The Washington Post is reporting, “Over the past 15 months, beleaguered Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane has released a steady stream of messages retrieved from a state email server that show state officials and employees trading pornographic, racist and misogynistic messages.”
It appears that after ignoring the email scandal, Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane is now releasing the pornographic emails but critics say she is only trying to take attention off herself.
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By Elliot Booker — 4 years ago
Has the Congressional Black Caucus Lost Its Conscience?
The activist group Color for Change charges that the CBC PAC serves corporations, not African Americans.
By David Dayen
March 2, 2016
Throughout primary season, Hillary Clinton has dominated with African Americans, winning higher percentages than Barack Obama garnered against her in 2008. This can lead to a too-pat assumption that the black community represents a monolithic voting bloc, with identical concerns and preferences. While it’s true that African Americans are empirically among the most loyal Democratic voters, the idea that there’s no daylight between millions of people makes no sense.
Organizations like Color of Change and the Black Lives Matter movement are targeting a fundamental question in the networked political era: Who gets to speak for a community.
One example of the fault lines within this large constituency presented a challenge this week to the black political leadership in Washington. Online progressive group Color of Change directly questioned the motives of the Congressional Black Caucus’s political action committee, or CBC PAC. The challenge was precipitated by a non-endorsement of high-profile black U.S. Senate candidate Donna Edwards, but it raised a much larger issue: Does the Congressional Black Caucus faithfully represent the best interests of the community at large, or instead of the corporate interests that fund it?
This campaign arm of the CBC, Color of Change charged, trades off the history and prestige of the caucus, but is dominated by corporate lobbyists. Rashad Robinson, executive director of Color of Change, calls the maneuver “civil-rights washing,” much like the “greenwashing” that corporations engage in to burnish their environmental image. “Corporations give money or create alliances with civil-rights communities to avoid being held accountable for their bad practices,” Robinson says.
The CBC brand is used for multiple entities. First, there’s the congressional caucus, which dates back to 1971 and now includes 46 members, 45 of whom are Democrats (Republican Mia Love of Utah is also a member). There’s the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, nominally a research institute with a separate leadership team, which features a scholarship program, a philanthropic fund, and various other initiatives. There’s the Congressional Black Caucus Institute, a “social purpose” organization engaged in voter education and leadership training. Finally, there’s the CBC PAC, launched in 1990 to increase the number of African Americans in Congress and foster black political participation.
These last three, all one step removed from the actual caucus, sadly often serve as a way to launder corporate contributions through the political system. Back in 2010, The New York Times explained that over a five-year period, the CBC Foundation had pulled in $53 million in corporate money from pharmaceutical, financial, telecommunications, and other interests. Little of that cash went to research or scholarships; the lion’s share went to glitzy conventions, golf and casino junkets, and paying off the foundation’s headquarters.
Despite the long history of the Congressional Black Caucus as an un-bought collection of socially conscious leaders, these extreme efforts to buy influence cannot help but have an impact. In recent years, CBC members have joined with Republicans to repeatedly undermine Dodd-Frank financial rules. Others have been accused of shilling for for-profit colleges. Still others formed the backbone of the fight against the (eventually passed) net-neutrality rules.
Color of Change focused on the CBC PAC because of the makeup of its 21-member board of directors, which decides political endorsements. Only eight of those directors are elected CBC members; the other 13 include two employees of the PAC and eleven corporate lobbyists. As Lee Fang laid out last month at The Intercept, these lobbyists represent dozens of firms, including student-loan servicer Navient, routinely accused of violating consumer-protection laws; Lorillard Tobacco, manufacturer of Newport cigarettes; dirty energy utilities Entergy and Energy Future Holdings; and Purdue Pharmaceuticals, maker of OxyContin and perhaps as responsible as any company for the opioid epidemic.
The PAC, which has raised $2.7 million since 2010, gets its funding from the biggest firms in America, like telecoms AT&T and Comcast, payday lender Cash America, mega-banks JPMorgan Chase and Citigroup, minimum-wage foe the National Restaurant Association, and private-prison firm Corrections Corporation of America.
