All Articles Tagged "Black politicians"

Thomas Takes PR Tack With Peers Amid Scandal

August 1st, 2011 - By TheEditor
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(Washington Examiner) — D.C. councilman’s email hits on ‘presumption of innocence’.  Embattled Ward 5 D.C. Councilman Harry Thomas is quietly running a public relations campaign that says he should presumed innocent rather than being attacked over accusations that he stole $300,000 in city funds meant for kids.  Thomas has agreed to pay the city back. But in his settlement of a lawsuit filed against him by D.C. Attorney General Irvin Nathan, Thomas wasn’t required to admit that he stole the cash meant for youth sports programs so he could buy a high-end Audi sport utility vehicle and take golfing trips, which the lawsuit alleged. That’s given Thomas some room to maneuver, even as three of his council colleagues have called for him to resign and some of his constituents have begun to clamor for a recall. The U.S. Attorney’s Office is investigating the accusations.

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Black Politics: Jack & Jill Politics Blogger Talks Obama’s Outlook for 2012

July 29th, 2011 - By TheEditor
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Cheryl ConteeBy Alexis Garrett Stodghill

President Obama took the time to greet a group of black bloggers in late 2010 as part of the push to gain African-American support for the midterm elections. This shows yet again how key new media is to his overall campaigning strategy, but more importantly demonstrates the power of black new media to unite the disparate factors in our community into one empowered group. Black voters online must be courted through African-American outlets. Jack & Jill Politics is one of the most important African-American venues, documenting issues that deserve more attention than the mainstream often doles to us and exerting pressure against enemies of the black middle class.

The Atlanta Post sought out co-founder Cheryl Contee to discuss how Jack & Jill Politics came into being, its successes as a top political influencer, and her hopes for the black community in the future as pressure from right-wing demagogues intensifies.

What is the social mission of Jack & Jill Politics?
Our goal is to provide a more balanced perspective from average, middle class African-Americans on politics and current affairs.

What inspired you to start the site? How old is it?
I grew frustrated in the summer of 2006 by the lack of voices from black people in American mainstream media who are neither criminals nor Will and Jada. We wanted to reflect the opinions and priorities of the majority of black folks who are hardworking, tax paying, concerned citizens.

What has been your most important story or influential blog post?
I’d say our early endorsement of Barack Obama as a presidential candidate! We were also very active during the 2008 election in pushing back on racism on the campaign trail. Our posts taking the Congressional Black Caucus and NAACP to task have also been influential in how those organizations approach African-Americans online.

Finally, we take a small share of credit in partnering with Color of Change and other organizations in pushing back on Glenn Beck and cutting down his advertising dollars. He’s now off the nation’s TV airwaves, and I’m proud of reducing a hate-filled fearmonger’s influence.

How do you generate revenue? Is that a primary concern, or does the political influence of the site come first? Is the site a springboard for personal branding?
Revenue is not a primary concern; we’re an all-volunteer operation and are all professionals with decent jobs. That said, we do accept advertising since that helps pay for site operations and travel to speaking appearances. For many of our bloggers, Jack and Jill Politics has created a strong platform that has helped their careers and opened other doors.

Is President Obama handling the debt ceiling debacle as he should?
I think Obama’s handling this more adroitly than the healthcare reform debate. The White House appears to be learning how to deal with the extreme right-wing better.

Do you think black republicans like Rep. Allen West and Herman Cain represent important figures in black politics? What is good and bad about their rise?
I do think the rise of West and Cain is worth watching. Unlike Obama, Cory Booker and Deval Patrick, they do not appear to appeal to a broad, diverse audience — their supporters are primarily white. So that’s of interest. That said, given their base, I believe like Clarence Thomas, they will likely advocate for policies that hurt, not help, other black people.

What is the number one thing most politicians tend to miss when trying to attract the black vote?
I think today it’s important to go beyond just the barbershop, beauty salon and church. These are still important gathering points. However, Pew Internet just released a study that says that 25% of blacks are using Twitter. The digital divide is dead and politicians need to get hip to a digital-savvy hip-hop generation on the march.

Are blacks doing enough to use the web as a political tool?
I think right now on sites like Tumblr or Twitter, there’s a lot of discussion that’s fun. I’d like to see more black folks tweet directly to members of Congress, their state legislatures and even corporations and tell them what they believe is right for our communities and for American families.

What are some of your predictions for the 2012 presidential election?
I think it’s going to be really rocky. Obama is an attractive candidate and the GOP will be throwing the kitchen sink at him to try and dent his appeal. Things might get ugly and more than a little bit racist.

If you could say one thing in person to President Obama, what would it be?
I already said it! I met him in person finally at the first White House Twitter Townhall. I told him that I’ve tried my best to try and help him. Obama’s not perfect — there are definitely issues I wish he’d approach differently. Yet I respect him as an amazing leader who really is trying to be the president of all the people.

I’m proud to say I helped America’s first black president get elected. That’s something I’ll be able to tell my grandkids about someday, I hope!

