OAKLAND CAN WAIT
Rev. Al Sharpton announced over the weekend that he and his people were setting up a presidential exploratory committee sometime in January, this despite the fact that Sharpton has been raising money and asking for donations made out to an exploratory committee that donors were led to believe already existed.
According to some Democratic National Committee staffers, they don't know what Sharpton and his operation are up to. "And we don't want to know," says a DNC staffer. "The less we know the better off we all are. I don't think the party wants to get in too deep with the reverend's plans unless we absolutely have to."
The hesitancy of even his own party to step up and explain Sharpton's actions isn't surprising. This, after all, is a man who thrives on chaos. New York City Democratic Party officials recall a huge event Sharpton threw at a mid-town hotel several years ago to announce his plans to run for president in 2000. "It was posh, but when it was all over, the hotel didn't know where to send the bill," recalls a party official. "In the end, I think they went to the press and complained about invoices never being returned."
"If you deal with Al, you have to play by his rules, that's all there is to say," says another New York Democrat.
That was clear over the weekend, when Sharpton theoretically came out running for the highest office in the land. Months ago, he'd committed to attend a two-day youth seminar run by the NAACP, which had committed to paying Sharpton's way out to the West Coast. The New York minister was slated to be the keynote speaker at the Oakland, California event, but at the last minute Sharpton backed out, citing scheduling difficulties. The problem? A black publishers organization meeting in Los Angeles offered to pay Sharpton an appearance fee to make a speech in Beverly Hills over the weekend.
"Beverly Hills or the Oakland hills, what do you think he's going to take?" says a Baltimore-based NAACP official. "I guess Al figures he doesn't need the black vote this time around to make his run successful."
Moderate Democrats have given up any hope that their leadership will pay them a bit of attention in the coming legislative session. "We're all going to rue the day we elected [Nancy] Pelosi to caucus leader, and I don't just mean Blue Dogs or DLC Democrats, the entire party," says a conservative Democratic congressman.
The frustration and concern arises with word that Pelosi is talking to former Clinton spokesman Mike McCurry and Barry Toiv about coming on board as long-range policy communications advisers to the House Democratic leadership team. According to a House Democratic staffer, neither man has committed to the job, nor has a job been offered.
McCurry is working full-time as a strategic adviser to private businesses in Washington, while Toiv most recently has been laboring as incoming Rep. Rahm Emanuel's communications chief. "The impression we get is that McCurry wouldn't be a constant presence on the Hill, more a consultant," says the leadership staffer. "Toiv would probably be full-time if he doesn't cut a deal to work for both Rahm and the leadership."
Moderates weren't pushing anyone in particular for the communications job, not that they were asked. Rather, the McCurry/Toiv recruitment, in the wake of Pelosi's refusal to bring a moderate colleague into the leadership team, opting instead for liberal California cronies, is yet another sign that Pelosi is only paying lip service to the notion that all Democrats in the caucus will be represented.
"She isn't even trying," says the congressman. "She seems to think her people have been out in the wilderness for so long they should be given every opportunity that comes along. Hell, it's only been two years."
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