How Barbara Lee ‘Spoke For Me’ 12 Years Ago in the Aftermath of 9-11

BarbaraLeeofficial-225We can’t talk about the events around 9-11 in 2001 without looking at the historic lone vote taken by Oakland Congresswoman Barbara Lee on September 14 2001 against then President George Bush‘s blank check to fight the War on Terror..Two days after she cast that vote we did an interview with her where she explained why she made her decision.

It came at a time when folks were attacking her, calling her un-Patriotic and threatening her life to the point that she needed Secret Service for protection..

Even the local NAACP chapter head at the time Shannon Reed penned an Op-Ed that ran in newspapers around the country bashing on Lee and basically calling her un-patriotic.. Complicating her situation was her chief of staff at the time Sandre Swanson had lost his cousin on one of the flights en route to San Francisco.. Flight 93..Her voting against Bush was seen as act of treason. The desire for revenge was high, but Lee stood her ground..

Below are her remarks from the floor 3 days after the Attacks

It wasn’t too long after when folks realized that Lee was right.. Below is the interview we did with her that initially ran on KMEL that Sunday Night and later Hard Knock Radio on KPFA that Monday.. as well as Op-Ed piece that ran in Black that talked about the importance of defending Lee

Click the link below to download or listen to the HKR Intv

Click the link below to download or listen to the HKR Intv

HKR-Barbara Lee Interview from 2001

In Defense Of Representative Barbara Lee

by Cedric Muhammad

The more unlikely an event, the more information it yields, the maxim goes. That is our reaction to Rep. Barbara Lee’s (D-Ca.) decision to vote against the resolution authorizing President Bush’s use of “all necessary and appropriate force” – military action plus – in response to last week’s terrorist attack against the U.S.

Unfortunately, Rep. Lee’s vote has not been viewed in a similar light by many political observers, media professionals and American citizens across the country.

But Rep. Lee’s position was not only reasonable, it was appropriate and logical considering the political context out of which Rep. Lee operates.

The Congresswoman sits in the seat of former Black Caucus member Ron Dellums. Dellums, who served California’s 9th district for almost 3 decades, was a pacifist and an outspoken critic of U.S. military action, as were many of his constituents who live in both Oakland and Berkeley. Rep. Lee was Congressman Dellums’ chief of staff and succeeded him.

True to that tradition, Rep. Lee has made a political statement regarding not just her own personal beliefs but the political tradition of her constituency which was both reflected and shaped by Rep. Dellums. The Dellums legacy alone justifies and explains the Congresswoman’s vote, not to mention the fact that Rep. Lee was reelected last year with 85% of the vote.

A source within the Black Caucus told yesterday, “Rep. Lee does have a mandate by sitting in her seat – Congressman Dellums’ old seat. She represents her district well, whose sentiments have traditionally leaned toward diplomacy. Her constituents definitely support her”

But nationally the story has been different. The Congresswoman has received fierce opposition from many across the country. In addition, Rep. Lee has received death threats as a result of her vote and is currently carrying out her legislative duties in Washington D.C. under the watchful eye of a personal bodyguard and police protection.

Those who oppose her action in our estimation are not weighing the context and rationale for her decision but even more importantly, are not considering the enormous value of this Black Congresswoman. At a time when the country is grieving over the tremendous loss of life and angry over the effects of the terrorist attack on this country, Rep. Lee, fully aware of the consequences of her position, decided to vote her conscience and use whatever influence she has in a manner that promotes clear thinking and reasoning at a time when it would be just as easy to jump on a bandwagon without knowing why the majority was correct.

This is not to say that the 420 who voted in the opposite direction of Rep. Lee are necessarily wrong. And that is our point, which also reveals the inestimable value of Rep. Lee’s position. No one in Congress really knows the details of what happened on September 11th or what led up to it. Even the supposed link to Ussama Bin laden, though suspected, has not been proven yet. This is not a mere inconvenience but a critical aspect to the search for justice and peace and the effort to win international support against the perpetrators of the WTC and Pentagon attacks. As the Wall St. Journal wrote yesterday in a front-page article:

By the standards of the Old West, President Bush has good reason to declare Osama bin Laden wanted in last week’s terrorist attacks, “dead or alive.”

But by 21st-century Western standards of law and international relations, how much actual evidence do investigators have of Mr. bin Laden’s involvement? The answer so far — based on what can be gleaned from public statements and U.S. officials willing to discuss the matter — is not enough.

The Congresswoman’s vote represents the most visible symbol of patience, caution, critical thinking, and we dare say, investigation and diplomacy in the U.S. Congress. Her action speaks louder than words; and the statistic of a 420 – 1 vote is more articulate than any speech that Rep. Lee could have made because it causes one to wonder why 1 person out of 421 has decided to lean against the wind.

She is actually a majority of 1 – a tangible factor of power – who really represents a broad but not yet visible coalition of Americans: Liberals, Conservatives, Progressives, Libertarians, Muslims, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Confucianists, Buddhists, and Atheists who privately hold serious reservations about the rapid movement toward war in this country led by the American political, military, economic and cultural establishmentarians.

That Rep. Lee is not alone in the U.S. Congress is no big secret. Privately, we have learned of several members of Congress, including other members of the Congressional Black Caucus who agree with Rep. Lee but were not willing to publicly demonstrate that fact. For various reasons other members of Congress could not muster the courage to rally to Rep. Lee’s side and vote their beliefs.

Had the vote been 421-0 as it easily could have been, the story would have been written that this was another great display of national unity at a time of crisis. The media which has been a patriotic cheerleader as much as it has provided news, would have comfortably tucked the unanimous vote, had it occurred, in its newly-created “unprecedented unity” file and everyone would have gone about their business. But because Rep. Lee placed a comma where a period would have went, we all have had to pause as a result of the fact that someone disagreed with the popular view.

We have been told by those within the Congressional Black Caucus that no one should expect to see Rep. Lee on Meet The Press, 20/20 or 60 Minutes. Her personality and principles do not encourage her to seek lights, camera and action in order to promote her dissidence. We have been told that she realizes that any mainstream media appearance in the current political atmosphere would lend itself to polarization and her own political “demonization” (she is already being referred to as a communist by many). Some may think that Rep. Lee’s low profile is unfortunate but the more we consider it, we realize the wisdom and benefit from such a disposition.

Rep. Lee’s vote speaks louder than words that could only be diminished by those who would either unintentionally or maliciously misinterpret her vote as a sign of treason or even more ridiculously, as a statement of support for terrorism. By voting and quietly explaining her vote Rep. Lee has ensured that the political establishment of this country did not shut the door on an open, frank and reflective discussion of the who, what, where, when and why of September 11.

