What good is the Democratic Congressional Campaign
Committee (DCCC) to the re-election of Black members of the U.S.
House of Representatives? The inquiring minds of the CBC Monitor
would like to know after reading numerous articles describing what
amounts to political extortion on the part of DCCC Chair Rep. Rahm
Emmanuel (D-IL), who forces Democratic House members to pay the
equivalent of a congressmember’s salary on a sliding scale – $100,000
to start, and ranging to $600,000, depending on leadership status.
How does this payment of “dues” help members of the Black Caucus?
The DCCC fund, which finances incumbents and candidates
favored by Rep. Emmanuel, does little to nothing for CBC members.
To meet Emmanuel’s demands for exorbitant dues, CBC
members and other Democrats are pressured to turn to corporate interests
for donations. Most Black members of congress hold what are considered
“safe” seats in their districts although, theoretically, any CBC
member can go from “safe incumbent” to what is referred to on the
DCCC’s website as “frontline” members.
A “frontline” member is a congressperson considered
vulnerable to electoral defeat. According to the Capitol Hill newspaper
Roll Call, congressional incumbents who are “frontline” do not have
to pay the $100,000 (minimum) dues, and the DCCC pours money into
their campaigns to assist them in winning re-election. Very
few CBC members are classed as “frontline,” yet they are expected
to pay their dues to the DCCC or have their privileges revoked.
The scheme puts Rep. Emmanuel, a prominent member
of the rightist Democratic Leadership Council, in the position of
king- or queen-maker. He decides which candidates and incumbents
will benefit from a fund to which all Democrats in the House contribute.
Where was the DCCC when Rep. Cynthia McKinney (D-GA)
faced a successful primary challenge in 2002, when Georgia’s open
primary allowed registered Republicans to vote for McKinney’s “Democratic”
opponent, Denise Majette? McKinney sure could have benefited
from DCCC largesse then.
It appears that the DCCC was equally absent when McKinney
ran to regain her seat in 2004. No matter. McKinney won handily,
with more than 60% of the vote, and less than $100,000 in her campaign
Actually, there should be more CBC members classified
as “frontline” – vulnerable to defeat. Two thirds of the Black Caucus
voted for the telecommunications giants’ horrendous COPE
Act, which would end Internet
neutrality. The CBC Monitor’s twice-yearly Report
Card lists five members as “derelict,” based on their voting
Yet, none of the “derelict” or “underachiever” Black
members of congress are on the DCCC’s “frontline” list. These members
solicit plenty of corporate contributions and, in return, forsake
their commitment to the Black community.
The following chart (from Roll Call) shows which congresspersons
are seriously in arrears to the DCCC.
The chart was also posted on the web site,
Daily Kos. One reader noted that the DCCC’s dues regime actually
endangers the reelection chances of Black Indianapolis Rep.
“…you have to remember
that she (Carson) ‘owes’ $150,000 and only has $270,000 for
her campaign. That would take away more than half out
of her war chest away from her …. She would, in effect, be giving
away half of her cash and risking her own re-election to fund
someone else’s campaign.”
to note: when members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus believed
their issues were being taken for granted by the DCCC, they
stood together as a body and told House Minority Leader Nancy
Pelosi (D-CA) as well as Chairman Emmanuel that they weren’t
paying a dime in dues until they got a seat at the Democratic
Caucus table (La Prensa San Diego, March 11, 2005).
The result? Pelosi caved in and met
with an angry Hispanic Caucus soon after learning of their demands.
Emmanuel followed up a week later. The Hispanic Caucus
got what they wanted: inclusion in the decision-making processes
of Democratic leadership.
Too bad CBC Chairman Rep. Mel Watt (D-NC)
has failed to leverage the weight of the Congressional Black
Caucus in similar fashion.
Under Rahm Emmanuel, the DCCC has become
an arm of the Democratic Leadership Council – a mechanism that
forces members of all political persuasions to fund incumbents
and candidates favored by the corporate wing of the party. Emmanuel’s
dues demands often exceed the amount of money congresspersons
spend on their own campaigns, forcing them to turn to corporate
funders for support. No good can come of it.
Leutisha Stills can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The CBC Monitor's website is cbcmonitor.voxunion.com.