Correction to This Article
The article about Ronald L. Moten, co-founder of Peaceoholics, and his emergence as a factor in this year's D.C. mayor's race said that Mayor Adrian M. Fenty appoints the board at the Children and Youth Investment Trust Corp. The mayor appoints four of the board's seven members; the D.C. Council appoints the other three.

Peaceoholics' Moten, a Fenty ally, emerges as a force in D.C. mayoral race

District Mayor Adrian M. Fenty, left, is drawing support for his reelection from Ronald Moten, co-founder of Peaceoholics.
District Mayor Adrian M. Fenty, left, is drawing support for his reelection from Ronald Moten, co-founder of Peaceoholics. (Kevin Clark/the Washington Post)
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By Tim Craig
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, June 21, 2010

Ronald L. Moten, the co-founder of Peaceoholics, was ready for battle when he showed up last month at a Democratic mayoral candidates forum and straw poll in Ward 8 to help friend Adrian M. Fenty win a second term.

Wearing green-and-white fatigues, Moten brought several dozen teenagers and young adults to cast their ballots for Fenty, trying to help the mayor stay competitive in a part of the city where polls show he is unpopular.

Almost two decades after Moten was jailed for selling crack in Petworth, the community activist and self-described "brawler" is emerging as an influential force in the race between Fenty and D.C. Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray.

Frustrated by Gray's attacks on Fenty and concerned that a Gray victory would dry up funding for violence-prevention programs he credits with reducing homicides, Moten said he will use the sales skills he learned on the streets to put the mayor over the top in the September primary.

"I haven't even gotten started yet," said Moten, 40. "Adrian has helped a lot of people in the streets. People just don't know about it yet. I'm going to help change that."

In recent weeks, Moten has created a Web site to spread information about Gray's record, fueled newspaper articles on the illegal fence at Gray's home in Hillcrest and helped Fenty reach out to African Americans through radio ads featuring hip-hop artists. Now, Moten is gearing up to mobilize thousands on Fenty's behalf, confident he can drive up African American turnout enough to dilute Gray's expected advantage.

Privately, some Fenty advisers said they are nervous that Moten's efforts could backfire, but the mayor said in an interview that he is "honored" to have the support, calling him a "friend" and a "great Washingtonian."

Although Moten stepped down as chief operating officer of Peaceoholics in the fall, Gray questions whether his campaigning could endanger the group's tax-exempt status. "I think it's reprehensible," Gray said. "Ron Moten is someone who started out running what I thought was a reputable nonprofit organization, and what he has done is draw his 501 (c)(3) very much into politics."

Moten, who serves on Peaceoholics' board but doesn't draw a paycheck, said Gray "is scared" of him. "I think he is cutting it close with a lot of the things he does," said Moten, noting that the illegal fence was installed by a businessman with city contracts. "I know [Gray], and I know his history."

But political activism often is a double-edged sword, and Moten's work for the mayor is reigniting questions about how Peaceoholics flourished under Fenty's administration.

"This comes down to self-interest for him," said D.C. Council member Harry Thomas Jr. (D-Ward 5), a Gray supporter. "This is his bread and butter, so this is about survival for him."

Funding

Before Fenty took office in 2007, Peaceoholics was an upstart group that relied on sporadic government grants and donations and mediated disputes between rival or warring city youths and gangs.


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