We all owe her a debt of gratitude for that, although some may realize it later than others…

Cedric Muhammad
September 20, 2001

Barbara Lee Smashes on the GOP for HCR Repeal

Many of us on the left side of the political spectrum weren’t too happy with all the compromises made to get this Health care bill passed. We wanted single payer, or at least public option, instead we got something that delivers 50 million new customers to insurance companies. The GOP members who are bent on repealing HCR apparently feel that all of us should be on our own to deal with Healthcare… What are your thoughts? For those who don’t know the House just voted to repeal Healthcare Reform

Here’s what our Congresswoman had to say…

Washington, D.C. – Congresswoman Barbara Lee (CA-09) issued the following statement today condemning GOP efforts to repeal patients’ rights. The Republican-led House is expected to repeal the healthcare legislation today.

“Every minute we take on this bill to repeal the important freedoms provided by the health reform law is a critical minute we are not focusing on jobs,” said Congresswoman Barbara Lee.  “What a sham and a shame. Our business should be focusing on getting our economy moving by directly creating jobs and stimulating the economy.

“Instead the Republican leadership wants to add $230 billion to the deficit and empower health insurance companies to take away patient’s rights to make their own health care decisions. By repealing health reform, Republicans will give insurance companies the power to deny coverage to children with pre-existing conditions, deny young people up to the age of 26 the option to stay on their parent’s plans, and drop coverage for pregnant women and breast and prostate cancer patients

“Repeal will further squeeze our seniors by forcing them to pay more for their prescription drugs, and endanger the future solvency of the Medicare Trust Fund.

“Worst of all, the Republican plan to repeal the new law does ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to improve health care for anybody in this country – whether to make health insurance more affordable, to provide greater coverage, to reduce costs, or to improve quality of services.

Literally their idea is to return to the same failed system that has left 50.6 million people, including 7.5 million children, without health insurance.

In the current economic environment – where more people are without coverage and jobs are scarce – making it more difficult for people to access health care or to keep their health coverage makes no sense. Instead we should strengthen and improve the current health care law, first by adding a public option to provide choice and competition and expanding Medicare for all.

“Our goal should be to realize a world where access to health care truly is a fundamental human right and not a privilege enjoyed by the wealthy few.

“Rather than continuing with this political charade, we must answer the President’s call to come together in a spirit of civility and through honest debate find solutions to the current economic crisis and put America back to work.”

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Arizona Massacre: When Will We All Own up to the Climate of Violence?

Nothing happens in a vacuum especially tragedies like the one that took place over the weekend in Tucson, Arizona where Congresswoman Gabrielle ‘Gabby’ Gifford was shot point-blank in the head at the hands of a man named Jared Lee Loughner.

According to reports Gifford is lucky to be alive but when she recovers she is likely to have difficulty speaking…Sadly there  were 5 people who didn’t come home that night. They include a nine-year old girl named Christina Green. She’s the grand-daughter of former Philadelphia Phillies manager Dallas Green.

There was a District Judge named John Roll, 63.There was Gifford’s aide Gabe Zimmerman, 30. There were several elders including; Dorothy Morris, 76; Dorwin Stoddard, 76; and Phyllis Scheck, 79.

Before we move forward let’s think about the people slain for just a moment….Let’s Pause…Let’s Stop, think.. Reflect…

Christina Green

Let’s think about the family of  Christina Taylor Green. Look at your kids. Think about your grandkids. Could you imagine if this was your child that was shot and killed in Tucson?

Think about the fact that the reason young Christina was present on Saturday was because she had just been elected to some sort of student office at school and wanted to further her interest in government. She was eager to meet Congresswoman Gifford to get some pointers. Her distraught parents said she wanted to see democracy in action.

Christina was interested and enthusiastic in a way only a child could be. It was that sort of  innocence and beauty  that was lost the other day in Tucson.

Let’s think about Gabe Zimmerman..He was thirty years old..a young man who by all accounts had his best days before him…Let’s think about him for a moment.

Who was he?  Did he have brothers? Sisters? Kids of his own? What did he mean to his family? How heartbroken are they today? What about his friends? His loved ones?

Congresswoman Gabby Gifford

Think about the 4 seniors slain, John Roll, Dorothy Morris, Dorwin Stoddard and Phyllis Scheck. Since when has it been ok to kill the elderly in such a brutal fashion? They were parents and grandparents. How are their families feeling? Think about the pain their loved ones are going through.

Imagine if it was your mom or dad who went down to the store to see their congressperson and never returned? How would you feel?  Think about the pain of losing one of your parents suddenly… Think about that for a minute…Think about losing your sweet mom.. Think about losing your dad.. Think about losing your grandmother or grandfather  to senseless violence. For many such thoughts are unbearable. Such thoughts are unthinkable.

The question we all must answer is how many of us really thought about this loss of life enough to change the way we engage one another in our political discussions and do we really want to?

The Climate of Violence Has Been Building for a While

When thinking about Gabby Gifford being shot and along with those slain Gabe, Christina, John, Dorothy, Dorwin and Phyllis I could not help but think about all the crazy death threats that have been directed at everyone from President Obama in the two years he’s been in office all the way back to my Congresswoman Barbara Lee shortly after the 9-11 attacks

For those who don’t recall, Lee was the lone vote in Congress who said ‘No’ to Presidents Bush’s Post 9-11 Use of Force Act which would’ve increased his powers and resources to wage war against the Taliban.

Lee voted No and next thing you know she was showing up to our church with Secret service in tow. Her office was threatened, she was threatened, there were vicious editorials accusing her of being UNPATRIOTIC..

I heard radio commentators who never served one day on the frontline of any war , talking crazy about how we need to fight, kick ass and not show weakness by talking about peace. During those turbulent times, we were all asked to choose a side and anything not supporting the war effort was deemed less than honorable.

We saw a return to some of those sentiments this past september on the anniversary of 9-11 when there was a proposed building of a mosque/ community center several blocks away from Ground Zero. We had former mayors, sitting senators, a governor and numerous Congressman publicly state that it was wrong for fellow American citizens to build a mosque in an area that contained fast food joints and strip clubs, because according to them, it would be insensitive. The people backing the Mosque were warned that moving forward with their proposal would inflame the masses and that it would lead to violence.

