Reprinted from yesterday's late editions.
"It's an honest-to-goodness coalition," Robert Reveles, a Mexican-American, said flatly as he looked at the abstract off red, brown, yellow and black faces standing around the Jamaican ambassador's living room Tuesday night.
And it was an honest-to-goodness party with loud ribbing, intense shop talk, serious eating, dancing and flirting, all for the Minority Legislative Education Program (MLEP), an independent group training minorities in the ways and means of Congress.
"Hey Mannie, what were you doing to me this afternoon on the Hill?" Wayne Horiuchi, chairman of the Japanese-American Citizens League, shouted to Manuel Fierro, past president of the National Congress of Hispanic-Americans.
Faking a dismayed look, Horiuchi explained to Tino Calabia of the Pacific/Asian Coalition that he had been talking to a congressman about a busing bill earlier in the day when Flerro had interrupted them, saying, "Go work on you own bill."
Horiuchi, 29, who had helped obtain the pardon for Tokyo Rose last year, had retorted, "Hey, there are too many of you illegal aliens around. But I bet we have more gardeners than you have grape pickers."
Quickly, Fierro, now legislative counsel for the Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Assn., explained, "It's all good-natured. That's how we get along because we can talk about one another.We are the only group in town that has pulled that off."
Credited with building the MLEP foundation of the men and women generally under 40 and well-versed in the dynamics of Washington is Richard Clark, 36, a lobbyist for Common Cause, an active local politician and director of MLEP.
"What we are trying to do is translate the new electoral power of minorities into the daily decision-making power," said Clark, who is black. Tuesday night's fund-raiser had several purposes: to announce the MLEP leadership seminars at Georgetown University this fall, to raise money to defray the cost of tuition for the students, and to honor Rep. Barber Conable (R-N.Y.).
Conable looked rather sheepish when asked about his support of the group's programs. "Well I didn't get into this because of the minority angle directly. I have considerable interest in charity and philanthropic causes and over the years have supported tax reform bills that are incentives to donations. The tax code I supported is an incentive for corporations to contribute to groups like MLEP," he explained.
About a dozen corporations sent representatives to the reception. Peter Finerty, a vice president of Sea-Land Service, had come to Washington a day earlier than planned this week, "just to meet Dick Clark, everyone was speaking so highly of him." Pat Hanahan, an attorney for BristolMeyers, cornered Fierro by the reggae band in the basement, and said, "I've been hearing a lot of good things about your lobbying for those FTC (Federal Trade Commission) amendments."
As V. Hector Rodriquez, chairman of the Mid-Atlantic Latino Political Caucus, walked by, someone yelled, "There's our token Puerto Rican." Rodriquez, 34, who coordinated Hispanic votes for Carter in the Mideast, smiled, and said, "Usually people ask if I am a Chicano and I say no. I love them but I am a Puerto Rican. So I don't mind remarks like that because we are constantly over-looked."
In the future, the supporters of MLEP hope there will be more success stories like Robert Reveles, who 22 years ago worked on Capitol Hill as a private secretary to then Rep. Stewart Udall of Arizona and is now the office manager for Rep. Frank Thompson (D-N.J.). "What we really want," said Hector Rodriquez, "is not fish, we want to learn how to fish."