THE CONGRESSIONAL BLACK CAUCUS

May 31, 2011

The Following article originated at and is taken from DiscoverTheNetworks.com

The Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) is an organization of black congressional representatives. While it is officially "nonpartisan," the CBC since its founding has functioned as part of the left wing of the Democratic Party

The CBC was established in January 1969. Its founders were Representatives John Conyers and Charles Diggs of Michigan, Ron Dellums and Gus Hawkins of California, Charles Rangel and Shirley Chisholm of New York, Louis Stokes of Ohio, Ralph Metcalf and George Collins of Illinois, Parren Mitchell of Maryland, Robert Nix of Pennsylvania, William Clay of Missouri, and Delegate from the District of Columbia Walter Fauntroy.

Until 1994, when voters returned a Republican House of Representatives, the CBC had been defined as an "official office of Congress" and as such was provided its own offices, staff and lavish budget. The CBC now claims as its address the office of whichever member is serving as Chairman. CBC funding flows largely through the tax-exempt Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, Inc. and is used to fund conferences, parties and other activities to benefit caucus Democratic leaders and their families. Membership in the CBC is accorded automatically to any African-American elected to the House of Representatives, unless that member refuses membership. There have been six Congressmen in the past to apply for membership, five Hispanic and one white. All were denied membership.

As of April 2011, the CBC consisted of 5 officers and 38 additional members. 42 are Democrats, and 24 of them were also members of the radical Progressive Caucus in the House of Representatives. After the 2010 mid-term elections, black Republicans Allen West of Florida and Tim Scott of South Carolina were allowed to become members despite the objections of several members saying "they did not represent the interests of African-Americans." Rep West joined saying he wanted to be in touch first hand with "the goings on of the group", while Rep. Scott declined saying, the "CBC does not represent the interests of conservative Americans, nor the interests of hard working black families as a whole."

In the 1990s Republican Congressman J.C. Watts of Oklahoma refused CBC membership and described unnamed black Democratic leaders as "race-hustling poverty pimps." He was elevated to the third highest position in the Republican congressional leadership but chose not to seek reelection in 2002.  Another Republican, Rep. Gary Franks elected from Connecticut in 1990, accepted membership in the CBC but soon found that, despite paying $5,000 in dues, he was never informed of some of its meetings and was locked out of others by Democrats who wanted to keep what they discussed in those meetings secret from Republicans. In 1993, after Franks threatened to quit the Caucus, then-chairman Kweisi Mfume of Maryland persuaded him to stay by agreeing to a deal. Chairman Mfume's deal was that the "Democratic Caucus" of the CBC -- i.e., every member except Republican Franks -- would continue to exclude him from their private meetings where they voted to set policies. But these policies, Mfume promised, would then be discussed and voted on again by the full CBC, where Franks was a minority of one.

When Franks was defeated for reelection in 1996, CBC member Bill Clay of Missouri wrote a six-page letter to the departing lawmaker, characterizing Franks as a "foot shuffling, head-scratching 'Amos and Andy' brand of 'Uncle Tom-ism'" and a "Negro Dr. Kevorkian, a pariah, who gleefully assists in suicidal conduct to destroy his own race." Rep. Clay described Franks as one of those "Negro wanderers" whose "goal … is to maim and kill other blacks for the gratification and entertainment of -- for lack of a more accurately descriptive word -- ultra-conservative white racists." No other member of the CBC was willing to condemn or criticize Clay's remarks.

According to Carol M. Swain, writing in the The American Prospect, "[T]he most costly mistake" made by the CBC "was probably its apparent embrace of Louis Farrakhan."  The Caucus made a "covenant" with Farrakhan in 1994 which it was forced to rescind shortly thereafter as result of public outrage. "...Khalid Muhammad, a disciple of Farrakhan, delivered a venomous speech at Kean College attacking Jews, Catholics, and other groups," wrote Swain. "The ensuing public outrage was so great that it led the Congress, for the first time in history, to pass a resolution condemning the speech of a private citizen. Twenty [Congressional Black] caucus members voted for the resolution, eleven voted against, four voted present, and three failed to vote as the measure passed the House 361 to 34." But in 1995, a year later, new CBC Chairman Donald Payne led his Caucus to endorse and take part in Farrakhan's "Million Man March" in Washington, D.C.

In April 2009, a delegation of seven CBC members traveled to Havana to meet with former Cuban president Fidel Castro. After the meeting, they praised Castro as a warm and hospitable host, and called for an end to America’s longstanding ban on travel to Cuba. According to CBC Chairwoman Barbara Lee, “The fifty-year embargo just hasn’t worked. The bottom line is that we believe its time to open dialogue with Cuba.” Reflecting on her moments with Castro, Lee said, “It was quite a moment to behold.”  Rep. Bobby Rush said of his conversation with Castro, "It was almost like listening to an old friend…. In my household I told Castro he is known as the ultimate survivor."  Rep. Laura Richardson, meanwhile, said Castro was receptive to President (and former CBC member) Barack Obama’s message of reconciliation. “He listened,” said Richardson. “He [Castro] said the exact same thing as President Obama said.” Added Richardson: “He looked right into my eyes and he said, ‘How can we help? How can we help President Obama?’”

The CBC led the charge not to defund ACORN following revelations in September, 2009 that the organization would aid in an attempt to defraud the federal government out of taxpayer dollars for the purpose of financing a brothel staffed by more than a dozen underage illegal aliens from El Salvador. Despite overwhelming Democratic support for its defunding all but one member of the CBC voted to keep up the funding.

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