Ahmed Sharif was stabbed in the throat by a domestic terrorist named Michael Enright photo by Robert Mecea

In the days leading up to the anniversary  that we heard some of the most vile and insidious things said about our fellow citizens who practice Islam and it wasn’t too long before violence, homegrown American violence, reared its head and mosques were vandalized, bomb threats issued, people assaulted. One unlucky innocent cab driver named Ahmed Sharif was stabbed in the throat by an individual named Michael Enright who decided  that the best way to resolve the issue would be through an act of violence.

Nothing happens in a vacuum. I can go on listing all sorts of examples. They range from students in inner city schools being required to shed so-called gang colors from their attire least they enrage the local thugs who will come to the school and cause problems to women being told to dress less provocatively for fear of inflaming the uncontrollable passions of a would-be rapist to gays and  lesbians being told to keep their sexual orientation to themselves otherwise they might upset any number of homophobes.

I bring up these examples to make a larger point. If I, we and us all are being told to calm it down, who is seeing to it that the on air punditry and Fox News personalities to tone it down? No one.. When the subject is approached its called FREE SPEECH. Its called POLITICS.. Its called Americans standing up for their rights. We have all sorts of other euphemisms being used to describe over the top, coarse behavior. When do we draw a line in the sand and say no more? No more to inflammatory rhetoric?

Is Harsh Rhetoric and Violence a Habit We Can’t Kick

Now I’m fully aware that there were quite a few who read this including some who have media platforms where they get to have daily one way conversations with the public who saw my suggestion about reflecting on the loss of life  as corny. It’s something that should literally be dismissed and there are all sorts of justifications.

Some will say that the thought of trying to be civil especially at this day and time when there have been so many attacks launched our way is not happening. They’ll be cynical in thought and say something along the lines; ‘Love and Peace? Fuck that… It’s about No Justice, No Peace.. They’ll have concluded, that part of our problem is we’ve been civil for far too long and its gotten us nowhere. They’ll note that we’ve  been way too nice and all its gotten is more venom and a perception that we are somehow weak. Many of us have come to believe the old adage Nice guys finish last especially in the arenas of love and politics.

Upon hearing about the tragedy in Arizona if the first thing that went through our minds was the hateful rhetoric of a Sarah Palin or Glenn Beck vs the faces of those injured and slain juxtaposed with our loved ones, what does that say about us? Did a bit of our humanity die with those slain or was it an affirmation that our humanity has been long gone and we best find ways to get it back?

Sarah Palin

If Sarah Palin was busy erasing tweets, scrubbing her Facebook pages and hiding that infamous map with the crosshairs targeting Gabby Gifford, or some other politico who uttered hurtful words was suddenly consulting PR firms to do damage control and figure out what sort of spin to apply to this incident while the dead bodies in Arizona were still warm, what does that say about them? What does it say about us that we still embrace and give such people who show no remorse validity?

Again, nothing happens in a vacuum and this killing spree was no exception. Many of us, when we talk about violence we tend to see incidents like the one in Tucson as isolated and limited to the person pulling the trigger.

Can We Explain Away Domestic Terrorist as Mentally Deranged?

We wanna explain away accused shooter Jared Loughner as a deranged, emotionally disturbed man who simply needs to be condemned and locked up. We wanna suggest there is absolutely no reason to connect him to hate groups or see him as part of a larger terrorist cell. I guess for many of us, it’s simply too hard to accept that emotionally disturbed people are susceptible to the being recruited by hate groups or partaking in terrorist activities. We like to believe that once we lock up Jared Loughner and throw away the key we’ll all be safe again and things will go back to normal. The question all of us better be asking ourselves; ‘What is normal’?

Sarah Palin's infamous map with the crosshairs targeting political opponents

Is a normal society one where we soundly reject uncivil threatening behavior or is it one where embrace, and even reward it?

Is a normal society one where we take the high road and try and be above the fray or is it one where we scream louder, bully harder, get down and dirtier, and be more violent than anyone else in order to win an argument or political contest?

How many times have we heard our so-called experts explain that negative advertising during a political campaign works? How many times have we heard about the need for any one running for office to hire someone to dig up the most vile and nasty things of an opponents past to use against them? How many times have we seen pundits resort to outright lies, trickery and underhanded schemes to trip up and take down a political opponent? We’ve convinced ourselves that the only way to win an argument or a war is to smash on your opponent and show no mercy.

All is fair in love and war, is what we say to ourselves. Is it fair when someone shoots and kills someone to make their point? Is this the type of society we want?

Very few people like to see themselves in that sort of light, yet if you listen to many of our esteemed political punditry and media experts, that’s exactly what we crave. We want aggressive over the top behavior in all arenas. We want it in politics. We want it in our music. We want it in our entertainment.

It doesn’t matter whether or not its an enraged Bill ‘O’Reilly impugning us to not allow Dr George Tiller to get away with anymore late-term abortions as he launched a on air crusade resulting in his death, or  a smug Glenn Beck demonizing the Tides Foundation which led to a white supremacist to seek out employees of that organization, or Beck threatening to kill filmmaker Micheal Moore, or a Jerry Springer where on his TV show he has two sisters fighting each other over a man or a popular rap artists like Kanye West depicting women hanging in his latest video and receiving praise for being artistic.

Like it or not from what we as a society seem to embrace or allow to go unchallenged in our midst… the violence, mayhem  and this weekend’s massacre, is the American Way. We as a country relish such things. We have to own up to it. Anyone saying otherwise has to explain  the undeniable proof of  high TV and radio ratings where civility is tossed out the window. They’ll have to explain the popularity of certain websites and high YouTube views where this sort of madness is routinely played out.

Have we gotten to a point where the thought of being civil is uncomfortable? Has anger and venomous behavior become habits we can’t shake? Have we  fostered an environment where showing compassion makes us marks?

Many of us are caught up in an all too pervasive cycle of violence both directly and indirectly. Death has become all too routine. It doesn’t matter if you live in the hardest of hoods or if you live in the most pristine of suburbs.. All of us our caught up.. ALL OF US.. including myself. We’ve created an environment where the loss of life is abstract and vastly cheapened.

Christopher Jones

Lastly we must put all this in larger context. There was a terrible tragedy in Tucson Arizona over the weekend. It was the same weeknd that we saw 3 young men get killed in a nightclub in San Jose California. It was the same weekend in any city and town USA where someone pulled out a gun or a knife and took a life. Massacres in our respective communities are happening all the time.

Case in point, many of us have shown an interest in what took place in Arizona, but were we empathetic? If so did that same empathy carry over to tragedies closer to home? Last night here in Oakland, several hundred people showed up at a vigil for the senseless killing of a promising 17-year-old named Christopher Jones. He was gunned down a week ago in front of his mother and sisters as he placed his nephew in the back seat of a car . He was not gang banger, trouble maker or anything like that.