Many of these industries directly target black communities, whether through mass incarceration or the subprime lending crisis or opposing the Fight for $15. Even the white Democratic presidential candidates have disavowed private prison money; the fact that the CBC PAC cannot is disquieting. “These are corporations that we’re consistently campaigning against,” says Robinson. “They represent institutions that are not in the interest of black folks.”
While Bernie Sanders supporters criticized the CBC PAC for endorsing Hillary Clinton for President last month, the non-endorsement for Maryland’s open Senate seat is perhaps more egregious. Representative Edwards, a CBC member, is running to become only the second black woman ever elected to the U.S. Senate. But the PAC refused to endorse her in the primary against Representative Chris Van Hollen, who is white.
Former Congressman Al Wynn, now a corporate lobbyist and a CBC PAC board member, led the charge against endorsing Edwards, according to Politico. This is incredibly problematic; Wynn lost his seat in a primary to Edwards in 2008. “It raises all the questions that people have about Washington, and why people don’t trust Washington,” Robinson says.
When the CBC PAC endorses political candidates, it gives the mistaken impression that the caucus members made the endorsement. Congressional Black Caucus members had to correct the record by disavowing the Clinton endorsement of their own PAC within hours of the announcement.
When CBC PAC held its endorsement announcement for Clinton, Robinson says, “Nowhere in the pictures did you see corporate lobbyists at the microphone.” To Color of Change, the CBC PAC allows corporate power to brandish the shield of institutions with high regard among black people, in ways that deceive the community. In the group’s petition to members of the CBC, Color of Change demands that the caucus change the composition of the PAC board and drop ties with industries that directly harm the black community.
When asked by BuzzFeed about the Color of Change action, CBC PAC executive director Benjamin Branch (himself a former telecom lobbyist) declined to comment.
Organizations like Color of Change and the Black Lives Matter movement, which sit outside the political power base and can criticize the gatekeepers, have always operated as a spur to hold leaders accountable. And they are targeting a fundamental question in the networked political era: Who gets to speak for a community?
It can be uncomfortable to criticize an organization that has persevered for decades as the “Conscience of the Congress.” But when the CBC tries to play an inside game and falls under the spell of big money, the credibility it’s worked so hard to sustain—and which corporations want desperately to tap into—can vanish.
Robinson says he’s received a lot of thanks—privately—from members of the African American political community in Washington for taking a stand. “Just because someone’s on the PAC and works as a lobbyist doesn’t mean they’re not a good person,” he says. “But it does mean they’re compromised. If we don’t raise this issue, then we lose our moral authority.”Post Views: 559
By Elliot Booker — 4 years ago
AFRICANGLOBE – Larry Fellows III didn’t vote in the Missouri primary and may skip the general election, too. He believes his government has failed him at every level—starting with his home community of St. Louis County, where a grand jury declined in 2014 to indict the police officer who murdered Michael Brown.
After his Twitter feed was inundated with images of Brown’s lifeless body lying in the street, Fellows was one of the first people to join the protests in Ferguson. He eventually quit his job, accumulating debt and even losing his apartment, to protest full-time. He hoped his activism would pressure local authorities into indicting thug cop, Darren Wilson.
When that didn’t happen, Fellows’ confidence in the system eroded to the point that he refused to vote for anyone.
“I don’t know if I want to continuously partake in a system that oppresses so many people,” Fellows, 30, said. “Not to say that voting doesn’t change anything, because I think it does influence change. But I also think a huge part of change happens outside of the system as well.”
Even as Black turnout has steadily climbed over the past generation, a number of Black people feel so disaffected by the electoral process that they refuse to take part. For them, sitting out is a political choice in itself.
Their logic is that there is no point engaging a political process that will not benefit Black people, no matter who the candidate is. For example, some of the cities in which the most infamous examples of abusive police tactics have occurred—Baltimore, Chicago, New York City, Philadelphia—are run by Democrats, the party that is supposed to have Black Americans’ interests at heart.
It’s one of the reasons that Quincy Johnson, 40, a truck driver who lives in Denver, has voted only three times in his life (2004, 2008 and 2014) and has no plans to vote this year.
