by Yvette Carnell
For years in many black political circles, there has been an ongoing discussion over the need for a firm that lobbies on behalf of black interests. As it turns out, however, the Congressional Black Caucus has been producing effective lobbyists for decades, it’s just that they’re lobbying against the interest of black people instead of in favor of those interests.
A bombshell Huffington Post report published last week details the sheer cravenness and hypocrisy of many CBC members. As the report thoroughly lays out, even though Wall St. systematically targets African-Americans with its mortgage fraud schemes, members of the CBC have been actively doing Wall Street’s bidding, even working to upend legislation intended to rein in the worst offenses of the greediest banks.
From the Huffington Post:
The GOP isn’t shy about its antipathy to government regulations, and a pro-business coalition known as the New Democrats has come to its aid. But there is also a third, lesser-known faction: the Congressional Black Caucus. Moore, along with colleagues such as New York’s Gregory Meeks, Georgia’s David Scott, Missouri’s Lacy Clay and Alabama’s Terri Sewell, has pushed for a host of seemingly arcane measures that would undermine Dodd-Frank’s rules on financial derivatives, the complex contracts at the heart of the 2008 meltdown. She is the co-sponsor of multiple measures that would once again allow Wall Street to shift its riskiest transactions out of the view of regulators.
The report details how a group of former CBC staffers turned lobbyists formed an informal group called the Washington Government Relations Group. Instead of the group using its formidable political knowledge to further the interests of black people, they chose instead to use their talent and connections to lobby the CBC on behalf of Wall Street. The lobbying industry even has a term for these black lobbyists: CBC specialists.
Since the CBC tends to vote as a bloc, and, as CBC head Marcia Fudge admits, most of them don’t know much about financial services law and usually defer to CBC members on the financial services panel, the CBC is an easy mark for sophisticated lobbyists. It’s also easy because, as HuffPost notes, white lawmakers aren’t quick to criticize the CBC. A lobbyist explained to HuffPost how it works:
“We go right to the CBC because they are open-minded and they often vote as a bloc,” he says, asking for anonymity because he frequently relies on CBC members for support on deregulation bills. “And the professional left is scared of them. Every white liberal — media, politician, advocacy group — knows better than f*cking with a CBC member.”
Since joining forces with Wall Street, several CBC members have been siding with Republicans on financial issues and having a devastating impact on financial reform:
In February 2013, Moore and Fudge joined three Republicans to introduce HR 677, a bill that would allow corporate conglomerates to trade derivatives among their myriad subsidiaries without following Dodd-Frank’s trading rules. The bill infuriated financial reform watchdogs, who say it makes it much harder for regulators to see risks accumulating in the system and could facilitate international tax-dodging. Moore’s measure probably won’t ever get a vote on the House floor, but it doesn’t need to. After proposing a relatively robust rule on the topic, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission switched course last year and finalized a regulation that adheres closely to Moore’s language.
Members of the CBC have also been sneekily sending letters to regulators “championing” the rights of Wall St. banks. Of course, when these same CBC members give press conferences championing social justice, they don’t mention that they themselves are already in the pockets of Wall St. That doesn’t sell well when you’re on MSNBC or the Tom Joyner Show.
In another example, CBC members waged war against the Volcker rule in 2012, a rule popular among mainstream and left of center liberals that “bans banks that receive taxpayer perks from making speculative trades for their own accounts.” Meeks, Scott, Sewell, and Clay were all onboard with killing the rule. Moore, who has also been a key member in supporting the banking industry, has a chief of staff who is onboard with the financial services lobby as well as a former staffer who is in the pocket of the industry as well.
At one point, Rep. Maxine Waters reportedly had a contentious argument with Rep. Alcee Hastings over his selling out to big money interests. During the disagreement, Hastings allegedly admitted he’d sold out, just for a higher price than Waters implied:
What was more embarrassing than selling out, Waters told her assembled colleagues, was selling out cheap to nickel-and-dime scammers like the for-profit college industry. If you’re going to sell your soul, she admonished, have some self-respect and sell high. (Hastings didn’t dispute the conflict, but he did dispute Waters’ point. “It would be a mistaken premise,” he says, smiling. “There are a hell of a lot of for-profit schools.”)
Regarding financial reform, Waters has been fighting for the soul of the CBC.
“It’s critically important that we understand the significance of that reform, that we send the message that we’re about protecting our taxpayers and investors, ” said Waters.
Waters may be in for the fight of her life.
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