Street art posters describing L.A. area U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters as a “poverty pimp” have raised the ire of some in the African American community.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson, president of the Los Angeles Urban Policy Roundtable, says his organization received several complaints about the posters starting Friday. Over the weekend his group pulled some of the posters down. Waters herself told us, “They've been down. They were down the same night” they went up.
But Hutchinson says there were so many put up around her district that some of the posters remain. He says he has lodged a complaint with the California Fair Political Practices Commission and planned to alert the Federal Election Commission, too.
A state FPPC spokesman told us this would be a matter for the FEC because the seat up for election is congressional.
Campaign advertising generally must contain disclosures about who's behind the literature, an FEC representative told us. The poverty pimp posters contain no such information. But it's not clear if they would be considered campaign advertising or not.
Waters is up for reelection tomorrow. Her district includes parts of South L.A., Inglewood, Lennox, Hawthorne and other South Bay communities. Her challenger is conservative John Wood.
He doesn't appear to be a serious contender. Waters has raised more than $1.1 million for her reelection, and she has a track record of winning by wide margins. Wood's campaign has taken in just $10,223.
The posters also contain the phrase “n——s better have my money” and the acronym T.O.S., apparently a reference to her own self-description: “this old socialist.”
The art is clearly modeled after that of L.A.'s own Robbie Conal, a onetime “hippie” known for his biting depictions of Ronald Reagan and other Republican leaders. Hutchinson said Conal has denounced the Waters posters. We tried to contact the artist but were unable to get through.
Hutchinson said he doesn't think opponent Wood is behind the artwork. But he suspects whoever did it was well-organized.
The posters were placed outside Waters' home, adjacent to the iconic Randy's Donuts near LAX, at 405 and 110 freeway entrances or exits, and outside the Forum in Inglewood, Hutchinson said.
Conservative media had background on the posters almost as soon as they went up. This site, without citing any sources, says the artwork was posted “early Thursday morning” by “an independent anonymous art collective.”
The site said the conservative street artist Sabo, who generated headlines last month by calling presidential supporter Gwyneth Paltrow an “Obama drone,” was not behind the Waters posters.
The website Tea Party News on Saturday said that Waters lives in a $4 million-plus home and explained the rationale behind the poverty pimp allegation:
The pejorative “Poverty Pimp” is used to identify those that personally benefit from acting as an advocate for the poor, downtrodden, or otherwise disadvantaged. California’s 43rd District, located in South Central Los Angeles, is certainly one where many live who fit those descriptions.
Maxine Waters, who is neither poor, downtrodden, or disadvantaged in any way, lives in Hancock Park, which is also most definitely not anything at all like South Central.
Hutchinson said Waters has been a longtime target of the far right, often because of the color of her skin.
“This is a vile, personal and racial attack,” he told us. “I would hope no reputable conservative group would stoop to this. For decades she's been an intimate part of the African American community. Her civil rights credentials are impeccable.”
Leaders who represent minority districts are expected to be successful but often have the challenge, at least locally, of sometimes having to live in impoverished neighborhoods. Congressional representatives do not, however, have to live in the districts they represent.
Waters did not want to address the posters directly, telling us this:
I am trying to do public policy. That's a waste of my time. Don't waste your time on that.