Jared Loughner

Like Jared Loughner we don’t know all that led these young men to shoot another in broad daylight in front of his family. Were they part of a hate group? Wete they emotionally disturbed, mentally deranged? Was it too much gangsta rap? Too much Fox News? Or did they take a cue from the larger society that has left violence on the table as away to get points across?

Did the young men who shot Christopher wrap themselves in this climate of violence the way that many of us are saying Jared Loughner did?  If so who’s the next to sip the kool aid and go on a killing spree? Who’s next to tragically die as a result?

At the end of the day do we care? Do we really care about the slaying of Christopher Jones or the 5 people slain in Tucson, Arizona or are they all collateral damage in a society that has firmly decided  that violent loss of life is part of our increasing strident political and social landscape?

something to ponder

-Davey D-

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Should We Feel Bad for Charles Rangel? Immortal Technique, Rosa Clemente & Rep Barbara Lee Weigh In

Charles Rangel

Yesterday many of us saw how long time Congressman Charles Rangel and former chair of the powerful Ways and Means Committee stand on the floor of Congress and get censured. This came on the heels of him recently being found in violation of 11 house ethic rules in a 9-1 vote by the House ethics committee members. Being censured was the strongest punishment aside from expulsion that could be applied a man who served Harlem for over 40 years.

In recent years especially after President Obama got elected many have  seen, felt and experienced the effects of what is often described as a highly racially charged climate. Hence  to see a Black man who was arguably one of the most powerful men in the country and definitely congress be reduced in such a public way was more than bothersome. Adding to Rangel’s censuring is the fact that 8 other members of the Congressional Black Caucus including long time congresswoman Maxine Waters are being investigated or also facing a hearings on ethic violations. One can’t help but think that Black elected officials are being targeted and hence the wagons must be circled.

Many of us including myself immediately thought of elected officials who have done far worse and haven’t gotten as much as a slap on the wrist. The violations range from Congressman Joe Wilson shouting at the president during the state of the union to former vice president Dick Cheney shooting his  friend Harry Whittington in the face and then being accused of trying to cover things up.  Years later we come to find out that Cheney didn’t even apologize. We think about those elected officials who were negligence behind the Hurricane Katrina catastrophe or those who deliberately misled  us into to war and one can only ask why aren’t the people behind those transgressions being censured?

Long time Harlem resident Immortal Technique said we should not feel bad for Charles Rangel

I’ll be the first to say a guy like Rangel has been no angel and his tenure as Congressman has drawn mixed response.One thing that can’t be denied is the fact that his 40 years of services means enough people from what was known as the Black Mecca liked him enough to keep sending him back.

However longtime Harlem residents like rapper Immortal Technique have publicly stated that one should not feel bad for Rangel and the punishment he’ll be getting because he sold Harlem out a long time ago. It’s not the first time we’ve heard this critique from residents who feel like as Harlem has been massively gentrified with lots of poor folks having been literally kicked out withRangel leading the charge.

Just as word came down that there would be no leniency as requested shown for Congressman Rangel. I posed the question on my twitter feed and Face book Page as to how Harlem residents felt?  Did they think it was unfair Congressman Rangel was being censured?

I made the comparison between his ethic violations and the transgressions of others.. Very few came to his aid on my often overtly opinionated timeline which includes many people from my former uptown stomping grounds of Harlem.

Rosa Clemente goes in on Charles Rangel

Long time activist, journalist and former Green Party Vice presidential candidate Rosa Clemente weighed in and gave us all serious food for thought …It was in response to this statement I made..

Dick Cheney can shoot a man in the face and not apologize and he’s good but Charles Rangel misuses some stationary-gets censored

Rosa responded:

Well Charles Rengal did not just do that..the man has three rent stabilized apartments in Harlem, where half the population is poverty poor. You can’t use Dick Cheney as an excuse. Rengal deserves to be censured, as most of those cats do.. The problem is particularly black men in politics think they can act like white men.. History shows that never works, but being from NYC him and 90% of all Black and Brown politicians need to go. They are rich ass millionaires pimping our communities….You do not get a pass cause your Black.  How many brothers right now living in Rangel’s district are being stopped, frisked and arrested for a nickel bag or for other petty crime. I bet they  wish all they were getting was a tongue lashing

Rosa’s sentiments resonated with a lot of folks who feel that far too many officials are disconnected from the communities they serve and that when they get into office they start catering to big money interests and not the people who voted them in.. After 40 years did Rengal lose his way? Should he have been extra careful in such a hostile climate or was he unfairly being made an example? The fact that all he is getting is censured versus jail time is something we might also keep in mind, but does that reflect badly on Harlem or us as Black folks?

Here’s what Oakland Congresswoman Barbara Lee who heads up the Congressional Black Caucus had to say on the matter.She issued a statement that read as follows..

“Today’s vote by the House of Representatives to censure Congressman Rangel was an overly harsh sanction, especially considering that after a 2-year investigation the Committee found no evidence of corruption or personal financial gain. Under House precedents, a reprimand would have been a fairer sanction for the lapses that he has long since admitted and corrected.

“The censure sanction is a departure from the customary sanctions in other cases that have been adjudicated over the years. According to the Committee’s counsel, Congressman Rangel’s misconduct resulted from overzealousness and sloppiness, not corruption.

“Today’s action in no way diminishes Congressman Rangel’s distinguished 50-year history of service to his country and constituents who again overwhelmingly returned him to office in November. Members of the Congressional Black Caucus are proud to call Congressman Rangel our colleague and friend.”

Something to Ponder

Davey D

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Corporate Influence:How the Congressional Black Caucus is a Fundraising Powerhouse


This is a compelling article on a number of levels…First of all it outlines some of the ways money exchanges hands in Washington and for that reason we should always have opportunity to be informed. It outlines all the ways that Washington is wrong and with the recent Supreme Court ruling allowing corporations to spend unlimited amounts of money and resources in election this is likely to get worse…

The fact that the Congressional Black Caucus has always described itself as the conscience of the Congress, makes this story troubling… As you read this story pay close attention to the main people sponsoring them and look at the end result… Whats most glaring to me are the telecoms, AT&T and Verizon who successfully got 3/4th of the CBC to vote against the COPE act which would’ve gotten rid of Net Neutrality which levels the playing field on the Internet. Bobby Rush was at the center of this.. Currently those same telecom firms have pushed even harder and expanding their lobbying efforts to  a handful Civil Rights groups and leaders who have jumped on board to end Net Neutrality.. I urge folks to pay close attention to this alignment because it will have dire effect if left unchallenged and unchecked.

