May 22, 2005

ROAD TO RUIN:

`Ruinous' path leads to White House: Lawyer, political staffer bucked family tradition in working for GOP (WILLIAM DOUGLAS, 5/22/05, Knight Ridder)

Claude Allen recalls the joy and pain of telling his mother about his decision to work for an N.C. congressional candidate.

"I said he was a Republican, and she was most upset," Allen said. "She said, `Oh, please don't do that, you'll ruin your life.' "

Nearly a quarter-century later, Allen is President Bush's top domestic policy adviser, one of the administration's most senior African American members, and a protege of former Sen. Jesse Helms, R-N.C., the conservative who fiercely opposed affirmative action and a federal holiday for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Allen's political path from a Philadelphia row house to Tobacco Road to a second-floor West Wing office was a long, and sometimes controversial one that few African Americans have traveled.

Republican Party officials and Christian conservatives regard Allen as a star on the rise, a values-conscious bureaucrat who helped reform Virginia's welfare system and championed sexual-abstinence programs at both state and federal levels.

"He's done a real good job, a very able man," said former Virginia Republican Gov. James Gilmore, who hired Allen when Gilmore was the state's attorney general. "He knows how to manage, he has a very good policy compass."

But Allen's critics, especially within the African American community, see a Helms disciple, a conservative ideologue who, as Virginia's health and human resources director, prevented the use of Medicaid funds for an abortion for an impoverished incest victim.

"I don't think his beliefs and the beliefs of the NAACP and black people in general are harmonious," said King Salim Khalfani, the Virginia NAACP's executive director, who clashed with Allen on a number of issues.


They don't call it the National Association for the Advancement of Certain People for nuthin'.

Posted by Orrin Judd at May 22, 2005 1:51 PM
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