Israel Makes Changes to DCCC to Assuage CBC

Posted March 11, 2011 at 12:47pm

The head of the Congressional Black Caucus said Friday that he was optimistic that changes at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee would help ease some of the tensions between the Congressional Black Caucus and House Democrats’ campaign organization. 

DCCC Chairman Steve Israel angered some CBC members during a Wednesday meeting when he said, according to Politico: “Can we win the House without the CBC? Yes. Do we want to win the House without the CBC? No.” The New York Democrat said he met again Friday morning for about an hour with eight to 10 CBC members

Israel and CBC Chairman Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.) issued a joint statement after Friday’s session, saying their gathering was “constructive” and announcing that Assistant Leader James Clyburn (S.C.) would chair a new Member Advisory Board at the DCCC.

“You can never hurt yourself by having more people involved in trying to empower an organization or an institution,” Cleaver said. “The more people who feel some ownership with the DCCC, the higher the likelihood of support.”

Israel said he also pledged Friday morning to revamp the DCCC’s Member point system in response to concerns raised by some CBC members that the DCCC’s dues structure does not take into account the difficulty of raising money in less affluent districts. The Member points system is meant to give Democrats credit for contributing to Democrats’ re-election efforts in ways besides just raising money, but some CBC members have complained that it does not accurately credit their contributions to their colleagues’ individual re-election efforts. 

“Many of the Members who may not have the financial wherewithal are also going to give a great deal of their time going into other districts,” Cleaver said. 

Israel and Cleaver also said that Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), who was CBC chairwoman in the 111th Congress, would lead a new task force to act as a liaison between the DCCC and the CBC with the goal of addressing some of the past problems. 

Rep. William Lacy Clay said Israel’s comments earlier in the week rubbed some CBC members the wrong way. 

“The words he used were inappropriate, and he probably could have said it in a different manner or a different way,” the Missouri Democrat said. 

Asked about the report Thursday, Israel did not dispute that he made the comment but called it “unfortunate that unsourced people who don’t hear the whole conversation like to talk about little snippets that are taken out of context.”

Israel said the purpose of Wednesday’s meeting was to “talk very specifically about how we can improve the relationship” between the CBC and the DCCC. 

Cleaver acknowledged that in the past there had been “major issues” between the two entities.

“We think that the DCCC is important and that it can work, and we intend to work with the chairman,” he said.