Voters, Elected Officials Push for Thomas to Resign

July 27th, 2011 - By TheEditor
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(Washington Examiner) — A rising tide of D.C. voters and elected officials is calling on Councilman Harry Thomas Jr. to resign after he agreed to pay the city back $300,000 he was accused of stealing.  Petitions are circulating through Thomas’ Ward 5 to initiate a recall vote, and two D.C. Council members have called for him to resign. Other council members, including council Chairman Kwame Brown, have pushed Thomas to strongly consider his actions and the dark cloud they’ve cast on the city’s legislative body. Meanwhile, Thomas’ attorney, Fred Cooke, is creating a legal defense fund, The Washington Examiner has confirmed. The cash will help Thomas cover the costs of defending himself against an ongoing criminal investigation by the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

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Harry Thomas Jr. to Repay D.C. $300K

July 25th, 2011 - By TheEditor
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(Washington Post) — D.C. Council member Harry Thomas Jr. agreed Friday to repay the District $300,000 to settle a city lawsuit that alleged he diverted public funds from youth programs and used some of the money to pay for luxury cars and expensive trips.  In a settlement that will avert a civil trial but does not shield the Ward 5 Democrat from possible criminal prosecution, he also agreed not to head up any charitable organizations for at least five years.  Although Thomas did not admit wrongdoing, the settlement underscores the growing legal and political pressures facing several high-profile District leaders accused of ethical misconduct. The case also stands as a significant early accomplishment for the city’s new attorney general, Irvin B. Nathan, who has stressed that he will aggressively pursue allegations of mismanagement or corruption at city hall.

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House Seeks Help on Maxine Waters Investigation

July 21st, 2011 - By TheEditor
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By Charlotte Young

The House Ethics Committee may have been trying to investigate Democratic Rep. Maxine Waters, but now it seems they will be requiring additional investigations.

As pressure rises from allegations of probe irregularities, the Committee is forced to hire an additional attorney. The Washington Post reports that Billy Martin, a prominent DC attorney, will be brought in as outside counsel as the investigation continues.

This news came shortly after the watchdog groups Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington voiced their concerns with the committee’s conduct to House Speaker John A. Boehner and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. The watchdog groups expressed their desire to see the case be handed over to an independent counsel on Monday.

Previously the Washington Post reported that the Committee’s investigation was deeply disrupted and undermined by infighting. Accusations declared that former attorneys on the committee may have compromised the investigation by “improperly communicating with Republican committee members.” Former chairman of the panel, Rep. Zoe Lofgren, “suspended the two lead lawyers in the investigation, former federal prosecutors Morgan Kim and Stacy Sovereign, over a dispute with the committee’s top attorney, Blake Chisam.” The current chairman, Rep. Jo Bonner, then accused Lofgren of attempting to dismiss Kim and Sovereign without cause. Since the dispute, Chisam has also left the Committee.

Maxine Waters has been facing investigation since 2009 when she was accused of arranging federal assistance for OneUnited, a minority-owned bank in which her husband holds a large financial investment.

Her trial was scheduled to take place last November but was postponed after the Committee revealed it had uncovered new evidence in the investigation.

Due to the irregularities, Water’s attorney had been pushing for a dismissal of the entire case. A press statement by Waters says that the addition of outside council is, “a recognition by the committee, that its investigation of me was misguided.” The statement continues that Waters is now confident that the counsel’s review of the committee’s misconduct will find that her rights were indeed violated and there will be no need for further investigation.

Fury Follows Allen West’s Email About Democratic Chair

July 21st, 2011 - By TheEditor
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(Politico) — Several House Democratic women on Wednesday called on Rep. Allen West to apologize to Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz for his e-mail that called her “vile,” “despicable” and “not a Lady.”  The lawmakers said they were sending a letter to House GOP leadership, asking them to condemn the e-mail from the freshman Florida Republican. The group of five House Democrats said West’s e-mail was indicative of a larger problem – both inside Congress and out – of gender discrimination in the workplace.  “For his own good, they ought to take him into the woodshed and say, ‘if you want to survive in this work environment, you’ve got to keep your word, you’ve got to be cordial and congenial and civil even when you’re disagreeing,” said Rep. Gwen Moore (D-Wis.) “It makes for a very hard career otherwise.”

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Reed Builds Big Campaign Fund

July 20th, 2011 - By TheEditor
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(AJC) — Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed raised more than $630,000 for his re-election campaign over the past six months, putting him on pace to exceed his massive 2009 totals, while sending the first shot at anyone who might want to challenge him in 2013.  Reed released his fundraising totals on July 8 to the state ethics commission in a 69-page report. He collected about $100,000 more than Republican Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal over roughly the same time frame, though in fairness Deal doesn’t face re-election till 2014.

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Gray Cash Donations Exceeded Legal Limit

July 19th, 2011 - By TheEditor
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(Washington Post) — D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray’s campaign accepted cash contributions above the city’s legal limit and in some cases recorded donations from people who say they didn’t contribute to his mayoral bid, according to a Washington Post review of District records and interviews.  The Post found several instances of cash donations that exceeded the city’s $25 limit. Gray campaign workers then improperly exchanged that cash for money orders, which carry a higher donation limit. The campaign officially reported the money-order donations and not the cash, The Post found.  Money-order donations totaled more than $56,000 — primarily from the city’s taxi industry — and are part of the $2.7 million war chest the Gray campaign amassed in last year’s defeat of incumbent Adrian M. Fenty, who spent nearly $5 million on his reelection bid.

