Today, the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Oversight, Agency Action, Federal Rights and Federal Courts holds a hearing titled, “Opportunity Denied: How Overregulation Harms Minorities.” The subcommittee plans to call National Black Chamber of Commerce (NBCC) President Harry C. Alford to testify.
I wonder if the senators on this committee find it the slightest bit awkward asking Alford to testify in light of the recent, Washington Post story, which raises some important and as-yet unanswered questions about his organization.
In particular, the Post story found that the NBCC, which acknowledges receiving strong financial backing from ExxonMobil and other fossil fuel interests, has specifically tailored its message to African American audiences, who would be among the biggest beneficiaries of tighter regulations.
The evidence is mounting that the NBCC may be little more than a front group for the fossil fuel industry and anti-clean energy interests. We have tried to ask Mr. Alford some basic questions about the NBCC’s operations. His response consisted of evasion, on-camera insults and vulgarity.
Questions for Alford
If the members of this Subcommittee are going to provide Mr. Alford the platform of testimony before them, we think they owe the public at least an effort to clear up the following mysteries around their Subcommittee witness NBCC?
How many actual businesses are members (not sponsors) of the NBCC? And how many of these members are African-American owned businesses?
Why does the NBCC refuse to list its members, when organizations such as the African American Chamber of Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky do?
According to the NBCC’s 990 forms, during the past 13 years, its annual expenditures have averaged more than $800,000. More than one third of that amount has gone to “consultants” and other services from non-employee professionals. Who are these consultants and non-employee professionals, and what services did they perform for NBCC members?
Will the NBCC provide a list of staff positions, as well as an organization chart? And will the NBCC provide a list of the staff members who are and are not related to Harry Alford or Kay Debow Alford?
Harry Alford wants Americans to see him and his organization as a leading voice for African American business and economic interests “dedicated to economically empowering and sustaining African American communities. . . .” However, he is unwilling to provide even basic information about the organization he positions as a prominent advocate for black businesses.
I know that the Senators have limited time to ask witnesses questions. But these are short, basic, and important questions that Senators ought to ask Mr. Alford, but I’m not optimistic.
Evlondo Cooper is a senior fellow with the Checks and Balances Project a national watchdog blog that seeks to hold government officials, lobbyists and corporate management accountable to the public. Funding for C&BP comes from pro-clean energy philanthropies and donors.