WASHINGTON — A coalition of progressive groups is asking the Congressional Black Caucus to overhaul the way its political arm operates, according to an open letter shared with BuzzFeed News.
“The members of the Congressional Black Caucus need to stand up to the corporate lobbyists that currently make up the majority of the Political Action Committee’s board,” the open letter reads. “Between donors and board members, the committee is under the influence of some of the companies and industries with the worst track records of abuse and exploitation of Black people.”
The letter’s signees include Color of Change, Black Lives Matter, the Black Alliance for Just Immigration, and Million Hoodies for Justice.
The letter takes issue with the PAC’s corporate board, and its ties to private prisons and big tobacco lobbies. Before the South Carolina primary, the CBC PAC endorsed Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination, following the endorsements of many individual CBC members over the past year.
Rashad Robinson, Color of Change’s Executive director called the political action committee’s relationship to corporations “a danger to Black communities when it allows lobbyists from dangerous industries like private prisons and Big Tobacco to make decisions about who represents black people.”
Alicia Garza, a co-founder of Black Lives Matter, said, "It’s time for the CBC to put the power in the hands of black people, their constituents, the ones who bankroll their paychecks. It’s time for them to stop playing politics and start doing their jobs."
"Our communities depend on leaders in Washington that will protect them against corporate entities such as private prisons, detention centers, and others that harm and exploit us,” Opal Tometi, the executive director of Black Alliance for Just Immigration said.
Dante Barry of Million Hoodies Movement for Justice, said the CBC PAC “aligns itself with private prisons, big tobacco, and anti-worker companies that don't work to ensure that Black lives matter.”
In February, Color of Change slammed the PAC for its non-endorsement of Donna Edwards in the Maryland Senate race.
Here's the letter in full:
Dear Congressional Black Caucus Member,
We are writing to ask you to take immediate action to restore the reputation of the Congressional Black Caucus by pushing for changes to the board of the Congressional Black Caucus Political Action Committee that would end the dominance of corporate lobbyists in its decision making. The board should be lead by people accountable to Black folks, including elected officials and representatives from organizations representing the interests of Black people, not lobbyists paid to wield corporate power. I'm also asking you to insist that the board cut ties with funders from the private prison lobbyists, the tobacco industry, and the National Restaurant Association, just three of the worst corporate sponsors of the PAC.
Black people have struggled for centuries to build political power that represents their interests in the face of deep racial inequalities. One of the most challenging obstacles to Black political power has been the increasing power that corporations wield in the political process through political contributions and lobbying. We were appalled to learn that the Congressional Black Caucus Political Action Committee (CBC PAC) is yet another example of the expansion of corporate power at the expense of Black people.
Although its name indicates that the CBC PAC is lead by elected Black leaders, its board is dominated by corporate lobbyists. In addition, the CBC PAC is largely funded by corporate lobbyists and Political Action Committees. Between donors and board members, the committee is under the influence of some of the companies and industries with the worst track records of abuse and exploitation of Black people.
As you know, the Congressional Black Caucus has been known as the 'Conscience of the Congress' for decades. When it represents the interests of Black communities, it can be a moral force driving the nation in the direction on inclusion and equity. However, with its political action committee under corporate influence, it becomes a shell for business interests that not only have no commitment to Black people, but a vested interest in our disenfranchisement.
Black people and our allies in the fight for racial justice are in an unprecedented moment where we are building power and holding elected officials and candidates accountable in very real ways. Whether it be protesters in the streets, online activism or Black voters turning out in historic numbers in recent elections, Black folks are speaking clearly and using our voices to call for change. That voice should not be watered down or drowned out by corporate influence.
Please act now to rally your colleagues in the Congressional Black Caucus to end the corporate dominance of the CBC PAC board.
Black Lives Matter
The Black Alliance for Just Immigration
The Campaign for Media Justice
Black Lives Matter Sacramento
Black Lives Matter Rockland Alliance
Black Lives Matter Bay Area
Black Lives Matter NYC
Black Lives Matter Tampa Bay