ANNAPOLIS, AUG. 24 -- Rep. Roy P. Dyson (D-Md.), whose reelection campaign features a television advertisement lauding his efforts to help a homeless woman, has come under attack from his Democratic challenger for missing a landmark homeless aid vote in 1987 on the same day he collected a speaking honorarium from a defense contractor in Texas.
Congressional records show Dyson did not vote on March 5, 1987, when the House of Representatives approved $725 million worth of programs for the homeless, a step that eventually led to passage of the McKinney Act, the first comprehensive federal law dealing with homelessness.
On the same day, according to Dyson's personal financial statement, he collected a $2,000 honorarium from General Dynamics.
Dyson aide Chris Robinson said the representative received the check after a tour and speech at the company's Fort Worth plant with other members of the House Armed Services Committee. Robinson said Dyson missed the March 5 vote because he had to leave for the Texas trip.
After skipping the March 5 vote, Dyson voted in April 1987 against an appropriations bill passed by the House to finance McKinney Act programs. Then in June, he voted against the act itself when it came back before the House aftera conference committee with the Senate.
However, records show that Dyson voted in favor of a procedural resolution under which the main bill was considered, and voted for the McKinney Act when it was reauthorized in August 1988.
Del. Barbara O. Kreamer (D-Harford), Dyson's opponent for the Democratic nomination in the Sept. 11 primary, has charged that his use of a homeless woman in a political ad is hypocritical.
"Dyson's television campaign claiming he cares about homelessness is patently deceptive," said Kreamer. Eight Republicans also are vying for Maryland's 1st Congressional District seat, an office Dyson has held since 1981. The district includes Southern Maryland, the Eastern Shore and part of Harford County.
Robinson said in response that Kreamer was "quibbling and hypocritical" for isolating one vote and ignoring others, including several housing bills and the McKinney Act reauthorization, where Dyson voted in favor of aiding the homeless.
Robinson could not explain why Dyson first voted against the McKinney Act then voted for it a year later.
"I think it is unfortunate that he missed that vote," said Robinson, who in recent weeks has accused Kreamer of missing dozens of important votes in the Maryland General Assembly. "He has a strong record of support for federal assistance for housing and low income and for the elderly and for the homeless."
Information on Dyson's record was gathered by Kreamer's campaign after Dyson began airing a 60-second commercial featuring 70-year-old Lee Shipman.
"Let's face it, I was a bag lady . . . . I was homeless," before Dyson's office helped, Shipman says in the advertisement. The ad features pictures of her currently sitting in a college classroom, and goes on to discuss Dyson's commitment to helping "ordinary people."
In an interview today, Shipman said she was spending her time in a car and motel rooms for several months in 1986 before Dyson's office helped her receive government services.
Maria Foscarinis, of the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty, said the March 5 vote was the critical one for supporters of homeless aid.
"That was really the seminal event," she said. "This was the measure that would actually get the relief out to the streets."