If Lobbying Money Talks, the African American Constituency is Muted on Capitol Hill

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
– First Amendment of the US Constitution

The Constitution makes it clear that Americans have the right petition the government to redress their grievances. But the Constitution says nothing about the money that’s needed to do this petitioning.

And if money is needed to effectively petition for the redress of our grievances, then the black community may be grieving in quiet.

A review of lobbying expenditures in 2008 shows that major lobbyists for the African American constituency – the NAACP, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, and the National Urban League – spent a pittance compared to the lobbying powerhouses of Washington, DC.

As wikipedia describes it, “Lobbying is the practice of influencing decisions made by government. It includes all attempts to influence legislators and officials, whether by other legislators, constituents or organized groups. Governments often define and regulate organized group lobbying.”

In Washington, DC, millions of dollars are spent annually to lobby the Congress or the Administration for one thing or another. According to a recent edition of the National Journal, these are the lobbying expenditures for the top 15 firms in 2008:
1. US Chamber of Commerce: $62.3 million
2. Institute for Legal Reform (US Chamber): $29.2 M
3. ExxonMobil: $29.0 M
4. AARP: $27.9 M
5. Northrop Grumman: $20.6 M
6. PhRMA: $20.2 M
7. American Medical Association: $20.9 M
8. GE: $18.6 M
9. National Assn of Realtors: $17.2 M

10. American Hospital Association: $16.7 M
11. Boeing: $16.6 M
12. Lockheed Martin: $15.3 M
13. Koch Industries: $15.1 M
14. AT&T Services (and affiliates): $15.0 M
15. National Cable and Telecommunications Association: $14.2 M

And this is what the NAACP, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, and the National Urban League – the biggest lobbying organizations for the African American constituency – spent in 2008:
• NAACP: $100,000
• the NAACP Legal Defense Fund (LDF): $160,000
• the National Urban League (NUL): $240,00

Also in 2008, the National Black Caucus of State Legislators had $54,000 in lobbying expenditures.

By contrast, the National Council of La Raza , which advocates for the Hispanic community, had lobbying expenditures of $534,108 in 2008. That’s more than the combined lobbying spending of the NAACP, the LDF, and the NUL in the same year. Also representing Hispanic interests was the Mexican-American Legal Defense and Education Fund, which spent $153,355 on lobbying.

The OpenSecrets.org site has a list of spending by so-called ‘Human Rights’ lobbyists in 2008 here. None of the organizations on the list matches the spending power of the business lobbyists. Total Human Rights lobbying spending amounted to $47,842,696 for the year.

(Interestingly enough, total lobbying expenditures by various Native American groups dwarfs that of African Americans and Hispanics. But then, Native Americans have very little in the way of representation in the Congress or the Obama administration.)

One of the biggest Human Rights lobbyists in 2008 was the The Leadership Conference on Civil Rights (LCCR), which had $1,054,370 of lobbying expenditures.

The LCCR is a civil rights coalition, consisting of nearly 200 national organizations, including the NAACP, the NUL, and even several black black fraternities and sororities. But it also represents labor unions, women, children, individuals with disabilities, older Americans, Jewish and Christian groups, gays and lesbians, and civil liberties and human rights groups. It’s not clear how much or how well the specific interests of the African American constituency are served by the LCCR.

And given the relatively small amount of resources that the NAACP and NUL have to lobby Congress and the Administration, one has to wonder if it even comes close to enabling these groups to effectively tell their message to the powers that be.

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