Friday, April 22, 2016

Donna Edwards And The CBC


Although the Congressional Black Caucus's 501 (c)(4) has some CBC members on it, the board is primarily a gaggle of sleazy Beltway corporate lobbyists and consultants, not quite as bad as the notorious CBC PAC board, but not on the side of the angels by any stretch of any imagination. Conservative Democrat Angela Rye is on both boards. Wednesday morning the Bernie-hating Rye (of Impact Strategies), blasted "white progressives" on her Twitter account for pointing out that the CBC is a virtual vacuum cleaner for bribes from many of the worst corporate interests in Washington. According to investigative reporter lee Fang, she was responding to Black Lives Matter calling the CBC out for too cozy a relationship with Big Tobacco, although not even Rye could actually think someone is going to equate Black Lives Matter with the "white progressives" she hates with such a passion.

By February, political activists in the black community-- like Black Lives Matter-- were already denouncing the CBC for selling out to the Establishment by tacitly backing Chris Van Hollen's Maryland Senate race against CBC member Donna Edwards. The hate-filled Rye doesn't just hate Bernie and white progressives, she harbors an intense antipathy towards Donna Edwards and has worked with the corrupt Al Wynn to undermine Edwards at every opportunity. Needless to say corporate shills like Rye weren't comfortable reading this from Color of Change:
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.

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 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.

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.
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.

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.

... 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.
Rachel Bade's Politico piece about Donna meeting with CBC members last week only scratches the surface of the tension between principled and dedicated legislators like Edwards who are in it to serve their constituents, and the careerist hacks who have very different priorities.
Only four of the 46 CBC members-- Reps. Gwen Moore of Wisconsin, Lacy Clay of Missouri, Robin Kelly of Illinois and Hank Johnson of Georgia-- are backing Edwards over Van Hollen, an unusually small number for a group known for standing by fellow African-American lawmakers. Meanwhile, Van Hollen has been making hay over his growing number of endorsements from black political leaders in Maryland, including some in Edwards’ district, though he has yet to be endorsed by a CBC member.

Edwards, who won her House seat by defeating Al Wynn, a popular member of the CBC, in a Democratic primary in 2008, has had a strained relationship with many black lawmakers from the start. But with she and Van Hollen running nearly neck-and-neck in a primary that many expected Van Hollen to win easily, Edwards has been reaching out over the past two weeks to members of the CBC to ask why they’re not backing her bid to be only the second black woman elected to the U.S. Senate. She’s also pressed her case with lawmakers at the Democratic Club restaurant, where members often eat.

Sources close to the CBC and lawmakers familiar with the conversations said some of Edwards’ CBC colleagues responded to her in frank terms. Members of the CBC have long considered her abrasive and said she’s not an easy colleague to work with.

“She has not developed good relationships with the members of the CBC, quite frankly,” said a source familiar with the CBC. “A lot of people find her difficult.”
Yes, people who want to get something done for the downtrodden and disadvantaged and who refuse to be bought by the "generous" corporate lobbyists who are as much the mainstay of the CBC as they are they mainstay of the New Dems and Blue Dogs, are always considered "difficult" by the Beltway elites who just want to see the pay-off rolling in smoothly. There is no greater sin in that world than successfully challenging a corrupt member who brought goodies to the table the way Al Wynn did-- and, now one of Washington's slimiest lobbyists-- still does. The corrupt conservatives who dominate the CBC have never forgiven Donna for ending his congressional career-- and for challenging him on a package of issues that could be used against most of them.

Angela Rye

True that only 4 CBC members endorsed Donna, but we found over a dozen who had contributed to her campaign, including stalwart progressives Barbara Lee (CA), Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ) and Yvette Clarke (NY). But so did Jim Clyburn (SC), CBC Chair G.K. Butterfield (NC), Marcia Fudge (OH), Joyce Beatty (OH), Sanford Bishop (GA), Corrine Brown (FL), Hank Johnson (GA), Sheila Jackson Lee (TX), Bennie Thompson (MS), Cedric Richmond (LA), Robin Kelly (IL), Eleanor Norton Holmes (DC), Danny Davis (IL), Lacy Clay (MO) and Gwen Moore (WI). Gwen's endorsement flew in the face of the bullshit Rye, Wynn and the other corruptionist are spreading about her on Van Hollen's behalf. "I am proud to endorse my friend and colleague Donna Edwards for the United States Senate in Maryland. Over the years, I’ve worked closely with Donna to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act, tackle income inequality, and stand up to the special interests that try to dismantle the middle class and hurt our most vulnerable. I know when Donna steps into the halls of the United States Senate, she’ll continue the fight to make sure women receive equal pay for equal work and that we protect the victims of domestic abuse, not the aggressors."
Edwards’ defenders, however, say her fellow CBC members should be rallying around a black woman who stands a decent chance of reaching the Senate, where only one Democrat-- New Jersey’s Cory Booker-- is African-American. They say her fellow House members are punishing her for failing to schmooze with CBC members on a regular basis-- and because Van Hollen is known to be close to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.

“Donna is about taking care of the business of governing-- and she is not particularly focused on backslapping and hobnobbing with everyone,” said Johnson. “Some members socialize, are very warm toward each other, play together, drink together and sit together on the floor-- and that’s fine. There are others who, for whatever reason, have a different trajectory, and I respect Donna for just being the person and representative that she is.”
Tuesday's the day. Van Hollen's bullying and avalanche of establishment money have worked to bolster his polling. If you know anyone in Maryland, please urge them to get out and vote for Donna Tuesday. The whole country needs her in the Senate. No one needs another cardboard cutout like Chris Van Hollen in the Senate or anywhere else.
Goal Thermometer

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