At the same time, one has to question why did the NY Times do a story on the CBC? Was it to expose their influence and the increasing potential for corruption?  Was it to undermine Black lawmakers exercising increasing influence in Washington?   Will CBC become the poster boy for corruption while others skate? Are there other caucuses in congress that play a similar game?  This does not excuse the CBC for any wrong doing, but these are questions we should ask.. In short is this just the tip of the iceberg? Lastly as I mentioned earlier is this a precursor to the way business will be done because of the Supreme Court ruling?

It’s hard not to take into account the current backlash that has been spawned around the country now that Barack Obama is in the White House. Along with the anger and discontent expressed at his policies has come increasing expressions of racial hatred. With an article like this I can easily see racism barring its fangs and folks circling the wagon to the point we overlook any wrong doing by CBC. Protecting one from racial attacks trumps ethics questions especially when we know this country has a sordid history of  lynching burning down cities and making life miserable for Blacks who have accumulated wealth. We saw that during the Obama campaign when we would hear remarks about Obama being ‘uppity’ and needs to be put in his place..

-Davey D-

In Black Caucus, a Fund-Raising Powerhouse

Published: February 13, 2010

WASHINGTON — When the Congressional Black Caucus wanted to pay off the mortgage on its foundation’s stately 1930s redbrick headquarters on Embassy Row, it turned to a familiar roster of friends: corporate backers like Wal-Mart, AT&T, General Motors, Coca-Cola and Altria, the nation’s largest tobacco company.Soon enough, in 2008, a jazz band was playing at what amounted to a mortgage-burning party for the $4 million town house. 

Soon enough, in 2008, a jazz band was playing at what amounted to a mortgage-burning party for the $4 million town house.

Most political groups in Washington would have been barred by law from accepting that kind of direct aid from corporations. But by taking advantage of political finance laws, the caucus has built a fund-raising juggernaut unlike anything else in town.

It has a traditional political fund-raising arm subject to federal rules. But it also has a network of nonprofit groups and charities that allow it to collect unlimited amounts of money from corporations and labor unions.

From 2004 to 2008, the Congressional Black Caucus’s political and charitable wings took in at least $55 million in corporate and union contributions, according to an analysis by The New York Times, an impressive amount even by the standards of a Washington awash in cash. Only $1 million of that went to the caucus’s political action committee; the rest poured into the largely unregulated nonprofit network. (Data for 2009 is not available.)

The caucus says its nonprofit groups are intended to help disadvantaged African-Americans by providing scholarships and internships to students, researching policy and holding seminars on topics like healthy living.

But the bulk of the money has been spent on elaborate conventions that have become a high point of the Washington social season, as well as the headquarters building, golf outings by members of Congress and an annual visit to a Mississippi casino resort.

In 2008, the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation spent more on the caterer for its signature legislative dinner and conference — nearly $700,000 for an event one organizer called “Hollywood on the Potomac” — than it gave out in scholarships, federal tax records show.

At the galas, lobbyists and executives who give to caucus charities get to mingle with lawmakers. They also get seats on committees the caucus has set up to help members of Congress decide what positions to take on the issues of the day. Indeed, the nonprofit groups and the political wing are so deeply connected it is sometimes hard to tell where one ends and the other begins.

Even as it has used its status as a civil rights organization to become a fund-raising power in Washington, the caucus has had to fend off criticism of ties to companies whose business is seen by some as detrimental to its black constituents.

These include cigarette companies, Internet poker operators, beer brewers and the rent-to-own industry, which has become a particular focus of consumer advocates for its practice of charging high monthly fees for appliances, televisions and computers.

Caucus leaders said the giving had not influenced them.

“We’re unbossed and unbought,” said Representative Barbara Lee, Democrat of California and chairwoman of the caucus. “Historically, we’ve been known as the conscience of the Congress, and we’re the ones bringing up issues that often go unnoticed or just aren’t on the table.”

But many campaign finance experts question the unusual structure.

“The claim that this is a truly philanthropic motive is bogus — it’s beyond credulity,” said Meredith McGehee, policy director at the Campaign Legal Center in Washington, a nonpartisan group that monitors campaign finance and ethics issues. “Members of Congress should not be allowed to have these links. They provide another pocket, and a very deep pocket, for special-interest money that is intended to benefit and influence officeholders.”

Not all caucus members support the donors’ goals, and some issues, like a debate last year over whether to ban menthol cigarettes, have produced divisions.

But caucus members have attracted increasing scrutiny from ethics investigators. All eight open House investigations involve caucus members, and most center on accusations of improper ties to private businesses.

And an examination by The Times shows what can happen when companies offer financial support to caucus members.

For instance, Representative Danny K. Davis, Democrat of Illinois, once backed legislation that would have severely curtailed the rent-to-own industry, criticized in urban districts like his on the West Side of Chicago. But Mr. Davis last year co-sponsored legislation supported by the stores after they led a well-financed campaign to sway the caucus, including a promise to provide computers to a jobs program in Chicago named for him. He denies any connection between the industry’s generosity and his shift.

Growing Influence

The caucus started out 40 years ago as a political club of a handful of black members of Congress. Now it is at the apex of its power: President Obama is a former member, though he was never very active.

Its members, all Democrats, include the third-ranking House member, Representative James E. Clyburn of South Carolina; 4 House committee chairmen; and 18 subcommittee leaders. Among those are Representative Charles E. Rangel, chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, and Representative John Conyers Jr., chairman of the Judiciary Committee.

There are hundreds of caucuses in Congress, representing groups as disparate as Hispanic lawmakers and those with an interest in Scotland. And other members of Congress have nonprofit organizations.

But the Congressional Black Caucus stands alone for its money-raising prowess. As it has gained power, its nonprofit groups — one an outright charity, the other a sort of research group — have seen a surge in contributions, nearly doubling from 2001 to 2008.

Besides the caucus charities, many members — including Mr. Clyburn and Representative William Lacy Clay Jr. of Missouri — also have personal or family charities, which often solicit donations from companies that give to the caucus. And spouses have their own group that sponsors a golf and tennis fund-raiser.

The board of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation includes executives and lobbyists from Boeing, Wal-Mart, Dell, Citigroup, Coca-Cola, Verizon, Heineken, Anheuser-Busch and the drug makers Amgen and GlaxoSmithKline. All are hefty donors to the caucus.

