Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Dellums Running for Mayor of Oakland

Former Congressman and House Armed Services Committee Chairman Ronald Dellums (D-CA) announced his bid for Mayor of Oakland as current Mayor Jerry Brown (D) exits after two terms. Brown, incidentally, is a favored candidate for state Attorney General.

Dellums was pulled into campaign mode after living a comfortable life as a lobbyist. In fact, there was a campaign to draft Dellums into service and he initially declined.

"I have experience at bringing people together around problem-solving," Dellums said. "So in that sense, the voters in Oakland aren't taking a leap of faith. I have 31 years in elected office they can look to."

But, it's not the same Oakland - it's much more Latino, much more Asian and gentrifying heavily with Whites. Dellums will have an uphill challenge based on demographics that have dramatically changed since he was last in office.

Groff on NPR's News & Notes w/ Ed Gordon today ...

The Center for African American Policy's very own Honorable Peter C. Groff was on NPR's News & Notes with Ed Gordon today. The streaming audio is attached:

Rep. William Jefferson (D-LA) is defending himself against bribery allegations, and an unprecedented search of his Capitol Hill office has politicians from both parties crying foul. Ed Gordon discusses the historic impact of embattled lawmakers with Lanny Davis, former special counsel to President Bill Clinton and Colorado State Sen. Peter Groff, who heads the University of Denver Center for African-American Policy.

A Disturbing Pattern on the Rise ...

US Representative Barney Frank endorsed Deval Patrick for governor yesterday, and took the opportunity to chastise Massachusetts Democrats for failing to support blacks for high office.

Frank, a Newton Democrat, said that so far this year, it is the Republicans who have nominated blacks from their party for governorships -- in Ohio and Pennsylvania -- as well as a US Senate seat in Maryland.

This is interesting. Patrick is ahead in the polls for the longest time without formal support from his state party, which gets bugged out over the prospect of Massachusetts first Black Governor and throws a third spoiler in the mix. Patrick has been suffering from split polling ever since. Fishy.

Then, in New Orleans, incumbent Mayor Ray Nagin - another Black Democrat - manages a comeback and win ... but, without the support of party bosses who underestimate Black voter resilience and White voter support for a Black candidate ... gets fishier though ...

In Maryland, Democrats may once again blunder by picking a White statewide candidate over a highly qualified Black candidate and lose a Senate seat. Mfume is outraged, state Black Democrats are fuming privately, and there are whispers that the powerful African American voting bloc in MD may take a second look at Steele, a Black Republican ...

But, even more bizarre is that House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi demands embattled Congressman William Jefferson's (D-LA) resignation from the powerful House Ways & Means Committee, even though he hasn't been charged with anything nor are there any present ethics charges against him. Simply put, he is, as former White House Counsel Lanny Davis put it emphatically on NPR's News & Notes w/ Ed Gordon: "100% innocent. 100% innocent until proven guilty." Yet, Jefferson gets stronger backup from Republican House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL) who asks for all of Jefferson's stuff back. Where's Jefferson's White Democratic colleagues when he needs them?

Congresswoman McKinney (D-GA) gets slammed with a grand jury investigation for tapping a Capitol Hill police guard with a cell phone - as ridiculous as her reaction was - but, her White colleague Patrick Kennedy (D-RI) gets quietly whisked away to rehab after drinking, driving and crashing into Capitol Hill barricades. Where's his investigation?

And, oh yeah, suddenly TIME columnist and touted liberal commentator Joe Klein starts beating up on key Black Members who are in line to gain House Committee Chair seats.

All the while, the Republican party is pushing and nominating high-profile statewide Black candidates in major battleground states.

Something's not right ... and the GOP is quietly taking advantage of the situation. Democrats beware.

A Black Political Uprising in MD?

Shades of Kathleen Kennedy-Townsend, Part Deux??? Word is fast spreading of an outright revolt by Black Democratic leaders in Maryland if U.S. Senate candidate, former Congressman and NAACP President Kweisi Mfume doesn't win the primary. MD Dem party bosses appear to place their clout behind Rep. Ben Cardin (D-MD) and we predict this will not bode well when a chunk of the African American electorate in that state - 30% of voters in the state - rethinks party loyalties.

