Congressional Black Caucus In The Pocket of Corporate Interests
The Congressional Black Caucus has received donations from major corporations such as Wal-Mart and General Motors totaling about $55 million from 2004 to 2008. Out of that amount, only about $1 million was used by the caucus’s political action committee. The remainder went to nonprofit and charity groups which are not subjected to federal political fund-raising rules.
The 41 member Congressional Black Caucus which calls itself "The Conscience of Congress since 1971" was formed in 1971 and initially had 13 members.
Today the caucus includes Representative Charles E. Rangel, chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, Representative John Conyers Jr., chairman of the Judiciary Committee, and the third-ranking House member, Representative James E. Clyburn of South Carolina.
According to an article in Saturday's New York Times, the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation is comprised of executives and lobbyists from Anheuser-Busch, Boeing, Citigroup, Coca-Cola, Dell, Heineken, Verizon, Wal-Mart, and the pharmaceutical makers Amgen and GlaxoSmithKline. In 2009, during the caucus's biggest annual event, which is held every September in Washington, the biggest sponsors were pharmaceutical giants Amgen and Eli Lilly.
The caucus is allowed to collect unlimited amounts of donations not subjected to federal political fund-raising rules from corporations and labor unions through its network of nonprofit groups and charities. In 2008, Wal-Mart, AT&T, General Motors, Coca-Cola, nd Altria, the nations largest tobacco company, paid off the mortgage on the caucus's $4 million dollar headquarters in Washington D.C..
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.
Caucus leaders said the giving had not influenced them.
“We’re unbossed and unbought,” said Representative Barbara Lee, Democrat of California and chairwoman of the caucus. “Historically, we’ve been known as the conscience of the Congress, and we’re the ones bringing up issues that often go unnoticed or just aren’t on the table.”
But many campaign finance experts question the unusual structure.
“The claim that this is a truly philanthropic motive is bogus — it’s beyond credulity,” said Meredith McGehee, policy director at the Campaign Legal Center in Washington, a nonpartisan group that monitors campaign finance and ethics issues. “Members of Congress should not be allowed to have these links. They provide another pocket, and a very deep pocket, for special-interest money that is intended to benefit and influence officeholders.”
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