Kevin Lewis, a spokesman for Obama, implicitly denied the White House favors one group over the other, saying its job is to reach out to groups of all kind.
“The White House Office of Public Engagement is the open front door of the White House for the American public. OPE holds numerous meetings and events with a variety of groups, organizations, and stakeholders to discuss a variety of pressing issues–including five meetings with representatives from the National Black Chamber of Commerce over the last two years,” Lewis said.
Obama’s team was “excited” when the U.S. Black Chamber formed, Busby recalled. “From their perspective, they were looking for an organization that wasn’t politically biased.”
The U.S. Black Chamber, Inc., Busby said, has worked in “disseminating” the Obama administration’s message on how health care reform will impact businesses and, on that issue, pushed to eliminate a burdensome tax reporting requirement that Congress and Obama just repealed.
For Alford, a particularly stinging part of Obama’s favor of Busby is that the U.S. Black Chamber is barely off the ground.
For instance, the group does not have its own office yet, instead sharing space with Women In Public Policy, a group representing women-owned businesses. Alford’s associate called U.S. Black Chamber a “bogus Potemkin village shell organization.”
(Busby says 80 black chambers of commerce across the country, and especially in Texas and California, have already signed up.)
There are also the cases of mistaken identity.
“The I.R.S. called here last week looking for Ron Busby,” Alford said.
In a lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, the National Black Chamber of Commerce says Busby is infringing its trademarked name.
The U.S. Black Chamber, the lawsuit says, even once posted video of Alford testifying before Congress on its website.
Busby’s group has filed motions to dismiss the case, which is still pending.
Asked about Alford, Busby said he was “trying to stay out of the mud.”
“We are an alternative…but options are good. Why not support all the options?” Busby asked.
But in other forums, Busby speaks as if Alford’s group never existed at all, that no one had attempted to represent black businesses. And according to Alford’s lawsuit, he’s made active attempts to poach membership from the National Black Chamber of Commerce.
For Alford, besides the bitter issue of an Obama-backed rival, there’s a deeper issue of how a supporter like him could find himself on skids for what he considers a few honest policy disagreements.
“I’m in pretty good company,” Alford said, “he treats Jesse Jackson like the plague. He treats Tavis Smiley like the plague. Cornell West is now an enemy. He doesn’t listen.”
Recalling the first time he met Obama personally, Alford said the president kept a cool demeanor. “It’s forced. It’s like talking to a college professor you don’t know. ‘Hi. Bye. See you later.’
“I would have one-on-ones with George W. Bush. After Katrina, George W. Bush asked me, ‘what do you think?’ I said, ‘I think you’re doing a lousy job, but you can turn it around.’ Bush said ‘give me three weeks.’ And he did it,” Alford said.