With Dems making that old school move, the Prediction for 2006 stands: we believe Lt. Gov. Michael Steele (R) will be Maryland's first Black U.S. Senator.

More Pressure on Congressman Jefferson

The pressure on Louisiana Congressman William Jefferson (D-LA) was turned up this afternoon when his caucus leader asked him to resign from the powerful House Ways and Means committee.

In a prepared release, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said ""In the interest of upholding the high ethical standard of the House Democratic Caucus, I am writing to request your immediate resignation from the Ways and Means Committee."Congressman Jefferson who has steadfastly defended himelf, continued that self defense and said the would not resign from the committee "...that is so vital to New Orleans...for any uncertain, longterm political strategy."

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Jefferson’s Raid Draws Bipartisan Outrage

There seems to be a constant barrage of criticism of the ongoing and caustic partisanship in Washington, DC that slows meaningful public policy from becoming law.

However, after an unprecedented raid of a congressman’s office over the weekend, criticism of the FBI action has been swift and bipartisan.

Congressional leaders Bill Frist (R-TN), the Senate Majority Leader and House Speaker J. Dennis Hasert (R-IL) both expressed concern and alarm over the nearly 18 hour raid and said both the House and Senate Counsels would investigate It was the first time a sitting member of Congress has had his office raided by the FBI.

The raid is part of an ongoing FBI investigation of Congressman Jefferson on allegations of bribery dealing with a high-tech company seeking to do business in Africa.

Monday, May 22, 2006

FBI Raids & Mistreatment of Black Congressional Members ...

Washington Post's Dan Eggen & Shailagh Murray write:

An unusual FBI raid of a Democratic congressman's office over the weekend prompted complaints yesterday from leaders in both parties, who said the tactic was unduly aggressive and may have breached the constitutional separation of powers between the executive and legislative branches of government.

But, does this Administration's disrespect for checks and balances really surprise anyone?

This is probably one of the more sensible stands Congressional leaders have taken in recent years. Despite the history of scandals and corruption cases plaguing Capitol Hill, this is a first where a sitting Member's office is raided. Questions are soon to float about the pundit-verse about the treatment of Black Congressional Members as opposed to their White counterparts: Rep. Bob Ney (R-OH) and Rep. Tom Delay (R-TX) didn't get this sort of treatment.

We have to ask: Did former and now jailed Congressman Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-CA) get his office raided? What's up with that. And he ended up admitting the crime(s).

And, as ridiculous as her behavior in the Capitol police incident, Rep. Cynthia McKinney (D-GA) did nothing as potentially dangerous or egregious as the alleged drunk driving of her White colleague Patrick Kennedy (D-RI) who was quietly whisked away into rehab after banging his car into a Hill barricade during an evening of alcohol binging. Where's his grand jury investigation? Is there a racial double-standard? Are Black Members being harrassed or profiled in an unscrupulous manner? It's a question many will begin asking ...

White People Voted for Nagin, Too ...

Which is saying something in a state like Louisiana.

Excerpt from the FBI's Search Warrant Affidavit of Jefferson's D.C. Office

The attached affidavit was filed to support the search of Rep. William Jefferson's (D-LA) Congressional office in Washington, D.C.

Nagin's Win & Jefferson's Loss

Katrina not only leveled a city, but it dramatically disrupted the political careers of prominent Black politicos running the dogged town. We find it surreal that at the exact moment one Black politician manages to escape political defeat and wins by a slim, yet healthy margin in the Mayoral race, the other - long known for his quiet demeanor - has his Capitol Hill home and office raided by federal agents and may well be facing a jail sentence in the future.

Jefferson will now be the next Delay, the Democrats' sacrificial lamb. The money in the fridge, videotaped bribes and indictments already add an extra edge to this sordid story that Delay's tale can't beat. We hope that doesn't translate into a lightning rod of animosity against other Black Members in Congress (like McKinney) since we have turntable pundits like Joe Klein suddenly focused hard on the flaws of three who stand to gain powerful House Committee chairs if all works out during the midterms. You know how it is - one messes up and it ruins it for the others. The story of our 400 years. The Committee chairs will be historic, and we're getting that familiar pit in the stomach that certain powers may not be feeling it.

