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Who Endorsed Hillary Clinton? The Congressional Black Caucus or Its PAC Filled with Lobbyists?

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This week’s endorsement of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for president by the Congressional Black Caucus political action committee prompted some confusion due to a lack of familiarity with the PAC. We look at the many lobbyists who comprise its board, including those who work for Purdue Pharma, the makers of highly addictive opioid OxyContin, and others who represent Philip Morris and Wal-Mart, the largest gun distributor in America. We also speak with the CBC PAC’s chair, Rep. Gregory Meeks, who notes the PAC “also includes the labor groups, labor organizations,” and argues, “We in the Congressional Black Caucus have to raise money so we can elect folks. But if you look at how the Congressional Black Caucus votes, no one can say that they don’t vote in a very progressive way.” Our guest Jeffrey Sachs, a leading economist, notes it is important to understand “what this endorsement meant” and adds, “Our politics has been corrupted by the money. That’s why our policies are so bizarre.”

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Our guests are Columbia University professor, leading economist, Jeffrey Sachs, here in New York, and joining us from the Capitol rotunda, Congressmember Gregory Meeks of New York. He is chair of the Congressional Black Caucus political action committee, which has just endorsed Hillary Clinton.

Can you talk about this endorsement? A lot of headlines have gotten it wrong, Congressmember Meeks. They’ve said that the CBC, the Congressional Black Caucus, endorsed, but it is the Congressional Black Caucus’s PAC. And one of the members of the Congressional Black Caucus, Congressmember Keith Ellison, said— tweeted the “Cong’l Black Caucus (CBC) has NOT endorsed in presidential. Separate CBCPAC endorsed withOUT input from CBC membership, including me.” And then he had a follow-up tweet saying, “The point [is] that endorsements should be the product of a fair open process. Didn’t happen,” he said. Can you respond to that?

REP. GREGORY MEEKS: Absolutely. But first let me apologize to Professor Sachs. I think I called him “Leeds” in my reply, so I just want to make sure I got that straight.

Yes, the Congressional Black Caucus does not ever endorse in any race at any time, because it is a composite group that can include and does include Republicans as well as Democrats. And it is a nonpolitical entity that just focuses on legislation. The political wing of the Congressional Black Caucus is a—is the Congressional Black Caucus political action committee. It is the only group of the Congressional Black Caucus that is not a 501(c)(3) or (c)(4) or anything of that nature, and it does engage in political actions. And so—and it has a board. And the board considers, as part of its consideration, where the majority of members are in the Congressional Black Caucus.

For example, in this race, not only did we know and had had a prior and long-standing working relationship and partnership with Senator Clinton in making sure that we moved Democrats and democracy forward in a progressive way, it is also the fact that—and with Senator Sanders, who actually is an independent and not a Democrat, who we have pleasure—we’re greatly—he caucuses with us, but has not gone out to partner with us to elect Democrats. And so, that’s what the process is. Same thing like the Progressive Party, from what I understand.

AMY GOODMAN: So—so then—

REP. GREGORY MEEKS: They just make a—

AMY GOODMAN: So then, let me—

REP. GREGORY MEEKS: They just make an endorsement based upon who they have. And that’s why they endorsed Senator Sanders.

AMY GOODMAN: Let me—let me ask you—Congressmember Meeks, let me ask you about what Lee Fang wrote in The Intercept: quote, “Members of the CBC PAC board include Daron Watts, a lobbyist for Purdue Pharma, the maker of the highly addictive opioid OxyContin; Mike Mckay and Chaka Burgess, both lobbyists for Navient, the student loan giant that was spun off of Sallie Mae; former [Rep. Albert] Wynn, D-Md., a lobbyist who represents a range of clients, including work last year on behalf of Lorillard Tobacco, the maker of Newport cigarettes; and William A. Kirk, who lobbies for a cigar industry trade group on a range of tobacco regulations.

“And a significant percentage of the $7,000 raised this cycle by the CBC PAC […] was donated by white lobbyists, including Vic Fazio, who represents Philip Morris and served for years as a lobbyist to Corrections Corporation of America, and David Adams, a former Clinton aide who now lobbies for Wal-Mart, the largest gun distributor in America.”

