JONATHAN CHAIT FEBRUARY 15, 2010
Sunday's New York Times had a terrific investigative story about the Congressional Black Caucus's use of creative fundraising tactics to soak up corporate cash:
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.
I wrote a TRB in 2007 about the purchasing of the caucus. My column focused less on the fundraising and more on the policy--ways in which right-wing business interests attracted CBC support on the flimsiest pretext:
Nearly everybody was baffled when, half a dozen years ago, the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) mounted the strongest resistance to campaign finance reform within the Democratic Party. One CBC member, Al Wynn of Maryland, even co-sponsored (along with then-Ohio Republican and current federal inmate Bob Ney) the counter-measure designed to kill reform. Numerous other Black Caucus members sided with Wynn. "You have the potential for opposites to come together," said Representative Bennie Thompson of Mississippi. "I'm talking about liberal African Americans and conservative white Republicans." Thompson has proven prophetic. Somehow, the Congressional Black Caucus has become the party's most reactionary wing.
Donna Edwards' defeat of Albert Wynn, the member most flagrant about joining in such corrupt bargains, has had a salutary effect, but the problem remains.