Issue Number 8- July 25, 2002

Hilliard Calls for New Institutions to Protect Black Interests
Defeated Congressman expresses deep distrust of Ivy League
A Black Commentator interview

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The core facts of Earl Hilliard's defeat by Arthur Davis are clear. Davis, a 34 year-old Harvard Law School graduate, formerly a federal prosecutor, first ran against 60 year-old Hilliard, a product of Howard Law School, in 2000. Davis lost by 24 percentage points.

This year, Davis vastly outspent Hilliard; the last figures posted by the Federal Elections Commission show Davis' cash expenditures at $879,368, Hilliard $550,808. Unable to garner a majority in a three-way, June 4 Democratic primary contest, Hilliard lost the June 25 runoff, 56% to 44%.

Davis' victory is tantamount to election in the 62% Black district, where he faces only a Libertarian candidate in November.

The battle in Alabama's Black Belt received extensive media coverage, including among the Israeli press. Pro-Israel groups, most notably the American Israel Political Affairs Committee (AIPAC), loudly proclaimed their intention to make an example of Hilliard because of his failure to side with what is known in Washington as the "Israel Lobby." AIPAC and Republican and Christian Right organizations have vowed to similarly target Black Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney, who faces an African American challenger in Georgia's August 20 Democratic primaries.

The Black Commentator interviewed Congressman Hilliard on July 16. He began by describing the political operatives who descended on his largely rural district.

Hilliard: I just found out this past week, that there were people who were sent to Alabama that were on the payroll of corporations who were doing all the necessary ground work and preparations and…when they put the money in, the money came like, WOW! It came almost at one time, over a period of about 30 days. Sometime between the report that we got, which I believe was the report of the last of April, and the election, which was June 4, they raised about $700,000 - $800,000.

And between May 1 and June 20, he raised $1,098,000. This is pure cash, reportable cash. Even now, he still has money coming in.

But, it doesn't show the total amount, because there is no way you can calculate the services that he got. But I estimate that he got $2,000,000 worth of press, or more, from the Jewish press as well as the Republican press.

There's no question that it was well planned and, to be honest with you, well executed.

Did the contributions to your opponent take you by surprise?

Oh yeah, it really did. This is the same guy that I ran against two years ago, and we were on, basically, equal footing. I had no real money and he had no real money. He said the same thing about me then, and I said basically the same thing about him.

So nothing had changed, except the money?

Except money. And when he came with money, he came with negative ads. The ads were basically about my Middle East stands. I had voted not to send people to prison for life without parole, and he twisted that to say that I voted to let pedophiles out of jail.

Who are these corporations?

Not just corporations, but organizations like AIPAC [American Israel Political Affairs Committee]. Mostly Republican operatives and Jewish operatives that were sent by different organizations and groups and corporations. None of this is in writing anywhere that I have been able to pick up. But I've talked to people who met these people, who talked to them, who dealt with them.

The only thing I know for sure, that I saw in black and white, is $1,098,000 that [Davis] reported. You can't take money from corporations, so that came from Jews and Republicans. There's no question where that money came from. Admittedly, it came from Jews and Republicans.

The pro-Israel contributors made no secret of their support for your opponent. Was it their intention to make a public display of wealth?

Oh, definitely - the seed of fear. It sends a message to every member of congress.

What is the message?

Vote for Israel or face possible defeat.

Let me tell you when I first realized I had a problem. Several people called me and told me that my opponent was on national TV, MSNBC, CNN, and to turn to CNN and I could pick it up every hour. I said, No, man, that guy doesn't have that kind of money. So I turned to CNN. AIPAC was introducing him. They had had a fundraiser last night for him in Washington, he was on his way to New York for a fundraiser. Within two or three days the paper reported that, at the fundraiser in New York, there were about 300 people there, he raised $272,000. When I got that news, I had about $22,000.

Almost immediately, the next ads started, and they didn't stop. They increased in intensity.

I didn't have the money, so I just bought radio time. But what I did anticipate... I had done a poll, I was 24 points ahead [the same percentage as his 2000 victory over Davis] , so I figured I could ride the storm out. There was a third guy in the race. He was polling about 2 or 3 percent. He went to 11 percent. What the people tell me was, the ads got so negative against me, they didn't want to vote for [Davis] and they didn't want to vote for me, so they voted for that third guy, who ended up getting about 11,000 votes, which translated to about 11 percent.

