Backers of the D.C. voting rights amendment yesterday kicked off what one supporter called a better-late-than-never campaign to finance a nationwide ratification drive.
Del. Walter E. Fauntroy (D-D.D.)., Mayor Marion S. Barry and City Council Chairman Arrington Dixon unveiled plans for a nonprofit service corporation to raise $1 million a year and enlist broad bipartisan support for the issue.
Since its passage by Congress last summer, the proposal to give the District two senators and one or two House members has been ratified by five of the required 38 state legistatures, while eight other states have turned it down.
Formation of the corporation was announced at the organization's offices in the Tenley Mall at 4200 Wisconsin Ave., NW. In addition to fundraising, the corporation will promote a variety of gimmicky campaigns using the slogan, "Mend the Crack in the Liberty Bell."
Flanked by the mayor and most of the City Council, Fauntroy reported that $143,492 has been pledged toward the first year goal of $200,000-the local share of $1 million to be raised in each of the next five years. The rest of the$1 million will be sought from national organizations, including corporations, labor unions and various interest groups.
More than half of the local pledges received represent contributions of labor and other services.
Although there was a display of solidarity at the unveiling of the corporation yesterday, there were other indications that some of the mending in the crack needs to be undertaken locally, where some longtime workers in behalf of full voting representation remain dissatisfied with Fauntroy's dominant role in the drive. Fauntroy's office released two versions of a press statement about yesterday's event. One bore th headline "Fauntroy Launches" the corporation, and said the new organization would "absorb" the Coalition for Self-Determination and the Ratification Committee which have directed the campaign thus far. The coalition is an umbrella organization of local groups and the committee is a national organization that includes the League of Women Voters and Common Cause.
The other version of the news release said that "Fauntroy, Barry and Dixon" were launching the corporation and that it would "cooperate closely and coordinate with" the other groups.
Eldridge Spearman, Fauntroy's press aide who distributed both versions, said the one that mentioned only Fauntroy was "the result of a typist who was confused."
The ratification campaign committee issued a statement saying formation of the nonprofit corporation was "long overdue."
Richard W. Clark, a Common Cause lobbyist who serves as executive coordinator of the ratification committee, said it had agreed to cooperate with the corporation "during the next three months. A decision regarding formal affilitation . . . will be made at a later time."
The day-to-day operation of the corporation will be directed by Anthony J. Thompson, a Republican lawyer enlisted by Fauntroy. Thompson, 38, who lives in Frederick County, Md., is a great-grandson of Theodore W. Noyes, the editor of The Envening Star who first championed the cause of equal rights for District residents in the late 19th century.
The selection of Thompson prompted a sour response from Paul Hays, the chairman of the D.C. Republician Party, who said he was not consulted about the "so-called bipartisan effort."
I've never heard of him," said Hays, adding "I marvel at the idea that Fauntroy expects a token Republican from suburban Maryland will help pick up Republican support nationally."
In an effort to demonstrate widespread local support, Barry announced that officers of the corporation will include W. Reid Thompson (no relation to the executive director) presidentof the Potomac Electric Power Co. as president; Oliver T. Carr, president of the Metropolitan Board of Trade as treasurer; James Denson of the D.c. Chamber of Commerce as secretary, and former Mayor Walter E. Washington and former council chairman Sterling Tucker and Gilbert Hahn as vice presidents. CAPTION: Picture, Arrington Dixon (left) and Walter Fauntroy applaud Marion Barry at yesterday's ratification fund raising kick-off. By Margaret Thomas-The Washington Post