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Congressional Black Caucus Charity Sits on Katrina Aid By: Marc Morano
CNSNews.com | Monday, December 26, 2005


The Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, which slammed the Bush administration for its allegedly slow and racially insensitive response to Hurricane Katrina, has yet to spend any of the estimated $400,000 that it raised for the victims of the Aug. 29 storm.

"We are collecting all the way up through the very end of the year and then our board has set aside a committee who is going to administer the funds," Patty Rice, spokeswoman for the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation (CBCF), told Cybercast News Service on Wednesday. The Foundation is an offshoot of the Congressional Black Caucus and was founded in 1976.

In the days immediately following the hurricane, with parts of the Louisiana and Mississippi coastline demolished and the city of New Orleans under water as a result of broken levees, members of the Congressional Black Caucus condemned the Bush administration's handling of storm relief efforts.

"We have witnessed something shockingly awful and that is the lack of response, the quick response, from our government to those Americans who are suffering [and] who are dying," said U.S. Rep Jesse Jackson Jr., (D-Ill.) on Sept. 2, four days after Katrina made landfall on the U.S. Gulf Coast.

U.S. Rep. Carolyn C. Kilpatrick (D-Mich.), also present at the Congressional Black Caucus' Sept. 2 news conference, declared that she was "ashamed of America."

"I'm ashamed of our government. We don't want another Iraq, where the money just goes off somewhere. This is real human need. And I'm outraged by the lack of response from our federal government," Kilpatrick said

The CBCF then launched its own relief fund on Sept. 21, with a stated goal of raising $1 million to help Gulf Coast residents rebuild their lives. As Cybercast News Service
previously reported, the CBCF claimed immediate success, telling reporters on Sept. 21 that it had already received $700,000 in corporate pledges.

But on Wednesday, exactly three months after the news conference launching the CBCF relief fund, Rice told Cybercast News Service that the Foundation has actually raised "somewhere in the neighborhood of $350 to $400,000." She added that the distribution of the money would not begin until January or February of 2006 at the earliest.

Ken Boehm, chairman of the conservative National Legal and Policy Center (NLPC), a group that monitors charitable giving, was quick to criticize the CBCF.

"It sounds like the CBCF has been stressing the immediacy of the [victims'] needs when they raised the money and yet for some reason when it comes time to dishing it out they can't seem to get organized," Boehm told Cybercast News Service.

"The need is immediate and ongoing as they themselves have cited. For whatever reasons they have failed to give away a single cent as of the week before Christmas," Boehm said. "It appears that the CBCF has failed to meet the standard that it set up itself for: timely aid to Katrina victims."

Don Tharpe, president of the CBCF, described how the Katrina relief fund would be spent in an undated
message on the group's website.

"A Katrina Relief Committee made up of CBCF board members will be appointed to oversee the disbursement of donated funds. Part of the role of CBCF's Katrina Relief Committee will be to dispense funds to entities that directly deliver services and tangible needs to people who are attempting to move back into and resurrect their neighborhoods," Tharpe wrote.

But Boehm ridiculed the need to form a committee to decide how to spend donations four months after the tragedy.

"Giving away money is far easier than raising it. The [victims'] needs are overwhelming. The CBCF has members from that part of Louisiana. There are many organizations doing fine work, that are in desperate need of those funds and yet for reasons that they have not quite explained, the CBCF has failed to dispense any of the aid," Boehm said.

Beginning almost immediately after the storm and continuing for weeks, members of the Congressional Black Caucus spared no criticism of the Bush administration for the federal response to Hurricane Katrina.

In September, U.S. Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.), one of the caucus' most prominent members, compared President Bush to the notorious Birmingham, Ala., police commissioner and segregationist from the 1960s, Bull Connor.

U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, a Democrat from Texas, alleged that if a Democrat had won each of the last two presidential elections, the federal response to the hurricane would have been more timely.

"Watching family members and others cling to rooftops in Hurricane Katrina, I wonder whether or not the absence of attention [to the recovery effort] is attributable to the loss of a vote in 2000 and 2004," Jackson Lee
said.

However, in spite of the charges that racism contributed to the government's response to Katrina, the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals recently
released statistics showing that a higher percentage of whites died in New Orleans as a result of the Aug. 29 hurricane than blacks.



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