Friday, May 19, 2006

What's up With the "Tar Baby" Comment?

There is a stream of buzz about newly installed White House Press Secretary Tony Snow loosely using the term "tar baby" (twice) during his first press briefing in response to a question about the wiretapping debacle. Interesting open memo to Snow we have attached here from hyper-liberal Think Progress which gives good reasoning for why he shouldn't be using it.

More interesting is that we haven't heard a peep from any African American journalists within the Washington press corp. It's been a week. We're pretty certain they were in the White House media room when it happened, and it says something when White journalists and commentators are more vocal about it than their Black colleagues. Ultimately, this story fizzles and disappears.

Dumbstruck by "The Great Deluge"

Washington Post describes this latest book about Katrina, Nagin and New Orleans' recovery:

"The Great Deluge," by Tulane University historian Douglas Brinkley, covers a week of the Hurricane Katrina debacle and depicts New Orleans Mayor C. Ray Nagin as too vain, too stunned and too paranoid to have been effective in the city's crisis.

Mitch Landrieu gets the Times-Picayune endorsement. He's edged nagin in the polls. Set up? They're definitely not wasting any time seeing to it that New Orleans will be much different than where it was pre-Katrina.

House Government Reform Committee Endorses D.C. Congressional Vote ...

Although perceived as a major step towards D.C. getting a House vote, the quotes cited in the attached article show a GOP majority encouraging false hope in an effort to win minimal Black support in 2006:

Davis expressed cautious optimism, saying, "This is momentum." But he acknowledged that there was no guarantee that the polarized Judiciary Committee would pass the bill. If it does, the measure could advance to the full House, then the Senate.

"We've got a lot of people working on this," Davis said. "We take one hurdle at a time."

Translated: "this is really an exercise in futility, but it looks great on the party resume."

The last minute maneuvering by Rep. Dan Burton (R-IN) showed what this was all about:

In announcing his turnabout, Dan Burton (R-Ind.) declared: "I'd like to say we should support this as a civil rights step."

Which happened after conferring with the heavily moderate Jack Kemp, who probably persuaded him with lines about the RNC desperately needing to expand the big tent. "Come on, Dan, you can't deny this is great outreach. We're on a roll here - don't spoil it. We might be able to get 30% of their vote, at least."

More from that article:

However, all four votes against his measure were from Republicans, including Candice S. Miller (Mich.) who said in a brief speech: "I think this is counter to the Constitution." The other no votes came from John M. McHugh (N.Y.), Patrick T. McHenry (N.C.) and Jean Schmidt (Ohio).

"Counter to the Constitution?" Huh? As if denying half-a-million people in the world's premier democracy, some of whom have fought and died in American wars, a vote in Congress isn't?

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Saving Face - A Vote for the District of Columbia?

On the surface, the GOP leadership would like to give the appearance of caving in to D.C. Statehood, Home Rule and Congressional vote advocates. This is a sign that the party is in serious trouble come 2006 - so what do you do? You seem as though you're endorsing a "Black" agenda of sorts since a few more Black votes could be the trick to get you over the top: A D.C. vote in Congress - sounds good; sure - we'll reauthorize the Voting Rights Amendment; not a problem - we'll pressure the White House to make some movement on the Darfur situation ... hey - and while we're at it, we'll give you a couple of African American senators and a couple of African American Governors. That should keep the Black masses happy.

Lot of smoke and mirrors to ensure minimal Black rage against the Republican machine.

But is this being seriously considered? Will the D.C. vote issue reach the House floor? Despite the optimism, that may be very doubtful. D.C. Delegate Norton has to keep the issue alive since, for the first time in a long time, she's being challenged in the primary. So, she's on fire to maintain her image as fearless advocate, making certain everyone knows she got arrested yesterday for protesting outside the Sudanese embassy.

