Washington Prowler

Left Behind

Nancy Pelosi flees a bad appointment. The Congressional Black Caucus feels grounded.

By 7.10.03

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GOING AROUND
House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi appears to be turning up the heat on longtime ally Rep. Bob Matsui. Pelosi has let it be known among leading Democrats in Washington that she is looking to hire someone with serious lobbying connections for her leadership office to help with fundraising.

"She doesn't think we've done enough or been successful enough drawing money off of K Street," says a Democratic leadership staffer.

Matsui, who was handed the plum chairmanship of the House Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee by Pelosi, over the objections of moderate and even liberal caucus members, is viewed by many as a failure in his first year on the job. These same critics view Pelosi's attempts to bring in a fundraiser type as an attempt to bypass Matsui by consolidating some fundraising responsibilities in her office.

But members of the leadership staff deny this is what's going on. "You can never have enough fundraisers," says the Democratic leadership staffer. "The fact that we are adding people to help raise money just reinforces the fact that we are gearing up for a tough 2004 race."

INTO AFRICA
Members of the Congressional Black Caucus went public earlier this week with complaints that the White House didn't invite any of their membership to travel with the President to Africa. They also claimed that the White House had not spoken with them since January 2001.

"When President Clinton was in the White House, we were listened to and we were given the respect a caucus such as ours deserved," says a staffer working with CBC chairman Rep. Elijah Cummings. "This White House has basically ignored us. You would think that on a trip to Africa they would want to draw on the insights and breadth of experience CBC's members have in the region."

Clinton made a point of inviting congressional delegations on a number of foreign trips during his administration. But the Bush White House has pointedly not included similar delegations its overseas trips. Thus far, only White House and appropriate administration staffers have gone overseas with the president.

More broadly, White House legislative affairs staff has been in contact on a number of occasions with Black Caucus members, although given the CBC's far left politics there have been few opportunities for the two sides to find common ground. Even before Bush left for Africa, and before knowing his full itinerary, CBC members were critical of his trip. Some of the animus between the CBC and the White House goes back to that caucus's defense of former member Rep. Cynthia McKinney, who famously charged that the president knew in advance of the 9/11 attacks.

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