May 18, 2010; Source: Roll Call | A number of nonprofit organizations function as caucuses for special Congressional interests—and are funded in part by taxpayers. Long ago, Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich proposed ditching the taxpayer subsidies for these Congressional caucuses because they functioned basically as lobbying entities for various and sundry special interests. We aren’t surprised that many are still alive—and still receiving taxpayer subsidies. And we aren’t surprised that they reflect a multitude of political perspectives—a potpourri of liberal, conservative, issue-based, and geographic interests.
Among the caucuses with full-time staff paid for by public moneys were, according to Roll Call, the Congressional Prayer Caucus, the Congressional Pro-Life Caucus, the Northeast-Midwest Congressional Coalition, the Sustainable Energy and Environment Coalition, Congressional Human Rights Caucus, and the Congressional Western Caucus. Apparently, it’s no easy task to find the expenses and staffing of these caucuses, as many staff are listed as “shared staff” by various members of the House and Senate.
The article, however, leaves the reader a little short on information. Roll Call offers no count of how many caucuses receive these appropriated funds much less how much money annually is given to the caucuses by Congress. Several aren’t surnamed “caucus,” so it is difficult for the reader to search for these caucuses on his or her own. In addition, it isn’t clear whether the big, well known caucuses such as the Congressional Black Caucus (with a number of full-time staff) and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus are or aren’t included in Roll Call’s analysis. It’s interesting, but we’d like to know more.—Rick Cohen