It was rough. The ads never stopped. They were well prepared. I have to give it to them.

Hilliard was referring to the June 4 primary election, in which Hilliard got 46% to Davis' 43%, causing the runoff.

Hilliard's Arab Money, and McKinney's

BC pointed out that McKinney's contributors are as heavily Arab as Davis' are Jewish.

I received money from organizations of individuals, political action committees. That means, a group of teachers, unions, machinists, iron workers, cafeteria workers. That's where most of my money came from. Up until May 1, when Davis was on CNN with AIPAC, that sent a call out to almost every Arab or Middle East person in America. I started receiving calls, letters and money from people. They didn't even know of my record. They knew that I had been targeted.

I didn't know Arabs and Muslims, no more than, you know, the Black Muslims, and they're community. You can go back in my records from when I started in Congress ten years ago. I had no Arab support, no meaningful Arab support, if any, up until May of this year. I don't know why they came, but I think they came because Jews were against me.

But in Cynthia's case, my understanding is that they've been against Cynthia for some time. So she started receiving money from these Arab groups two or three election cycles ago. That's the reason why she is heavily Arab in terms of contributions. I've just started getting Arab money. In fact, I think my PACs are still predominantly union.

Right now, everybody is worried, because when you can come and take out a ten year veteran, with a 100% NAACP voting record for five - ten years, a 100% union voting record for five or six years, you become a threat to the African American community, you become a threat to labor. So, you are going to see the unions surrounding Cynthia McKinney, you are going to see African American organizations around Cynthia McKinney, and old-line African American leaders who are not afraid of the Jewish interests will come to her aid. They're coming.

When did you realize that you needed to call on some allies?

I didn't call on any allies. All of a sudden, the Arabs came to me and said, 'You need us. You need some help.' And, my colleagues came to me. They knew before I did. Just before the election [June 4] we had Memorial Break. And that's when the news coverage really started. Remember, the Jewish media. They started putting word out, they wanted everybody to know, because... obviously they felt that the money they had, that they put in, that they were going to beat me. And they felt that, at least, there was going to be a runoff.

Let me tell you, they put their money behind their convictions.

What would you have done if you had gotten a 'heads up' earlier?

Oh, there's no question, I would have raised money. The only thing I needed at that point was money, man, just to fight off the negative ads. Just to come back on TV and say, all these are lies and made up circumstances. I never did get the money to do a real, balanced counterattack. If I had to do it all over again, I just would have raised money.

I've told all my good friends, members of the Black Caucus, the only way you're going to deter this is, they need to have $700,000 or $800,000 ready to go at the beginning of their campaigns. And we need mechanisms so that we can instantly raise money when one of us gets in trouble with a special interest group targeting us.

We've got to start thinking. We've got to create some institutes to get our views out. We've got to create some centers of excellence so that we can research and put statistics together so that we can show what's happening with the money that flows from the United States... to Israel.

We've got to put together some political action committees so that when someone who has a voting record that the NAACP has given an "A" to for the last five years is in trouble, because of another special interest group which has interests counterproductive to ours, that Black people will be able to financially react and protect that brother or sister, instantly. That's the challenge for me and for others, to make sure that what has happened doesn't continue to happen.

Is a million dollars for such an emergency fund a lot of money?

A million dollars is a lot of money when you don't have it. It's not a lot of money for African Americans to have sitting around waiting for these types of situations. There is no question that we have to set up and forge foundations, institutes, political action committees, to protect our interests. If we continue to have these revolutions, we will look around and all the battles we've won will have been for naught. Because we are losing what we gained.

I'm not talking in terms of individuals. I'm talking about all the other things we won: affirmative action, school desegregation, preferences, set-asides, there are so many things we won. Now, they are taking away these rights. Why vote if it's not going to be counted?

They got rid of affirmative action and set-asides in Texas, and we ended up with one Black person in law school. We are losing all these things.... If we don't set up protective-type organization... we are going to lose it again. And we will always be at the bottom of the heap.

Have any Jewish individuals or Jewish groups come to you, at all, and said that they found this kind of conduct deplorable and destructive?