“Hillary and Bernie are trying extra hard to get that Black vote,” he said. “Sure, they’ll talk to you now to get your vote. But I can guarantee you, once the election is over, try getting a word in then. It’s probably not going to happen.”
“I can’t have faith in my oppressor to not oppress me.
There are a lot of reasons Black people feel that voting in what is essentially a two-party system is pointless. Unemployment for Black Americans has been roughly twice that of white Americans since 1963, the year of the March on Washington. Though Black women overwhelmingly support the Democratic Party, their representation in national and local office is minuscule. And Black people continue to be shot and killed by police at disproportionate rates while the cops who kill them are rarely prosecuted.
As far as Rhone Fraser is concerned, both parties are complicit, so neither deserves his vote.
“The Democratic and the Republican parties work together to cause the problems we as a people are experiencing in terms of militarism, mass incarceration, and austerity,” said Rhone, 36, a lecturer at Howard University who lives in Philadelphia. “That is why I advocate boycotting those parties.”
He voted for Green Party presidential candidate Dr. Jill Stein in 2012 and voted in a local election last year, but is sitting 2016 out.
“I can’t have faith in my oppressor to not oppress me.”
Elisabeth Epps, 36, a legal analyst in Denver, is a big advocate of not voting but says she will cast a ballot this year for Stein, who is running again. “Some people would say voting for a third party candidate is equivalent to wasting your vote, but it’s quite the opposite,” she said. “I feel very strongly that my vote is too important to waste it on a party that doesn’t respect my beliefs.”
The last time Autumn Marie, 33, remembers wanting to be part of the presidential political process was 2000, when George W. Bush and Al Gore were vying for the White House. Bush’s eventual victory convinced her that the election was rigged. Not even the historic campaign of then-Sen. Barack Obama eight years later persuaded her to change her mind.
“I didn’t feel like, ‘Oh, Obama is going to be my savior,’” she said. “I also wondered, ‘Will Black people be complacent and feel like everything is good because we have a Black president?’ Eight years later, Black children are “looking at everybody their age being killed by police.”
You might assume that Rhone, Marie, Epps, Fellows, and Johnson are simply apathetic, but that isn’t the case. Fellows devoted months of his life to protesting in Ferguson, and Rhone is active in a Democratic club in Philadelphia. Marie is active in Black Lives Matter. Epps has volunteered and worked on campaigns in local and presidential elections.
“People tend to read Black folks not voting as a sign of apathy, but, in fact, it is often an indication of a lack of faith in the political process that speaks to the conditions of the Black community,” said Eddie Glaude, a professor of religion and African-American studies at Princeton University. “In some ways, it’s protesting the two-party system. The two-party system seems to force the belief that our only choices are right in front of us. Some people reject those two choices and choose not to chose between them.”
For all the Black people who have given up on voting, many more are going to the polls. Black voter turnout has significantly increased over the last seven presidential cycles. In 1988, when Jesse Jackson ran for president, the turnout rate was 46.8 percent. It reached an all-time high in 2008 at 69.1 percent before dipping to 67.4 percent in 2012.
For many minorities, the stakes in this year’s presidential race could not be higher. Donald Trump, the presumptive GOP nominee, has referred to Mexican immigrants as “rapists” and “killers,” and proposed banning Muslims from entering the U.S. His attitude toward the Black Lives Matter movement has been confrontational. He referred to activists protesting the death of Freddie Gray as “thugs.” Trump antagonized Black protesters at one of his rallies by saying that “all lives matter,” a refrain with anti-Black undertones. Accusations of racism against him date to 1973, when the Justice Department sued his real-estate company, alleging discrimination against Black people who wanted to rent his apartments.
In many Black circles, if you say you aren’t voting, you’ll be met with a side-eye or accusations of being irresponsible. One common refrain is that “our people died for the right to vote,” so why dishonor them by not exercising the franchise?
Fellows, who is gay, balks at such thinking. “I also have the right to marry, so that means I should go find a husband?” he asks. “Shaming me is not going to make me go to the polls.”
