NYT: The Corruption of the Congressional Black Caucus 

Today's New York Times has a bombshell of an investigation into the Congressional Black Caucus. Here's an interesting fact from the article -- "All eight open House investigations involve caucus members, and most center on accusations of improper ties to private businesses." The bottom line is that it appears the Congressional Black Caucus is devoted to two things -- spending millions of dollars on lavish parties and raising money from corporations and lobbyists. And many of the caucus' fundraising arrangements are suspect at best:

From 2004 to 2008, the Congressional Black Caucus’s political and charitable wings took in at least $55 million in corporate and union contributions, according to an analysis by The New York Times, an impressive amount even by the standards of a Washington awash in cash. Only $1 million of that went to the caucus’s political action committee; the rest poured into the largely unregulated nonprofit network. (Data for 2009 is not available.)

The caucus says its nonprofit groups are intended to help disadvantaged African-Americans by providing scholarships and internships to students, researching policy and holding seminars on topics like healthy living.

But the bulk of the money has been spent on elaborate conventions that have become a high point of the Washington social season, as well as the headquarters building, golf outings by members of Congress and an annual visit to a Mississippi casino resort.

In 2008, the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation spent more on the caterer for its signature legislative dinner and conference — nearly $700,000 for an event one organizer called “Hollywood on the Potomac” — than it gave out in scholarships, federal tax records show.

There is, of course, the pernicious influence of lobbyists at work:

Even as it has used its status as a civil rights organization to become a fund-raising power in Washington, the caucus has had to fend off criticism of ties to companies whose business is seen by some as detrimental to its black constituents.

These include cigarette companies, Internet poker operators, beer brewers and the rent-to-own industry, which has become a particular focus of consumer advocates for its practice of charging high monthly fees for appliances, televisions and computers.

Caucus leaders said the giving had not influenced them.

Not influenced them, eh?

For instance, Representative Danny K. Davis, Democrat of Illinois, once backed legislation that would have severely curtailed the rent-to-own industry, criticized in urban districts like his on the West Side of Chicago. But Mr. Davis last year co-sponsored legislation supported by the stores after they led a well-financed campaign to sway the caucus, including a promise to provide computers to a jobs program in Chicago named for him. He denies any connection between the industry’s generosity and his shift.


The board of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation includes executives and lobbyists from Boeing, Wal-Mart, Dell, Citigroup, Coca-Cola, Verizon, Heineken, Anheuser-Busch and the drug makers Amgen and GlaxoSmithKline. All are hefty donors to the caucus.

Some of the biggest donors also have seats on the second caucus nonprofit organization — one that can help their businesses. This group, the Congressional Black Caucus Political Education and Leadership Institute, drafts positions on issues before Congress, including health care and climate change.

This means, for example, that the lobbyists and executives from coal, nuclear and power giants like Peabody Energy and Entergy helped draft a report in the caucus’s name that includes their positions on controversial issues. One policy document issued by the Black Caucus Institute last year asserted that the financial impact of climate change legislation should be weighed before it is passed, a major industry stand.

The New York Times deserves big credit for not pulling any punches on this out of political correctness. Read the whole thing.

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Mark Hemingway

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