Maybe it'll get a vote once the African American population in the District drops below 50 percent, which may happen in the near future if current demographic trends persist.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

White Rally on Black Problems ...

We thought it was just us. Glad to see somebody saw it. Not to say that White folks shouldn't be out there protesting the tragedies in Sudan - that's a good thing. But, the absence of Black protesters speaks volumes. It's disturbing. Perhaps it speaks to the tragic disconnect and psycho-social distance between various groups within the African Diaspora. But, our collective inability to voice a solid, coherent foreign policy outlook not only hurts those ignored in other parts of the world, but it can translate into negative consequences for African Americans if we fail to make important linkages.

The End of Legal Bribery

This is a compelling piece by Jeffrey Birnbaum in The Washington Monthly, but it displays a certain bit of insulated ignorance on the part of Beltway Insiders who seem removed from the average American vibe on the state of our political system. Perhaps we're being cynical; optimism is a rare luxury we can't afford anymore when considering the conduct of modern elected officials.

Says Birnbaum:

Money will always have a say in politics. But nowadays, its voice is deafening. Maybe the work of diligent prosecutors will soon allow average voters to be heard more often as well.

Deafening? Yeah, right - We doubt that considering the rising cost of political campaigning. Presidential campaign in 2004: $4 billion. In 2000: $3 billion. 1996: $2.2 billion. Mud-slinging candidates and 19 second soundbites: priceless. Notice a trend? As long as elected officials are forced to spend three quarters of their time running in and out of fundraisers, money will rule politics. Scandal will follow. The impact of periodic indictments, trials, and jail sentences will be short-lived. The consistent wrath of fed-up citizens and a continuous uprising of voter discontent is the essential ingredient. It's a shame most of us are too lazy to even exercise that basic right.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

ASCENT LIVE! tonight, 5.10.06 ...

Who's up tonight? Don't miss Ellison's Political Wire; working on getting Washington Post writer Matthew Mosk who wrote this somewhat telling piece today, "Year of the Black Republican?" to offer some perspective; & we'll have Darnell McGavock of & James Clingman of during the Roundtable.

Yes - Peter Groff is back tonight as Host. Stream us LIVE at on KVDU radio.

Brooklyn Zoo ...

NYC's Congressional District 10 looks to be a fairly interesting and tight race - if played right by political novice and noted "hip hop historian" Kevin Powell. Powell seems to make all the right moves on the surface: he has a DC fundraiser set up for this Saturday, May 13th; he's got a nifty little website; and he's got a bling appeal that the current incumbent for that District does not. In fact, we don't see much of Edolphus Towns anyway - so, all Powell might have to do is take a train to DC and sit in Towns' office.

If Powell works it right, he might win. The current Congressman for that district, Edolphus Towns, is one of those ghost representatives. He misses votes and committee meetings. House Democratic leaders haven't been too happy with Towns. He has a notorious reputation for M.I.A. Powell may see an opportunity in that - but, he certain hasn't made a spill about it.

But, on the flip side, being a "hip-hop intellectual" and former MTV reality show cast member doesn't qualify you for taking on Brooklyn's issues. What makes Powell more qualified than Towns? Towns will work his business community connections and argue that Powell is less experienced. Towns will also go for the older, more established vote in District 10, as they will scoff at Powell's age and lack of political experience.

Powell could be drawn into one of these flashy, get out the hip hop and neo-soul vote campaigns, focused primarily on voters between 18-30. He'll probably get the usual set of suspects to come out: Sharpton, Simmons, Diddy, etc. There will be an entourage of other "hip hop thinkers," musicians and a sting of bling. But, at the end of the day, he should be careful not to alienate other voters in that District whom Towns (if hungry enough) could be skilled enough to tap.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Congressman Jefferson's woes and the End of Black New Orleans As We Know it (?) ...

