- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 23, 2008

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Is the Congressional Black Caucus still “The Conscious of the Congress?” If American voters were to visit the caucus’ Web site, they would learn that what black lawmakers are not saying is far more crucial to their interests than what they have said. The Aug. 20 caucus comments on the death of Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones notwithstanding, much is lacking. There are no official statements on America’s financial crisis. Visitors are not directed to a post-convention agenda. In fact, when inquiring minds want to know what, precisely, the caucus has been up to during the 110th Congress, and how effective its “conscientious” legislative efforts have or have not been, the best advice is don’t look to the caucus (unless you want to be dumped into a “The requested page could not be found” zone).

Interesting is the fact there is no official press release on embattled caucus co-founder Charlie Rangel, who belatedly admitted that he failed to report $75,000 in rental income for two decades. The congressman, who sits as chairman on the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee, called his omission “irresponsible.” And the left-leaning Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington labels Mr. Rangel as a “most corrupt” politician. Mr. Rangel also is accused of using his congressional stationery to fund-raise for a college program. There are troubles for the current chairman of the caucus, as well. After beating back opponents in the Democratic primary, Rep. Carolyn Meeks Kilpatrick now faces a Republican challenger in November and the prospect of her only son - convicted felon Kwame Kilpatrick, the former mayor of Detroit - being imprisoned when he is sentenced on Oct. 28.

These are troubling times. Not only are rising joblessness, energy and homemaking costs wrecking family budgets, but Americans are learning that the bucks for the financial-industry bailout begin with them. The level playing field, which Democrats have long claimed starts with the government, is as rocky as ever. Americans have the right to know where the Congressional Black Caucus - and other special-interest cliques - stands on the financial rescue plan that will likely be voted on this week. Is the all-Democratic black caucus on the side of the American taxpayer - the underdog they proclaim to fight on behalf of? Or are black lawmakers falling inline with President Bush, who says a taxpayer-backed bailout is the way to right Wall Street troubles? Does the caucus realize that supporting a bailout means there will be fewer dollars for safety nets, socialized health care, welfare, Medicaid and Medicare, the war on terror and roads projects?

The caucus’ 37th annual legislative conference begins this week in Washington, raising the question. Obviously, the Congressional Black Caucus isn’t as conscientious toward Americans as it used to be.

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