The nationwide campaign for ratification of the proposed D.C. voting rights amendment has become bogged down by questions about how large a role D.C. Del. Walter E. Fauntroy will play in that campaign.
While proponents of the amendment debate whether Fauntroy is part of the problem or part of the solution to the fumbling ratification drive, opponents are organizing and raising money.
Fauntroy said last night that he has agreed to a compromise in which he will share command of the campaign with a board drawn from a broad spectrum of community and civic leaders.
The squabble clearly has the potential of crippling a movement that is already stumbling. In the 3 1/2 months since Congress passed the measure, only two states have ratified the amendment to give the city two senators -- one of them likely to be Fauntroy -- and one or two House members. Thirty-six more states are needed to ratify the amendment.
Pennsylvania and Delaware have rejected ratification, and California, after a protracted debate, delayed action. New Jersey and Ohio have ratified it, but Ohio is planning to reconsider.
The nonpartisan organizations that played key roles in helping Fauntroy steer the resolution through Congress, including Common Cause and the League of Women Voters, "don't want to be a tool of an elected official or vested interest," said Richard W. Clark, the Common Cause lobbyist who is working full time in behalf of ratification.
"That's the real problem," said Joseph Rauh, the civil liberties lawyer who is treasurer of Self-Determination for D.C., the coalition that is directing the ratification campaign.
Rauh said the three organizations most important to success of the ratification effort are the league, Common Cause and "Bill Brock's Republican Party."
"As soon as Walter Fauntroy recognizes that, we'll get moving," Rauh said.
But instead of wooing them, Rauh said, Fauntroy is planning a major effort at this weekend's Democratic midterm convention "that could be counterproductive" because it will contribute to the mistaken idea that the amendment is a partisan affair.
"It can't be a partisan or racial question if it's going to pass," Rauh said.
Fauntroy, who sounded stunned to learn that some of his fellow amendment supporters blame him for part of the ratification problems, said "I think I've been flexible.
"I did not insist on my plan being adopted," he said. He said he "readily agreed" not to have a separate organization for the ratification drive, and to accept a position as cochairman.
As for the suggestion that he has a vested interest in ratification, Fauntroy said, "Anyone from the District who heads the drive would be subject to that charge."
Fauntroy said he sought the leadership role because, "as the elected official, it was my responsibility, my mandate to be active" in the campaign.
Fauntroy said he knew of "no one who disagrees with my assessment" of the problems and strategy.
He predicted that fund-raising would be successful "if we can ever get beyond this kind of article."
Ironically, no one knows better or has talked more eloquently about the need for preparation than Fauntroy. Yet, to the frustration of otherwise admiring supporters, Fauntroy can outline the problem one moment and hop on an airplane and pop up testifying before some faraway state legislature the next.
"There is a great deal of feeling that this thing is not organized right," Rauh said yesterday, complaining that efforts to raise money for the campaign have been near-futile.
"We're so broke we could qualify for debtors' prison," continued Rauh, who said he had just "scraped up enough money to pay this week's salaries" for the coalition's two paid employes.
"It would be easy to raise money if the organization were in good shape," Rauh said.
In the ebullience that followed the amendment's bipartisan victory in Congress on Aug. 22, Fauntroy drafted a plan that called for setting up a new organization, with Fauntroy as its chief, that would spend more than $750,000 next year in support of ratification.
But the plan was rejected as too grandiose by the coalition. So in the months since then, the proponents have divided their time between internecine bickering and dealing with brush fires that flared in some states by enthusiastic, but unprepared, supporters.
The essential ingredients in the successful adoption of the resolution in Congress, Fauntroy wrote in a Sept. 16 draft proposal, were securing and publicizing broad bipartisan, multiracial, multi-interest support, and making available detailed research.
"Neither race, region, party or other special interest should prevail as reasons to support or not support ratification," Fauntroy wrote.
Part of the problem was and is that Fauntory qualifies as one of those special interests he warned against. As the city's elected nonvoting delegate in the House, the popular preacher-politician is considered a shoo-in for one of the Senate seats that would be created if the amendment is ratified.
When the self-determination coalition finally got reorganized last month, Fauntroy was listed as one of seven or more equal cochairpersons. Fauntroy also was named "convenor," which means he is responsible for calling and conducting meetings of an executive committee. Clark, whose salary is being paid by Common Cause, was named executive coordinator, charged with supervising and coordinating the paid and volunteer staffs.
Instead of a budget of $776,225 for next year, and a paid staff of 22, as proposed by Fauntroy, the coalition is limping into 1979 with two staffers and not enough money to carry out modest plans for the rest of the month.