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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 coffers.

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 records.

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. Julia Carson.

“…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.”

Interesting 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 leutishastills@hotmail.com. The CBC Monitor's website is cbcmonitor.voxunion.com.

 

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July 20, 2006
Issue 192

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