The recently concluded Congressional Black Caucus Legislative Weekend is “right in the heart of what’s going on,” said Representative Corrine Brown (D-Florida). Major themes at the caucus were health care and the sub-prime crisis. Indeed as the CBC met, the activist organization ACORN held a rally at the Treasury Department calling on the government to bailout Main street reported the Washington Afro American newspaper.
The conference, however, was not limited to economic issues. A high point of the legislative weekend was a panel discussion on public financing sponsored by Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.). Only 7 states now have public financing, however a major step was taken in this direction with the election of Governor Janet Napolitano of Arizona with a publicly financed campaign.
Among the participants in the panel were the recently elected Donna Edwards (D-Maryland), Karen Bass, speaker of the California State Assembly, Dolores Huerta, leader of the United Farm Workers union and Hillary Shelton of the Washington DC NAACP. Edwards said, “Something is wrong when you have to spend so much time raising money for a campaign. It doesn’t feel right.” Edwards added that the day after her primary victory on February 13th, she woke up on Valentines Day raising money for the general election.
Huerta asked, “How can we build a democracy, if we don’t have control of our election process?” Lee spoke to the enormous challenge of fundraising in California politics. “It used to cost $400,000 to run for a seat in the state assembly – now it’s $2 million.”
Obama’s opting out of public financing seemed not to deter attendees. “Until we get public financing, we’ve got to look at how Obama raised money,” said Lee.
”This has to be a major issue in the next Congress,” commented the Northern California representative as she rushed off to a Congressional briefing on the financial bailout. “We have to keep fighting. When working people have to bailout Wall Street, something is wrong. This is a definitive moment.” One of the bills being considered by Congress is The Fair Elections Now Act.
As the CBC conference concluded, Senator Obama, after attending two 20,000 strong rallies in Greensboro North Carolina and Fredericksburg Virginia, went to its Awards Dinner and received the CBC’s Harold Washington prize.
Building on momentum attained over the past week in response to the Wall Street financial meltdown and a toe-to-toe victory over Republican John McCain in the Mississippi debate, Obama reminded voters that his opponent never mentioned the phrase “working people” or “middle class,” in the exchange. According to the Washington Post, the Democrat stuck to economic themes at the CBC award dinner.