It's not looking good for Congressman William Jefferson (D-LA), CBC member and embattled politician under serious federal probe. With scandal racking Capitol Hill, Even is saying he belongs in prison. Here's the short of it:

Kentucky technology company executive Vernon Jackson pled guilty Wednesday to paying $400,000 in bribes to Congressman Bill Jefferson (D-LA). In exchange, Jefferson promised to held the company win federal governmental certification and contracts. In exchange for his guilty plea, prosecutors agreed Jackson would be sentenced to only 7-9 years in federal prison instead of the 20 years recommended by sentencing guidelines. Jefferson has denied he accepted bribes or acted improperly. "I take full responsibility for what I have done," said Jackson. Former Jefferson legislative director Brett Pfeffer pled guilty earlier this year to aiding and abetting bribery of a public official. The only question now is which Congressman gets indicted first on bribery and corruption charges: Jefferson for this scandal or Bob Ney (R-OH) for the Abramoff scandal?

That gets into a larger question about the political future for African Americans in New Orleans. Mayor Nagin is already in a nasty run-off with Mitch Landrieu that could very well determine the racial demographics of that city for some time to come. And with Jefferson out (despite his belligerance), New Orleans will definitely get a cultural face lift in 2006.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Maryland Politics & the Black Vote ...

Montgomery County Executive & Democratic Gubernatorial candidate Doug Duncan needed to find something dramatic to cut into favored Dem front-runner, rising political rock star and Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley (who is actually a lead singer and guitarist for a local Irish rock band). O'Malley did it first by picking Black Md. House Delegate Anthony G. Brown (D-Prince George's), who represents the nation's Black socio-economic mecca, and resolved not to make the dummy move like Kathleen Kennedy-Townsend (D) made in 2002 by picking a senior-aged White moderate Republican running mate (retired Admiral Charles Larson), hence woefully underestimating the clout of the African American electorate in Maryland.

That certainly isn't happening in 2006.

Duncan is following that lead by picking former Baltimore State's Attorney Stuart O. Simms. So, Duncan goes after O'Malley's hometown base, which is a sharp move. Duncan is almost certain to get an endorsement from former CBC Chair and Baltimore Congressman Elijah Cummings (D-MD) - but, it remains to be seen how far these latest moves will split the Black political establishment in Maryland, since Congressman Albert Wynn (D) in Prince George's County could very well go with O'Malley to back homeboy Brown.

Plus, it may be too late based on his most recent polling numbers. And, it's all about locking Prince George's County during statewide races in Maryland and O'Malley has definitely done that by picking Brown. Still, the fact that both candidates are playing very close attention to the pulse of Black voters in Maryland is interesting. Maryland, in our book, is the most compelling Black political state in 2006, with two Black Gubernatorial running mates and two Black Senate candidates, all showing strong in the latest polling data. With Mfume suddenly rising, we may get that Senate race we've been wishing for.

Not certain what reigning Republican Gov. Robert Ehrlich will do once he loses Steele to the U.S. Senate. Black Republicans in Maryland are few, so he'll have to dig deep in the party crates to find someone with appeal who has a credible track record. At this point, Ehrlich should be putting out feelers for another gig. We predict O'Malley being the next Governor of Maryland, barring any unforeseen political disaster or unveiled scandal.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

McKinney's Hustle ...

Georgia District 4 Congresswoman and controversy magnet Cynthia McKinney (D) may well be busting a sweat as hard as the one she spilled that fateful cell-phone beat-down day on Capitol Hill. Official word is well-known Dekalb County Commissioner Hank Johnson will make a run against her in the Democratic primary. Frankly, this is what District 4 needs, it's what the Congressional Black Caucus must be privately itching for and it's what the African American electorate needs as well. McKinney's trivial troubles on the Hill have created a backwards media stir. Here we get scant coverage of the CBC working successfully to avert a mass vote against the Voting Rights Act re-authorization, yet, over a month ago, McKinney's hair, temperament, cell phone grip and the disposition of her staff was all the pop culture rave.

This is Johnson's race to lose.