Some of the biggest donors also have seats on the second caucus nonprofit organization — one that can help their businesses. This group, the Congressional Black Caucus Political Education and Leadership Institute, drafts positions on issues before Congress, including health care and climate change.

This means, for example, that the lobbyists and executives from coal, nuclear and power giants like Peabody Energy and Entergy helped draft a report in the caucus’s name that includes their positions on controversial issues. One policy document issued by the Black Caucus Institute last year asserted that the financial impact of climate change legislation should be weighed before it is passed, a major industry stand.

Officials from the Association of American Railroads, another major donor, used their board positions to urge the inclusion of language recommending increased spending on the national freight rail system. A lobbyist for Verizon oversaw a debate on a section that advocated increased federal grants to expand broadband Internet service.

And Larry Duncan, a Lockheed Martin lobbyist, served on a caucus institute panel that recommended that the United States form closer ties with Liberia, even as his company was negotiating a huge airport contract there.

The companies say their service to the caucus is philanthropic.

“Our charitable donations are charitable donations,” said David Sylvia, a spokesman for Altria, which has given caucus charities as much as $1.3 million since 2004, the Times analysis shows, including a donation to a capital fund used to pay off the mortgage of the caucus headquarters.

Elsie L. Scott, chief executive of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, acknowledged that the companies want to influence members. In fact, the fund-raising brochures make clear that the bigger the donation, the greater the access, like a private reception that includes members of Congress for those who give more than $100,000.

“They are trying to get the attention of the C.B.C. members,” Ms. Scott said. “And I don’t think there is anything wrong with that. They’re in business, and they want to deal with people who have influence and power.”

She also acknowledged that if her charity did not have “Congressional Black Caucus” in its name, it would gather far less money. “If it were just the Institute for the Advancement of Black People — you already have the N.A.A.C.P.,” she said.

Ms. Scott said she, too, had heard criticism that the caucus foundation takes too much from companies seen as hurting blacks . But she said she was still willing to take their money.

“Black people gamble. Black people smoke. Black people drink,” she said in an interview. “And so if these companies want to take some of the money they’ve earned off of our people and give it to us to support good causes, then we take it.”

Big Parties, Big Money

The biggest caucus event of the year is held each September in Washington.

The 2009 event began with a rooftop party at the new W Hotel, with the names of the biggest sponsors, the pharmaceutical companies Amgen and Eli Lilly, beamed in giant letters onto the walls, next to the logo of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation. A separate dinner party and ceremony, sponsored by Disney at the National Museum of Women in the Arts, featured the jazz pianist Marcus Johnson.

The next night, AT&T sponsored a dinner reception at the Willard InterContinental Washington, honoring Representative Bobby L. Rush, Democrat of Illinois and chairman of the House subcommittee that oversees consumer protection issues.

The Southern Company, the dominant electric utility in four Southeastern states, spent more than $300,000 to host an awards ceremony the next night honoring Ms. Lee, the black caucus chairwoman, with Shaun Robinson, a TV personality from “Access Hollywood,” as a co-host. The bill for limousine services — paid by Southern — exceeded $11,000.

A separate party, sponsored by Macy’s, featured a fashion show and wax models of historic African-American leaders.

All of this was just a buildup for the final night and the biggest event — a black-tie dinner for 4,000, which included President Obama, the actor Danny Glover and the musician Wyclef Jean.

Annual spending on the events, including an annual prayer breakfast that Coca-Cola sponsors and several dozen policy workshops typically sponsored by other corporations, has more than doubled since 2001, costing $3.9 million in 2008. More than $350,000 went to the official decorator and nearly $400,000 to contractors for lighting and show production, according to tax records. (By comparison, the caucus spent $372,000 on internships in 2008, tax records show.)

The sponsorship of these parties by big business is usually counted as a donation in the caucus books. But sometimes the corporations pay vendors directly and simply name the caucus or an individual caucus member as an “honoree” in disclosure records filed with the Senate.

(The New York Times Company is listed as having paid the foundation $5,000 to $15,000 in 2008. It was the cost of renting a booth to sell newspapers at the annual conference.)

Foundation officials say profit from the event is enough to finance programs like seminars on investments, home ownership and healthy living; housing for Washington interns; and about $600,000 in scholarships.

Interns and students interviewed praised the caucus.

“The internship for me came at a very critical moment in my life,” said Ervin Johnson, 24, an intern in 2007, placed by the Justice Department. “Most people don’t have that opportunity.”

Still, Ms. Scott, the foundation’s chief executive, said that members of the caucus’s board had complained about the ballooning bills for the annual conference. And some donors have asked that their money go only toward programs like scholarships. She blamed the high prices charged by vendors mandated by the Washington Convention Center.

Legislative Interests

The companies that host events at the annual conference are engaged in some of the hottest battles in Washington, and they frequently turn to caucus members for help.

Internet poker companies have been big donors, fighting moves to restrict their growth. Caucus members have been among their biggest backers.

Amgen and DaVita, which dominate the kidney treatment and dialysis business nationwide, have donated as much as $1.5 million over the last five years to caucus charities, and the caucus has been one of their strongest allies in a bid to win broader federal reimbursements.

AT&T and Verizon, sponsors of the caucus charities for years, have turned to the caucus in their effort to prevent new federal rules governing how cellphone carriers operate Internet services on their wireless networks.

But few of these alliances have paid off like the caucus’s connection to rent-to-own stores.

Some Democrats in Congress have tried to limit fees charged to consumers who rent televisions or appliances, with critics saying the industry’s advertisements prey on low-income consumers, offering the short-term promise of walking away with a big-screen TV while hiding big long-term fees. Faced with rules that could destroy their business, the industry called on the caucus.

In 2007, it retained Zehra Buck, a former aide to Representative Bennie Thompson, Democrat of Mississippi and a caucus member, to help expand a lobbying campaign. Its trade association in 2008 became the exclusive sponsor of an annual caucus foundation charity event where its donated televisions, computers and other equipment were auctioned, with the proceeds going to scholarships. It donated to the campaigns of at least 10 caucus members, and to political action committees run by the caucus and its individual members.

It also encouraged member stores to donate to personal charities run by caucus members or to public schools in their districts. Mr. Clay, the Missourian, received $14,000 in industry contributions in 2008 for the annual golf tournament his family runs in St. Louis. The trade association also held a fund-raising event for him in Reno, Nev.

“I’ll always do my best to protect what really matters to you,” Mr. Clay told rent-to-own executives, who agreed to hold their 2008 annual convention in St. Louis, his home district. Mr. Clay declined a request for an interview.

