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CBC Reports Annual Deficit But Says It Has Been Halved

The Congressional Black Caucus Foundation — a non-profit group that recently underwent a major financial overhaul — has filed tax returns showing that it was more than $1 million in the red last year.

The foundation reported that from July 1, 2002, through June 30, 2003, it held a deficit of $1.1 million. The group spent $1.1 million on consultants over that period and paid its president, Weldon Rougeau, $201,231.

Karla Chappelle Howard, the foundation’s vice president for finance and administration, confirmed Tuesday that the reports accurately reflect the foundation’s finances. But she added that a strong second half of 2003 helped cut the foundation’s deficit roughly in half, and said that the foundation is on its way toward balancing its accounts this year.

Howard said that the $1 million deficit is unusual. She said that the red ink stems from the economic downturn that accelerated after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The poor economy affected the group’s major fundraising event in September 2002, she said.

“The travel industry and the economy took a nose dive,” she said. “We saw it at our annual legislative conference and the financial results were poor.”

As for the $1.1 million in consulting fees, Howard said about half of those costs reflect money spent on outside help for the group’s annual conference. The foundation has also hired temporary staff to help implement its new strategic plan and other programs, which is still in the works, she said.

CBC Chairman Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) said despite last year’s reported debt, he’s not worried about the foundation’s books. He noted that the 2003 annual legislative conference was an overwhelming success, and the foundation is strong.

“I think it’s in sound financial shape,” he said.

Howard speculated that the president’s salary — which is about $60,000 higher than the past president’s — reflects Weldon’s experience and a new set of job requirements. Weldon, who has led the foundation for the past two years, has been charged with implementing the strategic plan.

Weldon’s salary was higher than nearly two-thirds of the 101 CEOs of Washington-based public-interest groups whose compensation was surveyed by National Journal earlier this year.

By August, the foundation will file another tax return for the final six months of 2003. CBC Foundation officials have said the 2002-2003 filings were late because it changed its financial reporting schedule last year, from a June 30 fiscal year to a calendar-year cycle.

Established in 1976, the CBC Foundation works to promote minority influence and participation in political, education and public policy circles. It faced some scrutiny earlier this year for failing to file its tax returns on time.

CBC Foundation officials said they changed the fiscal cycle to improve employee workloads and budgeting, given that the group’s primary fundraising event is held in September.

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