Black Republican leaders used a private meeting with Vice President Bush last week to complain that their access to President Reagan is limited, that their suggestions have been ignored and that few of them have been rewarded with appointments or contracts for their loyalty.
They said they were insulted that a nonpartisan group of black leaders was invited instead of them to meet with Reagan on Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday.
The meeting at Bush's house, which also included key GOP operatives, had been planned as a strategy session to accelerate Republican and White House efforts to garner black support. Although the participants agreed to form a task force to pump up support for Reagan, the meeting largely became a vent for frustration.
"The message was that we've got to have access, we deserve it because it was cold out there being a black Reaganite," said one person who attended the meeting. "And don't forget, to help the president with other blacks we've got to be in the loop."
The tiff comes as Reagan presses an apparent attempt to isolate traditional black leaders, which began with a Jan. 17 interview in which he accused certain unnamed black leaders of fomenting discontent in an effort to protect their positions. Friday he continued the attack, saying some leaders are trying to "build, for whatever reason, two Americas: a black America and a white America."
Reagan urged blacks not to be misled by certain leaders but to look at the progress that has been made.
Among the blacks not invited to the Jan. 15 King's birthday meeting was LeGree Daniels, chairman of the National Black Republican Council and head of Blacks for Reagan-Bush. Daniels and other blacks who are long-time Republicans were told that if they want to see the president they must develop proposals and strategies to help him with blacks.
"There's no need to have black Republicans come to see the president and take it as their one chance to bitch about how they were treated in the first term," said Arthur Fletcher, an assistant secretary of labor under President Richard M. Nixon. "The vice president said if they want to see the president they've got to have an agenda for how to improve the president's image in black America."
Daniels said, "There were those who felt the administration should stretch forward for more people to be involved and that there is a lack of communication."
Black Republicans have complained in the past that black Democrats often boast that they have more access to Republican presidents than do black Republicans because the White House has perceived black Democratic leaders as more influential.
Talk was tougher in private.
"White Republicans, even the boys in the White House, are making millions off of the president," said one person who attended the Bush meeting. "They have no problems with connections when you are white, but if blacks try to get into the game they say it's not fair, it's affirmative action."
When Reagan took office in 1981, he eliminated a separate black liaison and told black Republicans to submit their concerns through white presidential aides. Blacks contend that the effect has been to limit their access to Reagan.
"We believed presidential counselor Edwin Meese when he came to San Francisco after the '80 election and said this administration would be colorblind," said a black Republican who worked in a previous Republican White House. "There was going to be no segregation of blacks in one White House office . . . . It was a sham seduction . . . . It effectively took all black influence out of the White House . . . and the final slap in the face comes now when they're dealing with nonpartisan blacks."
Another angry black Republican said, " Assistant White House chief of staff Mike Deaver, and White House assistant Dick Darman deal with blacks only as irritants who are best ignored so they can get on to what they consider more serious business."
The meeting at Bush's home ended with several members of the group, including Republican National Committee Chairman Frank Fahrenkopf, agreeing to form a task force to make recommendations to Bush and Reagan.
At the Jan. 15 meeting, the bipartisan group of businessmen and educators presented proposals to Reagan for tax incentives to promote investment in the black community, to gain black support with enterprise-zone legislation and to improve education and halt crime in black neighborhoods. Bob Woodson, head of the group that visited Reagan, attended the Bush meeting.
Edward J. Rollins, who managed the Reagan-Bush '84 campaign, also attended the dinner meeting. Rollins stressed that a Washington Post-ABC poll showed that about 35 percent of blacks give Reagan a favorable rating, double the average positive response from blacks during Reagan's first term.
Rollins stressed that by giving that 35 percent "positive signs and specific programs," the Republican Party could improve its showing in the 1986 congressional races substantially, sources said.
"Because of the Jesse Jackson situation where it's clear the Democratic Party didn't treat him fairly, even give him the courtesy of an interview for the vice-presidential sweepstakes, and the growing group of minorities and blacks no longer taking orders from the top spokesmen, there is an opportunity for the Republican Party," said a Republican political adviser who helped to arrange the meeting.
Fahrenkopf reportedly was on the defensive for part of the meeting because some of the black Republicans said they felt that he should have informed them of the White House meeting. However, Fahrenkopf explained, according to sources, that the Republican National Committee did not arrange the meeting.
"This the Bush meeting was a 'forget the past, what can we do now' meeting," said Melvin L. Bradley, special assistant to the president. "The vice president is concerned that we have a popular president yet black Americans turned him down 9 to 1 . . . . Those people who worked on the campaign and are black feel they are being ignored by the president and should have been the first to go in to see him to talk about blacks."
"We wanted to thank the people who supported us but also to say, 'Where do we go from here?'," said Steven J. Rhodes, assistant to the vice president for domestic policy.
There was criticism of the effectiveness of the blacks in the administration, although the conversation veered away from direct attacks on Bradley, the lone black special assistant to the president.
"I felt many of them, based on what they were saying, don't know what I do here," Bradley said.
Among the black Republicans at the Bush meeting were Gloria Toote, a New York lawyer; Stan Scott, a former Nixon aide; Thad Garrett, a former aide to Bush; Jewel LaFontant, a Chicago lawyer; George Haley, a Washington lawyer, and Clarence Thomas, chairman of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Clarence M. Pendleton Jr., chairman of the Civil Rights Commission, was invited but did not attend.