On a visit to Washington, Larry Carrico, then president of the rent-to-own trade association, offered to donate computers and other equipment to a nonprofit job-training group in Chicago named in honor of Mr. Davis, the Illinois congressman who in 2002 voted in favor of tough restrictions on the industry.

Mr. Davis switched sides. Mr. Carrico traveled to Chicago to hand over the donations, including a van with “Congressman Danny K. Davis Job Training Program” painted on its side, all of which helped jump-start a charity run by Lowry Taylor, who also works as a campaign aide to Mr. Davis.

In an interview, Mr. Carrico said support from caucus members came because they understood that his industry had been unfairly criticized and that it provided an important service to consumers in their districts.

While some caucus members still oppose the industry, 13 are co-sponsors of the industry-backed legislation that would ward off tough regulatory restrictions — an alliance that has infuriated consumer advocates.

“It is unfortunate that the members of the black caucus who are supporting this bill did not check with us first,” said Margot Saunders, a lawyer with the National Consumer Law Center. “Because the legislation they are supporting would simply pre-empt state laws that are designed to protect consumers against an industry that rips them off.”

The industry’s own bill, introduced by a caucus member, has not been taken up, but it does not really matter because the move to pass stricter legislation has ground to a halt.

“Without the support of the C.B.C.,” John Cleek, the president of the rent-to-own association, acknowledged in an industry newsletter in 2008, “our mission in Washington would fail.”

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Obama’s Moment of Truth-Are We Ready to Support or Oppose Him?


As the Thanksgiving holiday ends, the nation is perched to hear what is being described as President Obama‘s most important speech to date. He will stand before Army cadets at West Point military academy and lay out his plans for increasing troops to Afghanistan to the tune of 30 thousand. He is likely to note that we must go to Afghanistan to defeat a grouped Taliban. He is likely to say we must go to Afghanistan to ‘finish the job’ of subduing Al Qaeda and capturing Osama Bin Laden. Obama is also likely to note that throughout his campaign he had promised that he would withdraw troops from Iraq and direct all attention to America’s ‘forgotten war’ in Afghanistan.

However 8 years after we first entered Afghanistan in response to the 9-11 terrorist attacks, many of the folks who enthusiastically voted for Obama are divided and troubled. Many of the people who came out and voted for Obama were the same people eager for change who had organized or showed up at large anti-war demonstrations when George Bush was in office. They’re looking at a man who was just awarded the Noble Peace Prize and saw this as a symbolic gesture that would give him a good excuse to find a more diplomatic approach to resolving the conflict and abandon the pro-war position they felt he had to take during the 08 campaign.

If folks recall during the 08 campaign Obama was saw his momentum halted when than rival Hillary Clinton sprung the infamous ‘Its 3am Who Do You want answering Phone commercial‘. Inexperience and too weak to stomach the hard decisions around war and conflict is what Obama was slimed with. His response was to come across as more hawkish. After all, it was the ‘weak on terror’ allegations that helped George Bush win his last election and push through all types of legislation and policies that gave him and the military lots of resources, leeway and power. Obama in his response not only promised to bring the war back to Afghanistan, but he even asserted that he would be willing to bomb a country without warning if it meant the US could get the ever so elusive Osama.

While many who voted for Obama understood him taking pro-war stances, what’s troubling is that with a democratic majorities in both the house and Senate and recent polls showing that majority of Americans not wanting us to continue in Afghanistan, why are building up troops? Is the country really in grave danger? Is this about saving face? Is this about political appeasement? According to recent USA Today Gallup Poll numbers 57% of Democrats want Obama to withdraw. Those numbers are being underscored by the recent bill introduced by an early supporter California Congresswoman Barbara Lee who introduced a bill H.R. 3699 that would prohibit funds for any escalation to Afghanistan. Estimates note that it would cost on average 1 million dollars per year per soldier in this new troop surge. Lee thus far has gotten 23 co-sponsors including former Presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich and Houston congresswoman Sheila Jackson-Lee who earlier last week bestowed a Purple Heart and Bronze star on a Vietnam Vet who still suffers from Post Traumatic stress.

Standing in stark opposition of this are 72% of republicans want Obama to build up the troops and follow the recommendations of General Stanley McChrystal who actually requested and then ‘campaigned’ to get 40 thousand. That republican support or agitation has been amplified by right-wing pundits and talk show hosts who feel that America should be in Afghanistan kicking ass even though everyone from Genghis Khan to the Soviet Union has failed miserably in their attempts to tame this unconquered region.

Perhaps President Obama should challenge those who are eager for this fight to continue in Afghanistan, to stop eating the drums of war and step it up and volunteer their time. That would include talk show hosts like Sean Hannity who are quick to talk this talk but won’t volunteer his time to serve..even as a radio host ala actor Robin Williams in the movie Good Morning Vietnam. At the same time President Obama should let those opposed to the troop build up to not let up the pressure. They should call their representatives and get them to co-sponsor Barbara Lee’s bill.

Lastly Obama should re-emphasize one of his most important campaign points about this his Presidency being for the people by the people-hence all this crazy talk about Obama being in office for only one year and we should give him some time needs to cease once and for all. In matters of war every citizen should be weighing in. After all, what takes place in Afghanistan is being done in our name and with our tax dollars. People should also be reminded that george Bush was only in office for 9 months before he was faced with the 9-11 tragedy and declared his War on Terror. President Obama has been in office for 11 months. His presidency is in full swing.

It’s sad state of affairs, but the War in Afghanistan appears to be war of political posturing and not about war to end terror. How it all unfolds will have a lot to do with the political pressure applied to the President.

-Davey D-

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Hip Hop Caucus Engages Capitol Hill


The group, the Hip Hop Caucus, has a nine-member Washington office — but its real reach comes from its ability to harness the power of hip-hop artists to put a famous face on issues and draw in their young, multicultural fans. In the next few weeks, the caucus will see a bill it fashioned with Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) be introduced — calling for funding for a one-day voter registration drive and lessons on the Constitution in high schools across the country.


Hip Hop Caucus engages Capitol Hill


RevYearwoodpanel-225Buoyed by Barack Obama’s election as president, a group of hip-hop artists and other activists is taking to Capitol Hill — trying to harness the wave of support for Obama among young voters into an ongoing political force.

The group, the Hip Hop Caucus, has a nine-member Washington office — but its real reach comes from its ability to harness the power of hip-hop artists to put a famous face on issues and draw in their young, multicultural fans.