Since before the Emancipation Proclamation, Black Americans have had a tumultuous relationship with American electoral politics. Black suffrage expanded during Reconstruction, but for the next century, until the 1965 Voting Rights Act, voting laws across the South severely restricted the Black vote. Even today, Republican-led state legislatures are passing laws that critics believe are designed to discourage minorities from voting.
This Election Day, 17 states will have new voting restrictions on the books, according to the Brennan Center for Justice. These include strict photo ID requirements, cutbacks in registration, and limits on mail-in ballots. A study by the University of California, San Diego, found that voter ID laws not only disproportionately target minorities but “skew democracy toward those on the political right.”
In 1956, W.E.B Dubois wrote in The Nation that he refused to vote because “democracy has so far disappeared in the United States that no ‘two evils’ exist. There is but one evil party with two names, and it will be elected despite all I can do or say.” Even as Black Americans began voting for Democrats in large numbers during the 1960s because of the party’s support for strong civil rights legislation, Malcolm X referred to them as “political chumps.” His argument was that Democrats had waited years to address racist policies when they could have dealt with them immediately.
That some Black people would feel disillusioned with voting and the two-party system should not be surprising, said Minkah Makalani, an assistant professor of African and African diaspora studies at the University of Texas in Austin.
“This is a response Black people have had to the political system well before Dubois,” he said. “You see this in the nineteen-teens, 1920s, during the Harlem Renaissance, where the argument at that time was, ‘We aren’t getting what we want from either party. But the socialist or the communist parties are being more responsive to our concerns, so that’s who I’m voting for.”
In 2016, activism is central to the election as organized protests and actions have pressed candidates to address police violence and economic inequality. Throughout this vast movement of organizers and activists are diverse views about how to engage the political process.
Joan Fadayiro, 25, a member of BYP100, a Black millennial organization in Chicago that trains activists and focuses on social justice, told reporters that her organization provides a wide range of ways to engage the political process. For example, critics believed that Cook County prosecutor Anita Alvarez helped suppress dashcam video of an officer shooting 17-year-old Laquan McDonald 16 times. In response, BYP100 organized #ByeAnita. The action included protests, but it also focused on phone-banking that encouraged Chicagoans to vote Alvarez out of office during Illinois’ March primary. The millennial group’s efforts helped Alvarez’s challenger, Kim Foxx, cruise to victory with 62 percent of the vote in a three-way Democratic primary race.
During the #ByeAnita action, some members participated in voter outreach, others protested on the streets, and some did a little of both. While the point of the action was to get people to the polls, BYP100 did not pressure its members to do so.
“The most important thing in our communities when we think about liberation and self-determination is that we don’t all have to do the same thing,” Fadayiro said. “People should have the freedom to engage however they want to engage.”
Ifeoma Ike, co-founder of Black and Brown People Vote, encourages BYP100’s multi-pronged approach to political engagement, saying voting is an essential tool for brokering power—even in an imperfect structure.
“What BYP100 did was turn democracy on its head and said, even within a system that doesn’t work for us, we’re going to use these tools to at least get the people who are harming us out of power,” she said.
The challenge behind not casting a ballot is that our current political structure does not recognize the non-vote as power-brokering, said Anthea Butler, an associate professor of religion and Africana studies at the University of Pennsylvania.
“I understand perfectly their right to say that these people do not have our best interests in mind, so I can’t vote for them,” she said. “But the other part of the problem is how are you going to influence anything. So the kinds of interests you might have, you can’t affect changes that you want because you aren’t part of the process. You don’t have anything to hold against them.”
Marie doesn’t see it like that. She believes her activism is, in fact, enough to hold politicians accountable. And she believes that the political system is too crooked for voting to really change it. There are exceptions, she said: The election of the late Chokwe Lumumba as mayor of Jackson, Mississippi, in June 2013 was an indication that Black people could vote for candidates who challenged American imperialism and white supremacy, Marie said.
But such candidates are rare, she said. Asked whether she would consider ever voting again, Marie said she there was no chance.
“I have no faith in this system when it comes to delivering freedom for me and my people,” she said. “I can’t have faith in a system that was built by people to oppress us and protect their interests. I can’t have faith in my oppressor to not oppress me.”
By: Terrell Jermaine Starr
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