Seeds for Peace. They came to me this morning. This is an organization that for the last ten years has been getting Jewish kids and Arab kids in camps, so that they could help with the peace process. Individuals have come to me. Another Jewish group wrote an article in the paper, recently - Jews for Peace in Palestine and Israel.

But, have you heard from any 'mainline' Jewish organizations?

Do you mean, Have any of my adversaries come to say, We did it to you? [Laughter]

One Jewish organization wrote me and said that I ought to stop whimpering because, after all, they didn't replace me with a white [laughter]. They know that they couldn't get away with that. That's going too far. But does it make a difference, if the guy's from Harvard, went to predominantly white schools, like my opponent, replacing someone from South Side High School, Booker T. Washington High School, Alabama State undergrad school and Howard Law School....

Hilliard on "class warfare"

There is class warfare in the Black community. In Birmingham and Tuscaloosa, in the areas of Birmingham where what we call the New Blacks live, those that work for corporate Alabama, those that live in subdivisions that are predominantly Black, Davis won just like he did in the white areas. These are things we have to look at. We need scholars to come in and interpret these things.

We don't even understand what is happening to us because we let other people, other scholars, interpret our presence. We have people who work in corporate environments who are afraid to associate with their natural brothers and sisters, because of what church they attend, what school they attend, and the neighborhood they live in. We have kids who won't introduce their mothers or their brothers and sisters to their coworkers, because they know their mothers, their brothers or their sisters may crack a verb, or don't have the educational level that they enjoy.

You refer to a "natural progression" in Black politics that has been interrupted.

That's because it was natural - Blacks building on what the previous generation had added to the foundation. And everything that the succeeding generation did reflected back to the dreams and aspirations of the elders.

There was an intervention, which has created an unnatural progression. In our society it has been, basically, other groups - and, mainly, Jews. So when you look at the natural progression from Martin Luther King, you would think that you would get to [Kweisi] Mfume, but we've been sidestepped. We've had a Clarence Thomas. We have a Colin Powell. We have Cynthia Tucker [Editorial Board, Atlanta Journal-Constitution]. We have all these other people whose ideals and views don't sit on the foundation. It's not building for the masses, or building for the race. It's building for self.

So, when you have these people who have gone to predominantly white elementary and high schools, and have graduated from predominantly eastern universities, they have not had the experience with the Black community that the elders had. They are black in skin tone but, philosophically, they are not. So, whites understand them better than we do.

They don't go to Howard, or Morehouse, or Alabama State to get people to run against the Mayor of Newark, or Andy Young, or Craig Washington. They go and get those from the eastern schools who have a white-oriented philosophy. Or, who have been educated to compete on an individual level. So that, when the tally is in, they think: I did it. I made it through Harvard and Yale and Princeton on my own. I'll make it in life on my own. I don't need the tribe, I don't need the group, I don't the race. So you have a Condoleezza Rice: I made it because I'm smart, and because of myself. I didn't need affirmative action, I don't believe in it. If I can make it, everybody else can make it.

Somehow, we've got to clear the field, and get back to the natural progression. The field is very muddy now. Many African Americans are saying, Well, the civil rights era is over. You can make it on your own even if you're Black, if you do what you're supposed to do.

His Opponent and Seniority

Let me say this. I'm a foot soldier. I was a foot soldier in the civil rights movement. I was one of those who marched behind Dr. King. I've been winning battles and losing battles all my life. There will be others that I will lose, there will be others that I will win. But it's interesting to see how the battlefield changes. There are young African Americans who don't even realize how they are being used. The sad part about it is, they are generally the most educated in the African American community. They think that these people are coming to them and supporting them, because of how great they are, how wonderful they are. They have no understanding of what it means to get rid of someone with seniority.

I'm 60 years old, almost twice the age of my opponent. Philosophically and politically, we are going to see things differently. He comes in having committed to support Israel. We give, all told, probably 10 to 12 billion dollars to the aid of Israel, every year - about 3 billion directly, another four or five billion militarily, either to them in arms, or in the case of Egypt and Syria and other places, we give them billions of dollars to be friendly with Israel. So it's translated to about ten to twelve billion dollars. Where does this money come from? From taxpayers, from our district, the poorest of the poor districts.

