Redskins Put Politicians' Allies to Work in P.G.

By Terry M. Neal
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, April 14 1996; Page A19

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While Prince George's County Executive Wayne K. Curry (D) was negotiating with Washington Redskins owner Jack Kent Cooke last year over a deal to build a football stadium in Landover, one of Curry's key former campaign aides was working as a paid "community consultant" for Cooke, making at least $10,000.

And while state Sen. Decatur W. Trotter (D-Prince George's) was advocating the controversial stadium, planned for his legislative district, his former campaign manager and current media consultant also was on Cooke's payroll, making $1,000 a week for a total of at least $25,000.

It isn't clear how the two political operatives, Ervin Reid and Roderick Willis, came to be associated with Cooke or what they did to earn their fees.

Sources within the Redskins organization said this week that Curry and Trotter strongly pushed team officials to give their political associates the contracts -- an assertion Curry and Trotter vehemently deny. One of Cooke's lead lobbyists, Charles Dukes, called Curry last year and during a heated discussion accused Curry of strong-arming the team to hire Reid, sources said. Also, Dukes and two other Cooke lobbyists met with Curry's chief negotiator last year to object to Reid's hiring, sources said.

Dukes refused to comment this week.

In an interview yesterday, Curry recalled Dukes's telephone call: "He called me, giving me a bunch of guff. I told him in no uncertain terms that he better not ever call me again with any untoward insinuations."

Curry says this of the role he played in the Redskins' decision to hire Reid: Last fall, during one of his initial meetings with Cooke, the team owner asked whether he knew anyone who might be able to help him build support in the predominantly African American neighborhoods around the stadium site in Landover. Curry said he suggested Reid but never pushed Cooke to hire him.

Curry said Cooke's lobbyists were eager to hire Reid because they were familiar with the work he did helping Curry build grass-roots support during his campaign. Reid was out of town yesterday and could not be reached for comment.

Gerard E. Evans, Cooke's main lobbyist and spokesman on the stadium project, had a different recollection. "We had never heard of this guy until his name was mentioned by Wayne, period," he said. "We were concerned about whether he could do the job."

Deborah Povich, executive director of the government watchdog group Common Cause of Maryland, said the hiring of the two men raises the appearance of a conflict of interest for Curry and Trotter and questions about whether the Redskins tried to "influence public policy in terms of going to friends and campaign managers."

Evans said Reid was asked to get pro-stadium residents to turn out for an early September hearing at which the County Council was set to consider zoning approvals. More than 400 residents showed up, but the vast majority opposed the project.

Reid, who lives in Lake Arbor, was one of Curry's deputy campaign managers during Curry's 1994 run for county executive.

Willis provided Evans "with a list of leaders in the community," Evans said, a task that Evans characterized as worth $25,000.

Willis, who lives in Capitol Heights, has been a close political associate of Trotter's for two or three years. Willis ran his 1994 campaign. Trotter said he recently put Willis on his office payroll as a staff aide, but he said Willis had not yet received a Senate paycheck.

Evans said the Redskins hired Willis after he approached Evans with a job proposal. Evans, a full-time lobbyist in Annapolis, said he was acquainted with Willis but did not know him well.

Willis said yesterday that he was active in the public relations effort for the stadium, submitting several articles to a local African American newspaper. And Trotter said Willis helped mobilize hundreds of residents for community meetings during which Redskins officials promoted the stadium.

"I don't see any conflict at all," Trotter said. "Rod is a media consultant. That's what he does."

© Copyright 1996 The Washington Post Company

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