With only days to go before the inaugural, the parties stopped speaking to each other. The dispute went to the lawyers. And yesterday, the whole ugly mess became public.
Ann Lewis, executive director of Americans for Democratic Action, charged that its party, "The Other Inaugural -- Dare to Be Different," had been given the heave-ho by the Capital Children's Museum for political reasons.
"It's either pettiness or paranoia or political pressure," she said.
"Oh my goodness," said Ann Lewin (not to be confused with Lewis), director of the Capital Children's Museum. "We don't have anything against anybody. There's no paranoia. It is an overt political event, and we have a longstanding policy against overt political events."
Lewis says the ADA received a signed contract last week to rent the museum for $2,200. Lewin says the contract was signed by a staff member who did not have the authority to issue it and that ADA was notified of that fact on Dec. 20. The lawyers were brought in to negotiate a settlement.
"They were furious," Lewin said. "They threatened all sorts of things, including an injunction."
The museum agreed to help find another site for the party: the Wax Museum. The new invitations go out tonight: "Come to the party they don't want us to have."
Lewis estimates that the change in venue -- the price of printing and mailing 10,000 new invitations -- will cost an additional $5,000-to-$10,000. She suspects that close connections between the Capital Children's Museum and the Reagan administration were behind the dispute. Jane Weinberger, wife of the secretary of Defense, and Ursula Meese, wife of the presidential counselor, are members of the museum board.
"I don't think the Reagan administration has an enemies list," Lewis said. "But if it did, ADA would be on it. I don't think they are threatened by our inaugural party, but I am told they were worried about it. We heard they the museum were worried that it would chill their funding, threaten their relationship with the administration and embarrass the Republicans on their board."
Lewin says that there are Democrats on the board, too, and that the whole thing was the result of a "sad misunderstanding." She says that ADA originally described its $25 per person party as a private gathering for members of their staff and their families. The policy of the museum board is that private parties with private guest lists are welcome. "This is a media event," Lewin said. "That's the crucial difference."
Lewis says she knows of political parties for Democrats such as Massachusetts Rep. Barney Frank, president of ADA; James Hunt, governor of North Carolina; and Rep. Don Edwards (D-Calif.) at the museum.
"They suddenly retroactively discovered they were apolitical," Lewis said. "The problem was not just that it was a political event but a political event Ronald Reagan wouldn't like."
"The Other Inaugural -- Dare to Be Different" will have plenty of flags "because Democrats believe in the flag, too," an ADA official said. Black tie is not required. There will be no metal detectors. A crowd of 500 is expected to attend. Lewin does not expect to be among them. "I hope they have a wonderful party," she said. "But I don't go to political events."