Congressional Black Caucus Opposes Gas Bill (At Least Briefly)
Last week, D.C. councilmembers got a letter from the Congressional Black Caucus calling on them to oppose legislation that could put a big dent into the bottom line of the District's biggest gas magnate, Eyob "Joe" Mamo.
Mamo and his gas business, which are the subject of an ongoing investigation by the attorney general's office, as well the subject of a recent Washington City Paper profile, is waging a full court press against Ward 3 Councilmember Mary Cheh's "Retail Service Station Act of 2011." Cheh's bill, at least at one point in time, could force Mamo's company to divorce itself from running city gas stations while being a gas wholesaler at the same time.*
As part of Mamo's aggressive lobbying strategy, he's called in the big guns for help. The Rev. Jesse Jackson, a long-time Mamo supporter and beneficiary, has already written the councilmembers (and called at least one) to get them to oppose Cheh's bill. Jackson cast the fight against Cheh's bill as a civil rights issue.
The CBC letter, signed by CBC chairman Rep. Emanuel Cleaver II, D-Mo, and CBC Secretary Yvette Clarke, D-NY, is written in the same vein.
"We also believe the gains made through the hard work of the civil rights groups and others should not be wiped out by such legislation," the letter says.
D.C.'s Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, a member of the CBC, says the letter was not approved by the full caucus and has since been withdrawn. She says the letter was mistakenly sent to the council due to a "staffing error." Cleaver wrote a brief letter addressed to the council on Wednesday using the same "staffing error" language.
LL heard Norton was angry about the first letter being sent to the council. "You better believe it," said Norton, whose whole political career is premised on trying to keep congressional interference out of local affairs.
"The caucus would never to that," Norton says. "They are the ones who protect Home Rule."
Sounds like one heck of a "staffing error."
The letter is below. LL is writing about the frenzied lobbying (and the money behind it) on both sides of this bill for next week's column (call LL if you have tips).
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Photo by Darrow Montgomery
*This post has been updated.