|May 01, 2007|
|Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) has failed to raise money for the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) even though it has been a year since he was asked to, and his main rival for the Democratic presidential nomination has done so, CBC members say.
CBC leaders asked Obama to hold a fundraiser for the caucus’s political action committee (PAC) a year ago but they have slim hopes that he will come through for them.Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), Obama’s chief rival for the nomination, held a fundraiser for the PAC in March last year at the home of Dan Leeds, a Washington venture capitalist.
Clinton’s husband has also agreed to use his fundraising clout to help the CBC. At the end of June, former President Bill Clinton will chair a charity golf and tennis tournament organized by the spouses of Black Caucus members. The event will raise money for college scholarships. Another one-time Democratic presidential hopeful, Sen. Evan Bayh (Ind.), also responded to the caucus’s request to raise money for its PAC; he hosted a Capitol Hill event in February 2006.
Obama’s failure to match Clinton is significant because both are battling for support among black Democrats in the run-up to next year’s primaries. In South Carolina, for instance, the second primary in the nation, African-American voters are expected to make up about half of Democratic voters.
The support of Black Caucus members in the House could make a difference next year because they represent millions of African-American voters around the country.
Rep. Albert Wynn (D-Md.), chairman of the caucus’s PAC, said the committee contacted Obama early last spring but has still not been able to schedule a fundraising date with him.
“My understanding is that the PAC reached out to him as well as several other people about helping with a fundraiser,” said Wynn. “We had some discussions but we didn’t lock in a firm date.”
Wynn said the CBC had never before asked Clinton, Bayh or Obama to hold a fundraiser.
Wynn is informally supporting former Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.) in the primary.
Bill Burton, Obama’s campaign spokesman, said his boss has not yet held a fundraiser for the Black Caucus because of scheduling problems. Burton said that last year Obama campaigned for Rep. Chaka Fattah (D-Pa.) and then-Rep. Harold Ford (D-Tenn.), both CBC members. Burton said that Obama also gave money to the campaigns of several caucus members and held a fundraiser for Ford.
Obama did, however, give $5,000 from his reelection account to the CBC PAC in the 2006 election cycle, according to PoliticalMoneyLine.com, a website that tracks fundraising. Clinton did not give money from her reelection account or leadership PAC, according to the website.
Wynn said he still expects Obama to hold a fundraiser for the PAC, but given Obama’s hectic presidential campaign and fundraising schedule, it appears unlikely that he will find time to do so before the primaries.
Wynn said Obama’s aides say he is “amenable” to hosting a fundraiser for the CBC and did not decline the request.
But other CBC members say Obama has missed making an important gesture to his House colleagues and that he could have found time to help them while he campaigned extensively for Democratic candidates last year.
“I think it’s an important gesture,” said CBC Chairwoman Carolyn Kilpatrick (D-Mich.), who has not yet endorsed any candidate in the primary. “I think he should have done it. I do understand he’s now in the thick of what he’s doing and I find that unfortunate.
“Certainly he’s been fundraising all over the country for various people and I just wish he would also help the CBC because we have members all over. I think it would have been a benefit to him as well as to the CBC.”
Kilpatrick said CBC members represent about 40 million people in 26 states; 10 caucus members represent districts that are not majority African-American and thus could face competitive races in the future.
“The demographic has changed,” she added.
Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.), who as of last week had not endorsed a Democratic presidential candidate, said Obama might not have realized the importance of holding a fundraiser for the CBC because he is fairly new to Washington’s political scene. Obama was elected to the Senate in 2004.
“Most people don’t know him well,” said Cleaver. “Because he doesn’t know us well, I don’t think his advisers had an idea about the importance of that gesture to the CBC; whereas Mrs. Clinton is surrounded by people who have been involved with or in some instances members of the Congressional Black Caucus.”
Cleaver said that some caucus members would overlook Obama’s failure so far to hold a fundraiser for them but added that others would be disappointed. He predicted many CBC members would end up endorsing Clinton.
“Mrs. Clinton, as we expected her to, definitely stepped up,” he said. “I think you’re going to see a sizeable number of CBC members joining her campaign, not just because of the fundraiser, [but] because of her history of stepping up, not just with money but on issues.”
dblhelix pointed this article out to us and I think it is significant. Portions are excerpted here. None of the Sistahs are on board. Given the power of the female members of the CBC and their penchant for being more progressive than the men, this signals an important rift between the men and the women of the caucus. It could also signal something deeper.