In one sense, they are right. Some headlines described the endorsement as coming from the CBC rather than its PAC. It’s an important factual distinction.
But in this case, it’s wrong to suggest the PAC board and the broader CBC membership somehow disagree on Clinton vs. Sanders.
To illustrate, let’s break down the numbers.
There are 46 members of the CBC, 45 of whom are Democrats. (Utah Rep. Mia Love is the sole Republican.)
Of the Democrats, according to our count, one has endorsed Sanders and four are either abstaining or waiting to endorse until later in the election cycle. Those members are Reps. Barbara Lee (Calif.), James E. Clyburn (S.C.), Sanford D. Bishop Jr. (Ga.) and Elijah E. Cummings (Md.).
The rest of the CBC — that’s 40 lawmakers — supports Clinton. Most have been open about it for months, and many have already campaigned for Clinton in the early primary states.
Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), the only CBC member who openly supports Sanders, was angry when some media reports described the CBC PAC’s endorsement as a nod from the CBC itself.
Cong'l Black Caucus (CBC) has NOT endorsed in presidential. Separate CBCPAC endorsed withOUT input from CBC membership, including me.— Keith Ellison (@keithellison) February 11, 2016
As we note above, Ellison’s first point is correct. The endorsement Thursday came from the CBC PAC, and the decision was made by its 21-member board, which includes some, but not all, of the CBC’s members.
At the same time, it’s hard to make the argument that the PAC endorsement does not reflect the broader opinion of the CBC. Roughly 20 members attended Thursday’s news conference in support of Clinton, and they came with fervor and spirit. Many in the group gave impassioned personal endorsements of Clinton.
It’s worth nothing that there was also no disagreement on the CPC PAC board itself. Not a single member of the board voted for Sanders, chairman Rep. Gregory W. Meeks (D-N.Y.) said Thursday, while two members — Cummings and IMPACT Strategies chief executive Angela Rye — abstained.
Although it’s possible a holdout will back him in the coming weeks, it seems clear that Sanders has little support right now among black lawmakers on Capitol Hill.
So let’s dispense with this notion that the CBC PAC’s endorsement doesn’t reflect the opinion of the CBC. Except for a small handful of members, including one Republican, it does.