- The Washington Times - Friday, June 20, 2003

Two black appointees from the Clinton administration have been brought on board by the Democratic National Committee in an effort to quell dissent that arose after a plan to fire 10 black DNC staffers was made public in late May.

Alexis Herman, who served as President Clinton’s labor secretary from 1997 to 2000, will serve as a peacemaker between the DNC and the Congressional Black Caucus after caucus members were rankled by the planned terminations, a CBC source said.

In addition, Ben Johnson, who ran President Clinton’s Initiative for One America program, has been named a vice chairman of the DNC.

DNC Chairman Terry McAuliffe met with the caucus last week at its weekly lunch after several members questioned his leadership abilities in the wake of the layoffs, which Mr. McAuliffe halted and called a “mistake.”

At the meeting, Mr. McAuliffe vowed to work with the caucus on key issues as the party looks for redemption after major losses in the 2002 midterm elections.

Miss Herman is close to both Mr. McAuliffe and several members of the CBC and will be a good mediator, the source said. She could not be reached for comment.

Mr. Johnson was hired at the suggestion of several members of the DNC’s black caucus.

“I will give whatever help I can to make sure everybody is represented,” Mr. Johnson said yesterday. “There were issues within the Democratic Party, and as we go forward through the year, we will correct those deficiencies. What we are trying to do is make an America where everyone has opportunities.”

Mr. Johnson has been eyed for a place with the national party, to fill a role formerly held by former Atlanta Mayor Maynard Jackson.

The move may have been made now because of the recent flap over the firings, said Donna Brazile, who heads the DNC’s Voting Rights Institute.

“Ben Johnson has tremendous credibility,” Miss Brazile said. “He has tremendous contacts throughout the country … and he brings national credibility.”

One of Mr. Johnson’s main boosters for the move was Joel Ferguson, a Michigan businessman and a prominent member of the DNC’s black caucus.

He said that the addition of two former Clinton staffers can only be good for the party.

“The more of Bill Clinton we can have, the better,” Mr. Ferguson said.

As part of the arrangement worked out between the DNC and the CBC, Mr. McAuliffe will also meet regularly with the CBC’s executive committee.

“It is important that the DNC realizes that the African-American community is an important voting bloc for the party,” said Morris Reid, who served in the Clinton administration with Commerce Secretary Ron Brown. “It’s important to make the extra step to see that concerns are being met.”

The meeting last week came at the request of the CBC, some of whose members had questioned Mr. McAuliffe’s suitability for heading the DNC.

“It was held as a way to discuss the relationship that the CBC has with the DNC,” said Doug Thornell, a CBC spokesman. “We wanted to see what needed to be done to improve the number of minority senior staffers and move on from what happened with the hirings and firings.”

The employee cuts were ready to be implemented when they came to the attention of Minyon Moore, former DNC chief operating officer, and Miss Brazile.

After placing several unreturned calls to Mr. McAuliffe, the two complained publicly, bringing a chorus of outrage from the DNC’s own black caucus.

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