That’s what Lee Fang wrote at The Intercept. I was wondering if you could respond, Congressmember Meeks.

REP. GREGORY MEEKS: Yes, and also includes labor groups, labor organizations. It includes, you know, the whole scenario of individuals here in Washington. And I think that’s the point that Hillary Clinton was making last night, because we, in the Congressional Black Caucus, have to raise money, so we try to raise, so that we can elect folks. But if you look at how the Congressional Black Caucus votes, it is clear—no one can say that they don’t vote in a very progressive way, all the time.

AMY GOODMAN: Right, that’s the Congressional Black Caucus. But what Lee Fang is describing—

REP. GREGORY MEEKS: And the members of the Congressional—and the—

AMY GOODMAN: —is the CBC PAC and who’s on the board of that PAC.

REP. GREGORY MEEKS: But—that’s right. And the members of the CBC—and there are Congressional Black Caucus members. It’s not just—it’s a balance of members and others to raise money. And so, there are a number of members that you heard from, like Cedric Richmond, yesterday, like Terri Sewell, like G. K. Butterfield. So, you could see—and I can go on and on about other members that are on that board. I am the chair. Look at the CBC members that are on there and how we vote and how the candidates that we support, how they vote. They all vote in a very progressive way. So, to say that the money that we raise will cause us or cause the CBC or members of the CBC—because also 41 out of 46 CBC members have endorsed Senator Clinton. And to say that that money has caused us to vote other than what we or how we represent our communities is simply not true.


REP. GREGORY MEEKS: Look at how we vote.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, again, they’re talking about the Congressional Black Caucus PAC, the political action committee.

REP. GREGORY MEEKS: Right, but the—

AMY GOODMAN: Professor Sachs?


REP. GREGORY MEEKS: But the indication is that the money means that we will vote differently. And it does not.

JEFFREY SACHS: Amy, I want to say, that’s great reporting, because you’re clarifying something that confused a lot of us in the last day. We couldn’t understand how progressives, like Keith Ellison, great congressman, was suddenly making this endorsement, when progressives know that Hillary Clinton has been part of this lobbying machine for years and years. And I think you’ve helped us to understand this morning something I didn’t realize, which is what this endorsement meant and how the lobbyists have completely infiltrated this process.

Because that’s what Bernie Sanders is talking about every day. Our politics have been corrupted by the money, which is pervasive. And it’s the big health insurers. It’s Wall Street. It’s the military-industrial complex. And that’s why our policies are so bizarre: why we have the most expensive healthcare system in the world—Bernie Sanders wants to address that; why we’re in constant war—because we have the military-industrial complex constantly pushing this; why we have a destabilized financial system—because Wall Street is pumping in money.

And it’s not true, what Hillary Clinton said yesterday, that they’ve taken care of the bankers. They let the bankers have a free ride on all of this, after this massive collapse in 2008. And we have financial stability every day now. Morgan Stanley paying the billions in fines? They’re one of the biggest backers of Hillary Clinton. They’re on the top of the—near the top of the list, actually. This is what’s wrong with our system. The money is everywhere in this politics, except Bernie Sanders saying, “Stop. We’ve got to have democracy again.”

AMY GOODMAN: Well, Congressmember Meeks, we began with you, so we end with you. Jeffrey Sachs, I want to thank—

REP. GREGORY MEEKS: I just wanted to say one thing, and I think that we agree on this, because the problem with the money that got in the system is not because of the members. If you look at Citizens United, who put all of the money in the game. And everybody, in the Congressional Black Caucus or the Congressional Black Caucus PAC, would love to get the money out of the game. That’s why this election is important. Three Supreme Court justices are on the line. And how you get the money out of the game is ending Citizens United.

AMY GOODMAN: We’ll leave it there. Congressmember Gregory Meeks, Democrat of New York, chair of the Congressional Black Caucus political action committee, has—the political action committee has just endorsed Hillary Clinton. And Jeffrey Sachs, leading economist, director of The Earth Institute at Columbia University, author of many books—his latest, The Age of Sustainable Development. His recent article for The Huffington Post, “Hillary is the Candidate of the War Machine.”

When we come back, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Part 2. Stay with us.

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