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Obama, CBC Reunite Ahead of Elections

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call
Congressional Black Caucus Chairman Emanuel Cleaver says the White House has made an effort to mend its relationship with the group.

“They will not tell you it’s for the purpose of talking to the CBC/African-American constituencies,” said the CBC staffer, “but everybody who knows the process knows he was hired … to be the senior person for the African-American community.

“That’s a positive step forward,” the staffer continued. “He’s a known commodity, at least in the D.C. African-American community.”

Other hires have helped. In mid-August, former CBC aide Nicole Isaac moved from Vice President Joseph Biden’s legislative affairs team to that of the president’s.

In September, the administration hired Jewel James, former director of Massachusetts Democratic Gov. Deval Patrick’s office in Washington, D.C., as deputy director of intergovernmental affairs. James is also a former aide to several CBC members.

The campaign also hired Butterfield’s daughter, Valeisha Butterfield-Jones, as its national youth vote director in the Chicago campaign office.

Rep. Maxine Waters, perhaps the Member most vocal with her concerns months ago, played down any lingering friction.

“That’s all over,” the California Democrat said Wednesday. “It never was anything.”

The administration topped the hires with other gestures, such as having Obama grab a meal in Los Angeles at Roscoe’s House of Chicken ’n Waffles with Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.).

Obama met Wednesday with an NAACP official to discuss the American Jobs Act, and the day before, he signed an executive order turning Virginia’s Fort Monroe, a site central to the history of slavery, into a national monument.

The White House also debuted an African-American newsletter that it sends to a listserv, which looks to highlight the administration’s accomplishments on behalf of the black community.

The White House did not respond to requests for comment by press time.

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