- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 5, 2003

Several members of the Congressional Black Caucus yesterday questioned the leadership of Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe and said he will meet with the caucus’ executive committee by early next week.

Mr. McAuliffe has been criticized by the black and Hispanic membership of the DNC since it was revealed last week that a list of 10 proposed terminations at the committee was composed solely of black employees.

The action was halted after protests from two DNC officials.

“It seems that something is dreadfully wrong,” said Rep. Alcee L. Hastings, Florida Democrat. “It is something I need to know more about.”

Rep. Bobby L. Rush, Illinois Democrat, said the episode “raises some questions about his sensitivity to minorities.”

Mr. McAuliffe had been scheduled to meet with all the members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) at a weekly lunch yesterday, but he canceled.

Other CBC members defended Mr. McAuliffe, whose fund-raising skills are unquestioned within the party’s higher echelon.

“It was a mistake, as he said, and there are some cutbacks on staff,” said Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, D.C. Democrat. She said that the proposed terminations, which won approval from two midlevel managers at the DNC before being halted, “would have been a huge hit for the Democratic Party if they had gone through.”

The meeting with the five-member executive committee will be a chance for caucus members “to get his side of the story,” said Rep. Elijah E. Cummings of Maryland, the chairman of the caucus, which is made up of all Democrats.

Mr. Cummings said he spoke with Mr. McAuliffe for 40 minutes Sunday and was satisfied that the issue was resolved.

“I think he may have been out of the loop,” Mr. Cummings said. “He sounded very clear that he had nothing to hide. I think that he is a fair man. But we need to be clear on what happened here.”

Calling last week’s episode a “major public relations mistake,” CBC spokesman Doug Thornell said the executive committee also will discuss other issues with Mr. McAuliffe.

But, he added, “these are strong Democrats, and they want to make sure things like this do not happen again. It is not the kind of thing that inspires confidence from CBC members.”

DNC spokesman Jim Mulhall said Mr. McAuliffe “meets with a variety of constituencies all the time. He looks forward to meeting with [the CBC executive committee] soon.”

Besides Mr. Cummings, the CBC executive committee members are Reps. Danny K. Davis of Illinois, Barbara Lee of California, Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas and Corrine Brown of Florida.

The termination list was first made public by Donna Brazile, head of the DNC’s Voting Rights Institute, who roundly criticized Mr. McAuliffe. The incident triggered letters from members of the DNC’s black and Hispanic caucuses.

A letter to Mr. McAuliffe from DNC black caucus member Yvonne Atkinson Gates said that “a very disheartening picture has already been painted.”

In a memo to the 40 Hispanic caucus members, Chairman Alvaro Cifuentes cited several Hispanics who have either left the DNC or been let go during the past several months.

Mr. McAuliffe on Monday called New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson to assure him of the party’s commitment to Hispanics, an aide to Mr. Richardson said.

The DNC and the Republican National Committee this week have declined to release employee demographic figures.

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