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When progressives attack: Defending Bobby Rush against Color of Change

Wow, It has been less than 48 hours since I blogged about Netroots groups attacking those minority civil rights organizations that don’t agree with them on the network neutrality issue.  It looks like the chief minority-headed netroots group, Color of Change, has used the very same tactic  to go after Rep. Bobby Rush (D-IL), an African American member of Congress.

Rep. Bobby Rush

Using the old, “you can’t trust them because they take money from corporations trick”, the group’s executive director James Rucker  asks Democratic House leader Nancy Pelosi  to oppose Rush’s candidacy to become the ranking member on the House Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, and the Internet.  In a November 18 dated letter, Ruckers says he questions Rush’s integrity and ability to lead the subcommittee because Rush has received campaign donations from communications companies.  [See previous post about Paternalistic Netroots groups.]

Color of Change is a 5-year old advocacy group that is known best for its ground-breaking work on three campaigns:  1. assisting the Jenna 6 defendants get the case dropped against them; 2. helping Hurricane Katrina victims’ and 3. organizing an  internet campaign that resulted in some corporate sponsors pulling out from sponsoring Glenn Beck’s Fox News television show over the race baiting Beck does on his show.

Color of Change Executive Director James Rucker

Each time I’ve inquired from the net neutrality advocates and even Rucker himself for a clear explanation, I have been disappointed by the answers because they leave me so empty.  I just can’t be satiated with empty rhetoric and scare tactics when I thirst for tangible evidence and real answers.

But in any event,  Nancy Pelosi has the challenge now to pick a side…

Let’s see… hmmm. Who to trust? Who to believe?

The head of a 5-year old group that has abandoned its previous mission of empowering people of color through real tangible means in exchange for championing  one  issue about arcane network prioritization, a “problem” that is NOT on the minds of any jobless, undereducated, disempowered and underemployed person of color…


A man who has*.

  • served  his country as a member of the  US military;
  • has been a Civil Rights Advocate since the 1960s when he founded the Chicago chapter of  the black empowerment group, the Black Panthers;
  • has a pro-civil rights voting record  as decided by the American Civil Liberties Union, ACLU;
  • is Against War given he voted against the war in Afghanistan, against going after Sadam Hussein, and against invading Iran;
  • is Pro Gun Control having introduced legislation to create a national gun registry;
  • has an active Pro Human Rights stance and was arrested while protesting the Dafur genocide outside the Sudanese embassy;
  • is Pro Consumer having sponsored various consumer bills;
  • supports Minority businesses and a return of the Tax Certificate which was the single most effective tool that enabled more minorities to gain ownership of broadcast properties and proposed legislation to reinstate the tax certificate; and
  • is Pro Women having Sponsored a bill to expand research and provide funds for postpartum depression research and services; supported the funding for women’s and disadvantaged businesses; and reintroduced the Equal Rights Amendment, among other things.

Notwithstanding Rush’s past voting, he has clearly gone against big business in the past, for example, when he,

  • sponsored a bill to prevent  the practice of drug companies paying generic drug companies to not produce a cheaper form of the same drug;
  • voted on increasing fines for indecent broadcasting;
  • introduced a  bill to increase maximum civil penalty for violations under the Consumer Product Safety Act from 1,250,000to $20,000,000;
  • sponsored a bill that would regulate commerce on electronic data containing personal information;
  • voted to regulate tobacco as a drug;
  • voted to ban Internet gambling by credit card;
  • voted to end offshore tax havens;
  • voted  against a law that would’ve prohibited people from bringing lawsuits about obesity against food providers’;
  • supported the prohibition of commercial logging on Federal public lands;
  • voted to regulate wholesale electricity & gas prices;
  • sponsored  a law to prohibit the practice of drug companies from paying generic drug companies for not producing a cheaper form of the same drug; and
  • Was rated 29% by the US Chamber of Commerce indicating an anti-business voting record.

So despite receiving contributions from some corporations, as every member of Congress does, he clearly has been able to put donations aside, vote against business and vote and act in the interest of the public and voters he was elected to serve.

