All-Dem House Caucus Makes Millions Selling Influence
FEBRUARY 16, 2010
The all-Democrat Congressional Black Caucus is a shady enterprise that skirts federal fundraising laws by using unregulated “charities” and “nonprofits” to raise tens of millions of dollars from corporations and industries seeking to influence members.
Extremely powerful and influential, the congressional caucus is a fund-raising juggernaut that essentially sells access and influence, according to a major newspaper report that offers scathing details of the group’s crooked dealings. Like so many other Washington political organizations, the Black Caucus has an official fund-raising arm subject to federal rules, but it dodges those laws with a network of “nonprofit groups” that lets it rake in unlimited amounts of cash from corporations and labor unions.
The money is supposed to help disadvantaged African-Americans but instead most of it is spent on lawmakers’ costly golf outings and annual casino jaunts as well as elaborate galas where lobbyists and executives who donate to caucus charities can mingle with lawmakers and push their agendas.
In the last four years alone, the Congressional Black Caucus’s unregulated charitable wings took in at least $55 million but the bulk of the cash was not spent on true charitable causes. Four million dollars—all from major corporations—went to purchase a headquarters on prestigious Embassy Row in Washington D.C. and nearly $1 million was spent on the group’s gala dinner and conference billed as “Hollywood on the Potomac.”
Ironically, much of the cash comes from companies that have long been viewed as detrimental to the group’s crucial black constituents. Among them are cigarette manufacturers, internet poker operators, beer companies and the controversial rent-to-own industry long criticized for charging minorities high monthly fees for appliances and computers.
Anecdotes of unscrupulous deals between black legislators and donors abound in the newspaper article, which points out that all eight open House Ethics Committee investigations focus on Black Caucus members and most involve accusations of improper ties to private businesses. After all, some of the nation’s most powerful lawmakers belong to the group. They include the third-ranking House member (South Carolina’s James Clyburn), four House committee chairmen and more than a dozen subcommittee leaders.
Among the most prominent are New York’s Charles Rangel, chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, and Michigan’s John Conyers, chairman of the Judiciary Committee. Rangel is under investigation for tax evasion, using his office to raise money from corporations with business before him, illegally accepting multiple rent control apartments and hiding assets. Conyers, whose Detroit City Councilwoman wife recently pleaded guilty to bribery, was previously investigated for illegally forcing congressional staffers to be personal servants and work on several state and local campaigns.
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