A Scrambling Hillary Clinton Stirs Up Congressional Black Caucus PAC Endorsement

Election '16

Thursday’s endorsement of Hillary Clinton by the Congressional Black Caucus PAC -- hours before the next Democratic debate -- was “rushed” by its 20-member board to boost Clinton after her 22-point lost to Bernie Sanders in the New Hampshire primary.

“It was rushed,” a Washington, D.C. policymaker with close ties to the Congressional Black Caucus told AlterNet. “There seems to be a timing issue in the decision.”

The endorsement was touted by Clinton supporters as the latest example of her deep ties to the African-American community, and comes as Sanders is seeking to show he has sizeable support among Blacks in South Carolina, the next primary state.

"Black folks are not dumb. They come out for individuals that have their best interest at heart," said Rep. Gregory Meeks, D-NY and chair of the PAC told CNN.

“The Democratic Party and our constituents need a nominee with a track record of long, deep and varied service to underserved communities; a Democrat who has embraced diversity, with a detailed understanding of today’s world, and experience working to heal the global system,” the endorsement said. “We need a Democrat who has put forward thoughtful, realistic proposals on the fundamental challenges facing our nation â€’ including health care, affordable housing, education, day care, women’s rights, infrastructure, voting rights, gun violence, criminal justice reform, foreign affairs, and trade â€’ all of which he or she must turn into legislation that can garner bipartisan support upon taking office. That Democrat is Hillary Clinton.”

But the Congressiomal Black Caucus PAC is not the same as the 46-member Congressional Black Caucus, which is made up of current members of Congress, including one Republican. And some Black Caucus members criticized the action by the PAC, whose mission is “to increase the number of African Americans in the U.S. Congress, support non-Black candidates that champion our interests, and promote African American participation in the political process-with an emphasis on young voters.”

"Cong'l Black Caucus (CBC) has NOT endorsed in presidential," tweeted Rep. Keith Ellison, D-MN, who is a Sanders supporter. “Separate CBCPAC endorsed withOUT input from CBC membership, including me.”

Ellison later tweeted, “The point it that endorsements should be the product of a fair open process. Didn't happen.”

Other liberal CBC members also were miffed, such as Barbara Lee, D-CA, who told Democracy Now that the CBC and the CBC PAC were different entities, even though they sound alike.

“I want to make it clear there’s a clear distinction between the Congressional Black Caucus and the Congressional Black Caucus PAC,” Lee said. “We actually have a Republican in the Congressional Black Caucus. I don’t want the viewers, your viewers, to believe that the Congressional Black Caucus and the Congressional Black Caucus PAC are one and the same.”

The decision did not come without two abstentions on the PAC’s 20-member board, TheIntercept.com reported, adding the board “includes 11 lobbyists, seven elected officials, and two officials who work for the PAC.”

Some of board’s corporate lobbyists have clients in industries that have been attacked by Sanders in the campaign. Intercept cited “Daron Watts, a lobbyist for Purdue Pharma, the makers of highly addictive opioid OxyContin; Mike Mckay and Chaka Burgess, both lobbyists for Navient, the student loan giant that was spun off of Sallie Mae; former Rep. Al Wynn, D-Md., a lobbyist who represents a range of clients, including work last year on behalf of Lorillard Tobacco, the makers of Newport cigarettes; and William A. Kirk, who lobbies for a cigar industry trade group on a range of tobacco regulations.”

Whether those lobbying clients—which are typical in Washington—will sully Clinton’s endorsement remains to be seen. However, the speediness of the CBC PAC’s endorsement may be more significant in signaling that political insiders who have known the Clintons for a long time are trying to help her, even though African-Americans outside the capital have yet to make their decisions.

The struggles of African-Americans during the Obama years have not gotten easier, those watching the endorsement emphasized. The Great Recession and housing market crash created great economic pain that has not healed, because many people lost equity in their homes. Much of what president Obama proposed did not get through the GOP Congress, and there are constant reminders underscoring that many facets of government are not working for Blacks. The foremost example is the ongoing police targeting of Blacks, unnecessarily killing many. The emergency in Flint, Michigan, where GOP appointees decided to use to a lead-poisoned water supply, is another example of government that is ignoring the communities' pain.

AlterNet’s contacts who said the CBC PAC endorsement was rushed suggested that most African-Americans were waiting to see what specifics Clinton and Sanders present, saying the community was fair-minded—not holding Bill Clinton’s harmful legacy against her candidacy, but also open-minded—seeing what Sanders could offer that speaks to their needs.

In other words, despite Thursday’s high-profile endorsement, the takeaway was, “All bets are off.”      

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