If [Davis] is going to vote for the support of Israel blindly, he's going to vote to take money out of poor areas in poor districts to benefit Israel.

I remember hearing my opponent say that the only difference between how he is going to vote and the way I voted, is the way I voted on Middle East issues. To hear him say that let's you know that he has made a pact with the Israelis. And if he really believes that, then he really doesn't understand that he was used. Even during slavery we had those who were used to keep the other slaves in line. So, he doesn't know that his victory sent a message to other Blacks of my era that they better be careful what they say or how they deal with the Israeli or Jewish question.

Hilliard explains his distrust of Blacks who come out of the Ivy League.

When [Davis] ran against me two years ago, we [Hilliard and some Congressional Black Caucus colleagues] were talking one day and started comparing notes. And we found out that Representative Ed Towns [Rep-NY] had a guy who had been to Harvard Law School, who had worked in the DA's office, who was running against him. We found out that Bobby Rush [Rep-IL] had a guy who had attended Harvard Law School, who had worked in the DA's office, who was running against him. And a guy who had attended Harvard Law School, who had just finished working in a DA's office, was running against me. You ask if there is a conspiracy. Yes and no. White folks know what Blacks they can use to turn against other Blacks. That is the reason why the person that replaced Gus Savage [former Rep-IL] was from Yale, the person that replaced me was from Harvard, the person that replaced Craig Washington [former Rep-TX] was from Yale, the person they are trying to replace Cynthia McKinney with is from Princeton, the persons that they tried with Ed Towns and Bobby Rush were Harvard.

[Editor's Note: Denise Majette, Cynthia McKinney's opponent, is a graduate of Yale, 1976, and Duke University School of Law, 1979. Rep. McKinney graduated University of Southern California, 1978. Craig Washington was defeated by Sheila Jackson-Lee in 1994. She is a 1972 Yale graduate, University of Virginia law degree.]

These people are different, philosophically, from other people in the Black community. They are Black enough to get support from the Black community, but they are philosophically "right" enough - and I mean, to the Right - to get the support of the white community. So, that makes them just right. And they are being sought after by these groups that wish to create a new order.

Let me say this: I'm not crying because of the election. I accept the results. I've been in 18 races and I've lost only one, so 17 and 1 ain't bad. I am more concerned at this point about Cynthia McKinney, about Jesse Jackson, Jr. [Rep-IL], about Donald Payne [Rep-NJ]. They're angry with Donald because he helped the Mayor [Newark's Sharpe James] against the guy who they put up against him.

They're mad at Stephanie Tubbs-Jones [Rep-OH] because she helped collect money for me and is doing it for Cynthia.

Says Andrew Young targeted, and Colin Powell

I remember when they got rid of [former US Ambassador to the United Nations] Andy Young. They put so much pressure on Jimmy Carter, he asked Andy Young to leave, to keep from firing him. And that's because Young wanted to talk to the Palestinians. How can you solve a problem without talking to both sides? They got rid of Andy Young. And if Bush had not been strong when Powell called for a Palestinian state and they rose up against him, Colin Powell would have been gone. But Bush stood with him. Bush called for it and, I guess they didn't want to attack the President of the United States.

Could you give us a summation of your position?

I don't want anybody to control elections in African American communities except African Americans.

There is a group out there that wants to dominate us. They want us to do what they want us to do... and to Hell with our agenda if there is a conflict. I just want to help build brother's and sisters' organizations that can protect us so that we can carry out our agenda.

I am not an advocate of the Arab position nor the Muslim position. I am an advocate of the African American and American position. I am not against Jews or people from Israel. I am for Americans and for America, and for African Americans, and for protecting American interests.

There will be times when I will vote for or against the interests of Arabs and Jews. I hope they will all understand that. I am a free man.

What kind of reception are you getting from your colleagues?

It runs the gamut. Some people think it's something I did. And, in a sense, it is, because I not only voted my convictions, I lived them. I'd do it all over again. I don't think I'd change any votes I had. The only thing I would have done is built a stronger fort around me, to have more money to fight off what I never really took to be a real threat.

Are you planning to run for Congress, again?

Probably not, but I don't know. There are so many things that we have to do to build a strong African American foundation. I came out of the movement, and I don't like what I see in this new generation.

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