Further, from all accounts, the man has an expansive record that is progressive, mainly liberal, anti-war, pro poor and  promotes the disenfranchised and least powerful members of society.  For Pete’s sake, Bobby Rush has been a member of the Progressive Caucus since 2001.

He clearly promotes all the ideals that Color of Change says it champions.

So despite all of this, I find it extremely peculiar and odd to discover James Rucker write THIS  letter to Nancy Pelosi, throw him under the bus and sacrifice a relationship with a man one would think should be a Color of Change ally.  Could it only be because Bobby Rush disagrees with Color of change on one insular issue:  network neutrality?

As the SNL Church Lady would say, “Now, Isn’t that CONVENIENT?”

*Source: On the Issues, independent

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  • Excellent post Jeneba! It saddens me that minority groups would go to such lengths to get their names in the national spotlight. I believe Pelosi’s decision is easy. Thank you for laying out all of Congressman Rush’s many accomplishments. He is certainly a champion for minorities in Congress.

  • If this forum were a courtroom, Ms. Ghatt’s argument would be a heavy weight on the scales of justice in Mr. Rush’s favor and rightfully so. There should be no doubt after reading the description of Mr. Rush’s dedication to the minority community that he has our best interest in mind.

    The audacity of Color of Change’s one-dimensional and truly tired argument that campaign contributions should discredit a lifetime of legitimate and excellent representation is beyond ludicrous.

    I have yet to hear these netroot, Color of Change types proffer one argument of substance; to demonstrate how net neutrality grows jobs and income in our community.

  • If you’ve never heard any arguments as to why network neutrality is vital to economic growth in minority communities, you evidently have not been listening. I have a business, writing and marketing open source software tools for telemarketers, academic and research organizations, and political campaigns. The end of network neutrality will allow backbone operators to discriminate against my programs, slow them down or block them in favor of their own more expensive ones.
    My stepson in a low-rent community college has to access a great part of what used to be his textbooks over the web, or not at all. We pay our bills online or else pay a surcharge. Many government services are only available over the web. The end of network neutrality imperils all these.
    I too was in the Illinois Chapter of the Black Panther Party. I have known Congressman Rush more than 40 years. He’s absolutely and totally wrong on this, and has been for a long time. The telecoms are among Rush’s career top ten donors according to the Federal Elections Commission. One of them donated a cool million to a community center in his name. To suggest this is insignificant is silly.

  • Oh… and I should mention this…. those low-cost phone cards you buy to call mom in California or the in-laws in Jamaica? They operate over the internet, using what is called VOIP, voice over Internet Protocol. The end of network neutrality will allow backbone operators monopoly control over networks built with taxpayer dollars, and the end of cheap long distance calling.
    Poor people will pay more if network neutrality ends.

  • I do not believe any of all you’ve written will come into fruition with or without network neutrality. That is my informed opinion that differs from your own. I am okay with that. To call into question Color of Change’s motivation and inability to clearly articulate how this, of all issues, out of all more pressing matters for community of color is not “silly” as you state. Now there is an interesting choice of words. Perhaps you are wrong on this issue. But irrespective of our disagreement, is there really a need for name calling? You have valid points until you dismiss opposition as “silly”. Why can’t we simply agree to disagree?

  • Who is ending network neutrality again? I agree with nondiscrimination and no unreasonable blocking. I do believe in network management. You seem to oversimplify the position and seem to be mixing apples with oranges. Thank you so much for mentioning phone cards, that is an entire industry that needs to be revisited but for different reasons. (and even though my parents live in America and I have no in-laws in Jamaica. I assume you were being rhetorical there)

  • Oh and if you re-read my article, I said I do not see how these issues should be elevated over more pressing and immediate issues. To me, it is NOT worthy of being elevated atop the civil rights agenda as these organizations try to brow beat into thinking. Seriously, you need to take a look at the real issues that need attention in our communities and try to convince a mother dealing with inadequate schools, food shortages, lack of jobs and access and try to sell them that argument. I am listening. No one has been able to make that point. No one.

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