Voting Rights Act Reauthorization

In many ways, the nearly decade-old urban myth scourge on the web about Black folks losing all rights to vote by 2007 may have significantly contributed to a happy ending on the voting rights front. The uproar was intense and the anxiety stifling. True: not reauthorzing certain components of the Act would have been severely problematic. We're pleased by this latest outcome and the tireless work of the Congressional Black Caucus on it (now, back to their districts ...). But, thankfully, it's an election year, and Republicans have enough scandal-ridden heat to deal with as is. Why attract the ire of Black voters who won't vote for them anyway? Perhaps the RNC feels this deal will muster a percentage point or more in Maryland, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

House Judiciary Committee Chair James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) underscored his commitment to renew the law, stating "the train is out of the station to fulfill that pledge." But, the fact that Sensenbrenner and other like-minded moderate Republicans - in conjunction with Democrats - had to actually push or force GOP approval of the Fannie Lou Hamer, Rosa Parks and Coretta Scott King Reauthorization and Amendments Act of 2006 is very telling.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Resegregating Omaha?

Yes - we Spring Break, too ...

This bill attached is old, but the issue is still fresh. We had Dell Gines ( out of Omaha, NE (yes - Black folks roam the deep midwest) on ASCENT LIVE! to discuss the increasingly contentious and muddled situation down there.

First, we find this CNN article a little messed up,
if not a tad bit insulting and liberally paternalistic. Nebraska State Sen. Patrick Bourne (D-Omaha), pictured in the CNN article, did not author L.B. 1024, a bill dividing the Omaha Public School System into three districts - one Black, one White, one Latino. The Nebraska State Legislature's lone Black Senator, Ernie Chambers (D-Omaha), presented this, and why he doesn't get a respectful mug spread for this redefining moment that could re-shift the face of public education as we know it rips at us some. Maybe it's not about Chambers, per se, but about the fact that he's a hard cat to catch these days, with no voicemail or working email.

Yet, the classic or typical way to look at this is to say Chambers engaged in a bit of reverse racism or he single-handedly deconstructed decades of civil rights progress since Brown v. Board of Education. True: it is somewhat strange, somewhat odd that after years of fighting for equal access that you suddenly make a U-turn. But, we should also point out that Chambers may be on to something, a way to get buzz started over the problem of quality education for African American youth. As Gines put it in his blog, integration was not the final objective of the civil rights movement - that was merely the first stage.

Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman eagerly signed off on this, because - as far as Nebraska is concerned - let the Black people deal with Black people's problems. We hope that in selecting leadership for an all-Black school district, Omaha's African American residents don't allow skin color authenticity to trump credentials and merit. In addition, we question exactly how funding will be doled out to these new school districts and who makes the final decision on where the money comes from and where it goes.

"The Fix" on Ohio ...

It's refreshing to see that somebody out in poli-land didn't get caught up in the Black-Republican-rare-item-&-celebrity-hype surrounding Ohio Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell (R) and his bid for Governor. While we always said he'd win the primary (which is today), we doubt he'll be the next Gov. of the Buckeye State, despite all the ooh-ahhs and salivation around Black GOP statewide candidates in Ohio, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Michigan.'s Chris Cillizza feels the same way, and we feel vindicated to a degree since it seems someone read our 2006 predictions:

The Taft Factor

The other main event today is in the gubernatorial race, where Secretary of State Ken Blackwell appears to be pulling away from state Attorney General (and former Auditor) Jim Petro in the Republican primary. Several polls released in the final days of the race pegged Blackwell as the frontrunner, with leads ranging from 12 to 21 points. Blackwell, who is African American, would be the second black Republican to win a gubernatorial nomination this year(former Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Lynn Swann won the GOP nod in Pennsylvania).

While a Blackwell victory would make national news, he would still start the general election behind Ted Strickland, a deficit due in no small part to the ethical problems surrounding outgoing Gov. Bob Taft (R).
Blackwell used television ads to link Petro and Taft in the primary and is likely to stay as far from the incumbent as possible in the fall. Nonetheless, Blackwell will not be able to erase the "R" after his name, which could seal his fate among the state's disgruntled voters. The Fix ranked the Ohio governor's race as the second most likely gubernatorial seat to change parties this year in out most recent Friday Line on governors races.