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Conspiracy Theories Surrounding Michael Scott’s Apparent Suicide

July 15th, 2011 - By TheEditor
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(Chicago Magazine) — Davis and others who don’t buy into the official line believe that Scott was the victim of a political murder made to look like suicide, carried out by shadowy forces loyal to Mayor Daley’s administration.  There are variations of this rubout theory, depending on whom you talk to, but the common thread is that Scott—the backroom fixer, the mayor’s trusted go-to guy—was killed because he knew too much about the supposed illicit dealings inside City Hall. “Folks think he had enough information to cause some people some problems,” says Cliff Kelley, a radio host and former South Side alderman.

Others suggest that Scott might have been killed for financial reasons. At the time of his death, they note, Scott was involved with a string of high-stakes development deals, some linked to the city’s 2016 Olympics bid, as well as a number of smaller-stakes projects in and around his home turf on the West Side. He also had an interest in a fast-food franchise that was bleeding money. A few people once close to Scott have said he may have had far murkier business dealings, including some with figures connected to the Russian Mafia who were trying to develop properties on the West Side. Suspicious minds wonder: Could his death have been connected to a disgruntled business partner? A deal of some sort gone bad? (Probate records reveal that various lenders have been seeking to collect more than $1.5 million from his estate.) “It could’ve come from a number of different angles,” says Davis. “Once you start seeing the puzzle—look out!”

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National Push for Voter ID Disenfranchises Voters

July 13th, 2011 - By TheEditor
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"charing ball"By Charing Ball

I guess the old adage is true: the more things change, the more they stay the same.

At least that appears to be the case in what could only be described as organized efforts around the country to push through legislation requiring all voters to show a valid, unexpired photo ID to prove citizenship.

Voter fraud occurs when individuals cast ballots despite knowing that they are ineligible to vote, in an attempt to defraud the election system.  The Supreme Court has already determined that states requiring photo ID for voting is constitutional, despite its racist past in denying folks of color the right to participate in the electoral process.

Quietly, and with little fanfare, Republican governors and state legislatures – as well as some Democrats – are leading the charge to manipulate the vote across America.  Sometimes they fail miserably, as in the case of California, in which several voter ID propositions have made their way onto the ballot only to lose.  And recently, North Carolina Governor Perdue exercised her veto power to stop a bipartisan effort to establish a picture voter ID card for the state.  However, not every state has been so lucky. In Wisconsin and Rhode Island, voters will begin showing ID come this fall.

In Rhode Island the legislation was backed by a coalition of Democrats and Republicans, including prominent minority lawmakers: African-American legislators House Speaker Gordon D. Fox and Sen. Harold M. Metts, as well as  Sen. Juan M. Pichardo, the first Latino elected to a Rhode Island Senate seat and the first Dominican-American elected to a state senate seat in the country.  Those minority lawmakers contend that the bill was necessary to stem the tide of voter fraud, however some believe that the black and Latino leaders supported the bill in hopes of regaining prominent seats in demographically changing districts.

Allegations of election-related fraud make for tantalizing press and fear-driven legislation, especially in 2000 where the outcome of the presidential election hung – quite literally – in the balance.  However, since 2002, the Justice Department’s Ballot Access and Voting Integrity Initiative have found just 38 cases of voter fraud nationally, and of those, 14 ended in dismissals or acquittals, 11 in guilty pleas, and 13 in convictions.  Most surprising is that in most of those cases the targets were Democrats, and the common fraud reported were errors in filling out forms or confusion over eligibility.

What this all suggests to me is that despite the rhetoric, most elections are not lost by voter fraud. And by throwing all sorts of election anomalies under the “voter fraud” umbrella, Republican and Democrats alike exaggerate the need for more restrictions while turning a blind eye to urgency to correct what is truly wrong with the process.  In fact, I’m willing to bet that that the main causes of electoral transgression stems from faulty machinery, clerical errors and things like hanging chads.  And let us not forget laws which prohibited ex-felons from exercising their voting rights.  Generally speaking, they want you to vote, just as long as the constituency doesn’t pose any threat to the political and economic supremacy of their party and their candidate.

In 2007, Royal Masset, former Texas Republican Party political director, said in an interview that while he believed the vote-fraud hysteria was overblown, an ultimately unsuccessful Texas photo-ID law “could cause enough of a drop-off in legitimate Democratic voting to add 3 percent to the Republican vote.”  So there you have it folks, the truth in black and white.  It should also be noted that outside of voter ID proposals, there are several other laws, which have passed or are being introduced, just to add another barrier to voting.  In Florida, Gov. Rick Scott’s administration imposed a waiting period of at least five years for ex-felons to be able to vote, and in Maine Republican Gov. Paul LePage recently signed a bill banning same-day registration.

If that’s not some Jim Crow stuff, I don’t know what is.

Charing Ball is the author of the blog People, Places & Things.