Trusted Institutions? Be careful... And Always Read The Small Print And Between The Lines
Color of Change I trust. The Congressional Black Caucus PAC... uh, no. Color of Change sent this out yesterday to its members regarding the Senate race in Maryland which pits an inspiring black woman with a proven super-progressive record in Congress, Donna Edwards, against an unaccomplished white-bread hack and captive of Wall Street, Chris Van Hollen, the former failed DCCC chairman who lost 36 House seats running the inept and corrupt organization.
A Washington, DC Political Action Committee (PAC) that claims to speak for Black people but is really a mouthpiece for corporate power recently made two very big announcements that could impact important upcoming elections. Two weeks ago, the Congressional Black Caucus PAC, with it's lobbyist-dominated Board of Directors, made a high-profile endorsement of Hilary Clinton and quietly decided not to endorse, fellow CBC member, Rep. Donna Edwards' historic bid to become only the second Black woman to be elected to the Senate.Blue America has endorsed Donna, who we've known since 2005. We know her intellect and character will make a difference in a Senate dominated by corrupt servants of the special interests like Mitch McConnell and Chuck Schumer. Her opponent, Chris Van Hollen, is just another vile Mitch McConnell/Chuck Schumer wanna-be. The best thing that can be said about him is that he's ineffective. Please consider giving what you can to Donna's grassroots campaign by clicking on the thermometer below:
The lobbyists sitting on the CBC PAC’s board represent the worst of the worst-- companies that are notorious in the mistreatment and exploitation of Black people. The depth of corporate influence over the CBC PAC is so troubling because its endorsements carry the name of the Congressional Black Caucus, trading off a name that is wrapped in the moral authority of the civil rights movement. For hours, media incorrectly reported that the Congressional Black Caucus and not the CBC PAC endorsed Secretary Hillary Clinton for President. Meanwhile, the CBC PAC's corporate board members and donors who represent private prisons, big tobacco and the anti-worker National Restaurant Association were nowhere to be seen. This is wrong and the CBC must act to stop it now.
The Conscience of Congress?
Founded in 1971 by Black elected officials like Shirley Chisholm and Ron Dellums, the Congressional Black Caucus has built its reputation as “the Conscience of the Congress,” often voting as a powerful bloc and joining together as a singular voice for Black people. The CBC PAC, on the other hand, was founded in 1994 and is an entirely separate entity that trades on the name of the CBC and is made up of Washington lobbyists and 8 (out of 46) Black Caucus members. In fact, when the CBC PAC rolled out its Presidential endorsement earlier this month, it was so widely reported as coming from the CBC itself that more progressive members of the caucus had to issue public statements clarifying that the PAC does not represent the full caucus and that they had not been consulted on the endorsement decision.
The day following the endorsement in the Presidential race, Politico reported that the CBC PAC would not be endorsing Rep. Donna Edwards, a progressive hero, CBC member, and one of two Black women candidates in a competitive primary vying to become only the second Black woman ever elected to the U.S. Senate. According to reports, the decision was largely driven by CBC PAC board member, Al Wynn, the Congressman-turned-lobbyist who lost his seat to Edwards in 2008. Black voters ousted Wynn for his corporate ties back in 2008 but thanks to the corporate board of the CBC PAC, he is still speaking for Black people. If corporate lobbyists on the CBC PAC's board can decide to withhold support from someone like Rep. Edwards, why are they being allowed to operate under the banner of the Congressional Black Caucus?
Bought & Bossed
Although the Koch Brothers are absent, the lobbyists sitting on the CBC PAC’s board represent the worst of the worst-- companies that are notorious in the mistreatment and exploitation of Black people. As The Intercept reported:
Members of the CBC PAC board include Daron Watts, a lobbyist for Purdue Pharma, the maker of the highly addictive opioid OxyContin; Mike Mckay and Chaka Burgess, both lobbyists for Navient, the student loan giant that was spun off of Sallie Mae; former Rep. Albert Wynn, D-Md., a lobbyist who represents a range of clients, including work last year on behalf of Lorillard Tobacco, the maker of Newport cigarettes; and William A. Kirk, who lobbies for a cigar industry trade group on a range of tobacco regulations.Ironically, both Democrat Presidential candidates have shunned contributions from private prison lobbyists, while the CBC PAC remains silent about its relationship with them. The CBC PAC has taken thousands of dollars from Akin Gump, the lobbying firm that has made millions of dollars lobbying to protect their private prison client, Corrections Corporation of America over the last several years. Black caucus members should be leading, not following the disastrous trend towards more corporate control over government.
And a significant percentage of the $7,000 raised this cycle by the CBC PAC from individuals was donated by white lobbyists, including Vic Fazio, who represents Philip Morris and served for years as a lobbyist to Corrections Corporation of America, and David Adams, a former Clinton aide who now lobbies for Wal-Mart, the largest gun distributor in America.
In addition, the CBC PAC has taken in even larger amounts directly from the Political Action Committees of harmful companies and industries. Anti-worker groups like the National Restaurant Association have given thousands to CBC PAC while they have worked to keep worker wages and benefits at a minimum. Other corporate donors include pay day loans company Cash America, Big Tobacco front group PURO PAC, and the telecommunications companies that worked to bring an end to an open and free internet.
As if it wasn’t bad enough to use the brand of the CBC as a front for corporate lobbyists, the CBC PAC board members used the event of their Presidential endorsement to deride young Black voters who may favor a different candidate. On a stage bought and paid for by some of the biggest corporations in America, Rep. G.K. Butterfield painted a picture of naïve and uninformed voters claiming “many of them are inexperienced and have not gone through a presidential election cycle before." Young Black voters were a decisive factor in securing victory for President Obama in both of his elections but the CBC PAC would rather criticize young people than their own corporate benefactors.
We saw this type of targeted corporate influence during the net neutrality debate, with big telecom lobbyists lining up to cut checks to Black leaders willing to destroy the open Internet. In fact many of the Black elected officials who opposed net neutrality also sit on the board of the PAC alongside bad corporations. This form of “civil rights washing”-- of wrapping dangerous policies in a cloak of support from Black gatekeepers-- cannot be trusted or lifted up as the voice of Black people.
To continue on, the CBC PAC must be remade.
To be clear, Color of Change has not endorsed any candidate for President. This isn’t about Hillary or Bernie, although they both have improved their stances on racial justice issues under pressure from the Black community and our allies, they still have room to grow. This is about changing the CBC PAC to stop it from representing itself as the voice of Black communities when it is dominated by some of the worst corporations for Black people.