In the next few weeks, the caucus will see a bill it fashioned with Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) be introduced — calling for funding for a one-day voter registration drive and lessons on the Constitution in high schools across the country.

Organizers are working with Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) to gather support for legislation fighting climate change — and singers Solange Knowles and Keyshia Cole have both signed on to help, through the Green the Block campaign.

And the group also reached out to Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) to get support for prisoner re-entry legislation that would help former inmates transition back into society.

To the group’s executive director, Lennox Yearwood Jr., the link between politics and hip-hop is a natural one — as a way to make politics more accessible to young voters, more like sports than study hall.

“If you have a flier that says something about the economic stimulus package, versus one that has ‘Hip-Hop Town Hall, find out how you get yours’ on it, what’s going to get a bigger draw?” Yearwood said. “That’s the power of hip-hop.”

And the power of Obama.

Rappers have campaigned for candidates before, but the hip-hop community hasn’t been able to sustain the interest or the momentum when the election was over. Obama’s election has led some in the industry to say it’s time for the political side of hip-hop to get more serious.

And already there are signs that hip-hop artists seem to be sticking around this time. The HHC harnessed that creative interest into a get-out-the-vote campaign and used artists like Young Jeezy, T.I., Rick Ross, Busta Rhymes, Fantasia, Brandy and Big Boi to get voters to the polls.

Obama got 68 percent of the youth vote, to Sen. John McCain’s 30 percent — with 2.2 million more voters between 18 and 29 turning up at the polls this election cycle compared with 2004.

Some artists — including Jay-Z and Nas — also appeared on the stump for Obama, and there was a hip-hop inaugural ball, a first. The message that January night was clear: Hip-hop has to grow up or be marginalized again.

davidbannerscowl-225“I wanted to use my voice to make sure people were engaged,” said rapper David Banner, who testified in 2007 House hearings on media representation of African-Americans. Banner, a BET hip-hop award winner, pitched in with the Hip Hop Caucus’ Respect My Vote campaign and will continue to be engaged, he said.

“The decisions that we make now politically will affect the next generation and the generation after that. So we have to be involved. By speaking out, I end up speaking for poor people and a larger group all over the country,” Banner said.

First formed in 2004 as an offshoot of P. Diddy’s New York-based “Vote or Die” campaign and Russell SimmonsHip Hop Summit Action Network, the HHC sprung out of the disappointment from that election cycle.

“We voted, and we got die,” Yearwood said, referencing the “Vote or Die” campaign slogan.

Yet politics and hip-hop haven’t always been an easy mix. While the roots of the music and the culture have political undertones — Grand Master Flash’s 1982 hit “The Message” was a searing indictment of the decades-long neglect of urban areas — hip-hop has often been on the outside of politics, looking in.

“The decisions that we make now politically will affect the next generation and the generation after that. So we have to be involved. By speaking out, I end up speaking for poor people and a larger group all over the country,” Banner said.

First formed in 2004 as an offshoot of P. Diddy’s New York-based “Vote or Die” campaign and Russell Simmons’ Hip Hop Summit Action Network, the HHC sprung out of the disappointment from that election cycle.

“We voted, and we got die,” Yearwood said, referencing the “Vote or Die” campaign slogan.

Yet politics and hip-hop haven’t always been an easy mix. While the roots of the music and the culture have political undertones — Grand Master Flash’s 1982 hit “The Message” was a searing indictment of the decades-long neglect of urban areas — hip-hop has often been on the outside of politics, looking in.

Bill Clinton criticized rapper Sistah Souljah in 1992 in order to appear more centrist. Vice President Al Gore’s wife, Tipper, worked to get advisory stickers put on some rap records to warn parents of violent and misogynistic lyrics.

Enter Obama. Young Jeezy’s “My President’s Black” was in heavy rotation last summer, and many in the hip-hop generation take credit for Obama’s victory and count him as one of their own. One popular T-shirt has Obama sporting a Kangol cap, Gazelle glasses and a fat gold chain with the tag “Run DC.”

“You couldn’t go anywhere without seeing Obama. His face was the universal picture for change,” said Jeff Chang, author of “Can’t Stop Won’t Stop: A History of the Hip-Hop Generation.” “But the thing about hip-hop is that it’s been a cultural force and great at mobilizing and messaging — but the political end isn’t unitary or stable, and it’s recent.”

These days, Yearwood, 39, who often sports a Green the Block baseball cap, Hip Hop Caucus pin and clergy collar, is up on the Hill three to four times a week, meeting with elected officials and sitting in on hearings.

Their agenda is a progressive one, centered on health care, education, climate change and livable cities. Yearwood submitted a memo to Obama’s transition team, has reached out to the EPA and the public liaison’s office and is looking to work with the White House Office of Urban Affairs to push its agenda.

“We are giving voice to those who are outside of institutions, folks who are not in college, who didn’t graduate high school; we are able to tap people at the barber shop, on the block and in the beauty salon,” Yearwood said. “We allow their perspective so that voice doesn’t get lost in the discourse.”

Members of the Congressional Black Caucus served as early mentors for the organization, back when the Hip Hop Caucus was still being confused with a rap group.

Now, 21 members of the CBC are on the advisory panel to the Caucus, which has field teams in 48 cities.

BarbaraLeeofficial-225“The Hip Hop Caucus does an incredible job of connecting young people in urban communities with the political and legislative process,” said Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), who chairs both the CBC and the HHC’s advisory panel.

Rep. Andre Carson, who sits on the advisory board and is himself a former emcee, said hip-hop doesn’t get enough credit for creating the climate that allowed for Obama’s ascendance.

Hip-hop “opened doors to build friendships between African-Americans and Latinos and whites,” he said. “America became comfortable with the idea of a black executive because of all the hip-hop moguls.”

But the skepticism about political projects under the hip-hop label remains.

“The music harbors and celebrates a way of behaving that works against a progressive agenda. That’s the contradiction that nobody wants to talk about,” said Tricia Rose, author of “The Hip Hop Wars.”

Yet some counter that members of Hollywood’s elite rarely get the same critique when they take up political issues, although the movies they peddle are often violent and misogynistic.

Counters Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.), who is a member of HHC’s advisory board:

“Hip Hop does have a ways to go in terms of its image, but the fact is that the artists and the music that they put out is born and bred from the districts we represent.”

Yearwood also is working with CBC members to bring hip-hop artists to the group’s annual legislative conference in the fall. “We need Andre 3000 and Andre Carson connecting,” Yearwood said, referring to the lead singer of OutKast. “We have to be able to move politics from the hood to the Hill and from the suites to the streets.”

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