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Nativo American

Meet Nativo Lopez, the Latino Al Sharpton. He's changing California politics--for the worse.

12:00 AM, Sep 2, 2005 • By BILL WHALEN
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Then again, it wouldn't be the first time the Lopez has run afoul of the law for his political activities. In November 1996, Lopez was busy getting out the Latino vote to elect Loretta Sanchez to Congress--in the process ousting the conservative Republican incumbent, Bob Doran. Dornan lost by less than 1,000 votes; Lopez and Hermandad registered 364 ineligible voters--non-citizen students in a citizenship class. A congressional inquiry issued subpoenas, but fraud charges were never filed (in part, because the 364 votes weren't enough to change the outcome).

More recently, California Attorney General Bill Lockyer issued a "Warning of Impending Tax Assessment" to Hermandad for non-compliance and threatened to revoke its tax-exempt status if it didn't make good on delinquent fees. (Hermandad allegedly has failed to file its IRS tax form or submit a state renewal fee since 1993.) Lockyer, who's running for state treasurer next year, issued his warning in early April and threatened action within 30 days, but has let the matter drift for nearly five months.

The list of controversies goes on. During his 2000 reelection bid, Lopez was accused of
raising nearly $150,000 from architects with business before the school board. Two years later, an Orange County Register exposé alleged that Lopez received $100,000 in contributions to his nonprofit group, Citizens in Action, from Del Terra Real Estate Services--before that company received a no-bid contract to build schools in Santa Ana. That same year, the Register also reported that "a Santa Ana nonprofit has agreed to pay more than $600,000 to the U.S. Government to settle a case in which prosecutors alleged that Hermandad Mexicana Nacional leader Nativo Lopez wrongly diverted grant money meant for English classes for immigrants."

Where does this leave Lopez? With the special election shifting into high gear after Labor Day and a new version of the drivers' license bill making its way to Schwarzenegger, watch for him to issue charges of "racism" soon. Over the past two decades, he's used "racism" or "racist" to describe INS drug raids, rental standards, and the state positions of local candidates and ballot measures. Small wonder the Wall Street Journal once labeled him "the Al Sharpton of Southern California for his ethnic demagogy."

It's an analogy worth remembering. Just as, on the national level, Democrats never have mustered the courage to take on race-baiters such as Sharpton for fear of alienating core voters, California Democrats are similarly spineless.

Bill Whalen is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution, where he follows California and national politics.