Sunday, February 14, 2010

Should we Expect More From the Congressional Black Caucus?

In a previous post, Luis referred to this excellent article from the NY Times by Eric Lipton and Eric Lichtblau. In his post, Luis raises a very important question: whether we should expect more from the Congressional Black Caucus. In my view is the answer is a clear yes.

Luis's important question is whether we expect more from our black leaders than white leaders. The article leaves one with the very clear impression that CBC members have accepted contributions from corporations in exchange for access and votes. Luis's question is whether this makes CBC members any different from any other politicians. Should we expect more of black congressional leaders?

My view is a definitive yes. The black community overall is in such dire straits we can't have the CBC selling out the interests of their constituencies to support lavish parties. Moreover, the CBC has long served as the conscience of the nation. An important part of the CBC's influence (and that of other civil rights group) is their moral authority. What makes this story interesting and what makes it news is the fact that the institution that served as the conscience of the nation is engaged in influence peddling. (By the way, if you don't believe me about the moral authority of CBC members, recall that in Georgia v. Ashcroft, the Supreme Court largely accepted the legitimacy of a redistricting plan because John Lewis supported the plan.)

The fact that all of Washington may also be up for sale, is of no moment. As we all tell our kids, it does not matter if everybody else is doing it. So, yes we should expect more of our black leaders, not least because the black community needs all of its leaders working together in the community's best interest.

What the NY Times article describes is deplorable. The CBC has set-up a number of non-profit entities but the money is not being used primarily to support the non-profit purposes but mainly to support parties and pet projects. Take for example the CBC's Political Education and Leadership Institute. The mission of the Institute is:
is to provide political education and training to the next generation of African American leadership. The Institute provides a vehicle for those who seek to support the charge of establishing positive role models in all walks of life, particularly public service - the noble role of putting service above self. The Institute also performs critical research of political issues that affect the African American community.
When I visited the Institute's website, I saw one conference a year dedicated to providing leadership. I did not see a single report on issues critical to the Black community. The website gives credence to the implication of the NY Times story that these entities are largely shells. They have a nice facade and do some substantive work, but that is not their primary purpose.

We need to hold our leadership to the highest standard. The CBC has done great work over the years. But the facts described in the Article calls for accountability.

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