubt Huffman’s presence was key to that vote taking place among all the Trustees’ other mundane decisions. After all, the initiative would have no additional affect on the CSU institutions.
Huffman’s star is rising on the national level, as well. She is the co-chairman of the Democratic National Committee 2004 convention to be held in Boston — a position for which she’ll pull down $10,000 a month for 13 months. While the DNC was scouting locations, Huffman thumbed her nose at Boston because of its “racist history.” But now that the site has been selected and she is padding her bank account, the racism charge has melted away. This is the first time in DNC history that the co-chair of the convention is being paid. Huffman reportedly wanted the job as convention CEO, which went to a white male, but settled for the cushy cash arrangement instead. The trips to Boston on the DNC dime will probably also benefit her consulting firm, A.C. Public Affairs, Inc. Like her friend Jesse Jackson, Huffman has a knack for using the racism charge to line her own pockets. (Choosing her for co-chair could also be seen as an attempt by the DNC to soften the radical blacks who opposed Terry McAuliffe in favor of Maynard Jackson.)
As the California state President of the NAACP, Huffman floats politically motivated charges of discrimination and racism. In 2001, Huffman was quick to defend Cruz Bustamante after he uttered a racial slur in a public speech. She contended, “It just had to have been his native tongue twisted with whatever he was saying.” On the other hand, Ward Connerly is one of her favorite targets. In the same speech where she disparaged the Schwarzenegger family, she claimed that Connerly is one of the “few people in black skin who think that the white man is still superior.”
In a 1999 news conference, Huffman protested the scheduled execution of Manny Babbitt, a schizophrenic black man convicted of a 1980 murder. Her comment to the press was, “I have a word to Gray Davis: If he in fact does not read all these documents to find out just how maligned Manny Babbitt was, I’ll have to call Gray Davis a racist.” Conveniently absent from Huffman’s rallying was any reference to the fact that Babbitt never denied committing the crime, or his nineteen years of unsuccessful legal appeals. Apparently, once Babbitt was executed and the cameras went away, Huffman tired of the racism charge, as she went on to become a Davis supporter during the recall.
Her fixation on skin color was evident in her slander of candidate Schwarzenegger. The speech in which she blasted Schwarzenegger took place at an awards dinner for an organization of minority corporate attorneys. They asked Alice to speak for ten minutes on the progress of the civil rights movement. Instead, they were treated to a venomous tongue-lashing of Republicans, conservatives and, to some extent, successful minorities. She attacked Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and Ward Connerly because they “cause us a lot of grief, and they cause us a lot of consternation, and they divide us.” She ranted against the Thomas/Connerly dream of a colorblind society (an idea originating with Martin Luther King Jr.), saying, “I have decided they want a colorblind society because they just plain don’t like being black.” The executive director of the organization Huffman spoke to told the San Francisco Chronicle that the lawyers were shocked and offended by many of Huffman’s comments.
Like her pal Jesse Jackson, Huffman uses her constant cries of racism to make a pretty nice living for herself. During the 1994 Governor’s race, it appears she steered her then-employer, the California Teachers Association, to back Kathleen Brown over John Garamendi. CTA was forced to issue a public apology after Huffman denigrated candidate John Garamendi at an event with his wife, Patti. At a Democratic Party “unity event,” Huffman attacked Garamendi’s wife, Patty, and threatened the candidate himself. Her behavior in that campaign ended in her being fired from the prestigious union. When the California Teachers Association was embarrassed by Huffman’s sharp attacks on John Garamendi, she left with a $220,000 salary buyout and $8,000 in medical benefits. The union had just cause to fire her without the parachute, but as soon as they suspended her and started an investigation, she hired a lawyer. In addition to her assistance to Kathleen Brown’s campaign, Huffman had also been operating her consulting firm while on the CTA payroll, a violation of the regulation that bars moonlighting where a conflict of interest could arise. Huffman created the Minority Committee to which Brown donated $175,000 just before the union endorsements were to be made.
Nonetheless, Huffman’s response to the charges - which proved to be valid enough to warrant an official investigation by the CTA - was to say Garamendi “owes me and my community and my candidate an apology.” As one board executive put it, “She can’t take an order. You’re talking about a totally exasperating human being…Nobody else’s opinion counts.” As with many blow-hards, it is easier to pay them off and make them go away. Before the settlement was reached, her pals lined up in her defense. Then-Speaker Willie Brown warned that his long-standing friendship with the CTA would be “severely damaged” if the union tried to unfairly oust Huffman. In another interview he stated, “Anyone who mistreats Alice is mistreating me.” Thus, Huffman was able to turn an obvious case of unethical behavior into another “racist” assault upon a successful minority, with the help of her leftist friends in the Democratic Party.
This was not even the first morally questionable stance she had taken as head of the California teachers union. During the 1993 campaign to create a voucher program for California’s poorest children (Proposition 174), Huffman ran the CTA’s opposition strategy. At the same time, her firm made money off the same campaign. The CTA’s Minority Committee, organized by Huffman in 1988 to promote black political power, was given $315,688 to help defeat Proposition 174. The committee then paid Huffman’s firm $133,097 - more than half of the money - to buy media, and another $7,000 in consulting fees.
After she was ousted from the CTA, Huffman made a soft landing, scoring a large account with pharmaceutical giant Bristol-Myers-Squibb. Her job: build “awareness” that low income Californians needing medication for mental problems were “not being properly treated” - because of heartless, evil Republicans. She also had a contract with the National Committee to Protect Medicare and Social Security to do a Democrat-style hatchet job on Republicans supporting Medicare reforms.
Her firm also provides government relations services in Sacramento to cities that cannot afford a full-time lobbyist. They target “middle-sized cities where there are a lot of racially diverse citizens, and poverty.” As her clients struggle to reduce crime, Huffman lobbies for more gun control, a policy that has been proven ineffective in reducing violent crime. Huffman also got a “sweetheart deal” from her pal, Speaker Herb Wesson. She took in $93,000 of taxpayer dollars between March 2002 and June 2003 to assist in “community outreach,” interview candidates for potential appointment to state posts, drafts resolutions for introduction at the state Democratic convention and to coordinate meetings between Wesson and NAACP chapter presidents. Huffman contends that she “Gives the taxpayers more than what they pay me for.” What Huffman “gives the taxpayers” is the opportunity to underwrite her radical, race-baiting advocacy, an opportunity California’s electorate would rather eschew.
If the Democratic Party were currently run by sane people, people like Alice Huffman would be on the margins. But with the Democrats looking to energize the victimhood vote, Huffman is on the rise. She aligns herself with people like Willie Brown, radical Congresswomen Barbara Lee and Maxine Waters, and hucksters like Jesse Jackson. They blur edges between legal and illegal political activity, and then charge racism when caught with their hands in the cookie jar - and escape without a scratch. This is the future of the Democratic Party, both on the national stage and the California stage — a move toward political balkanization that will cripple the party for years to come.