Carol Mosely Braun
(ex) Senator Carol Mosely Braun campaign for President in 2004
A curious candidate - she was a one term Senator from Illinois, the first African American Senator but otherwise not very distinguished. She has kept a low profile since being in Congress - which makes her re-emergence as a Presidential candidate puzzling. It is likely that she is being run by the Democratic Party solely to split the African American vote for Al Sharpton, since the Democratic Party leadership is extremely allergic to him.
The Braun candidacy is even more curious when seen from the perspective of the 2008 election, where a part term Senator (less than one term) from Illinois was catapulted into the Presidency.
The Nigerian military government has mounted a large public relations campaign aimed at forestalling government sanctions and a freeze on assets. According to the Washington Post, General Abacha has spent over $10 million in a lobbying and public relations campaign since hanging nine Ogoni activists. In Congress, Illinois Senator Carol Moseley-Braun (whose ex-fiance was a lobbyist for Nigeria) has spoken out forcefully against sanctions, pointing to inconsistencies in U.S. human rights policy especially regarding China. Senator Moseley-Braun, who took a controversial "vacation" in Nigeria, has sought to rally the congressional Black Caucus and African Americans to oppose U.S. sanctions against Nigeria. Sanction opponents argue that an oil embargo will increase pump prices in the U.S. and impose further hardships on the Nigerian people.
In Braun-Helms Fight, Senate Searched Soul
By Helen Dewar
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, December 12, 2003; Page A08
Second in an occasional series
At first, many senators failed to see the trouble ahead, figuring they were
just doing a harmless favor for a colleague and one of his favorite groups.
But, for then-Sen. Carol Moseley Braun (D-Ill.), renewal of a federal patent
for the insignia of the United Daughters of the Confederacy -- which
featured the first national flag of the Confederacy encased in a wreath --
was anything but a harmless exercise.
The result was one of the Senate's most dramatic days in years, including a
rare burst of soul-searching rhetoric about how black and white Americans
view their history and an equally rare defeat for a powerful senior
senator -- Jesse Helms (R-N.C.) -- at the hands of a freshman who had been
sworn in only six months before.
By day's end, the Senate voted 75 to 25 to reject the patent it had
approved, 52 to 48, a few hours before.
For Braun, now seeking the Democratic presidential nomination, it was a high
point in a single Senate term that produced mixed results, including
legislative achievements on education and pensions but also a series of
ethics controversies that contributed to her defeat for reelection in 1998.
"It was a hard-fought moment," one of few debates since struggles over civil
rights in the 1960s during which issues of race and slavery were discussed
so candidly on the Senate floor, she said in an interview last month with
Washington Post editors and reporters.
Elected in a 1992 upset, Braun was the first African American to serve in
the Senate since the 1970s and the only woman of her ancestry ever to serve
in the chamber. In her first few months in the Senate, she involved herself
with fiscal and other issues that are usual fare for senators. She was not
looking for a confrontation over race; instead it found her.
Helms first tried to win approval of the Senate Judiciary Committee for
extension of the group's design patent, a largely honorific protection that
Congress routinely confers on a relatively small number of national groups.
The patent had been extended without controversy in the past, but Braun and
others banded together to kill the latest extension in committee. An angry
Helms decided to take his fight to the floor, where he figured he might do
Braun was attending a Judiciary Committee hearing the morning of July 22,
1993, when an aide brought word that Helms was trying to add the United
Daughters of the Confederacy measure to a national service bill pending on
the floor. She bounded back to the chamber, furious and ready for a fight.
"Those of us whose ancestors fought on a different side in the Civil War, or
who were held, frankly, as human chattel under the Confederate flag, are
duty-bound to honor our ancestors as well by asking whether such recognition
by the U.S. Senate is appropriate," she said on the floor. She recalled that
Confederate symbols figured prominently in more recent resistance to civil
rights in the South and added, "Now, in this time, in 1993, when we see the
Confederate symbols hauled out, everybody knows what that means."
Helms cautioned Braun not to pursue "an inflammatory political gambit" and
said the group was a charitable one with no racial motivations. "These good
ladies have a fine history, and they do not deserve to have been singled out
for an undeserved rebuke," he said.
The Senate agreed, or so it seemed, as a narrow majority refused to kill
Helms's proposal, signaling its likely approval. A dozen Democrats, mostly
from southern and border states, joined most Republicans in supporting
Helms. But Braun continued to fight, cranking up her rhetoric and vowing a
filibuster if necessary to block the Helms proposal.
"If I have to stand here until this room freezes over . . . I am going to do
so," she said. "Because I will tell you, this is something that has no place
in our modern times. It has no place in this body. . . . It has no place in
Gradually other senators began to speak up in defense of her position, some
with startling effect.
One was Howell T. Heflin (D-Ala.), now retired from the Senate. His voice
quavering, Heflin noted that he was descended from a signer of Alabama's
secession ordinance and a surgeon in the Confederate army. But, much as he
revered his ancestors, he said, "we live today in a different world . . . in
a nation that every day is trying to heal the scars of racism that have
occurred in the past." He said he was changing his vote and would now oppose
the Helms proposal.
Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell (Colo.), then a Democrat, now a Republican,
recalled his Native American ancestry and suggested that tradition should
not be invoked in opposing Braun's arguments.
"I would point out to them that slavery was once a tradition, like killing
Indians like animals was once a tradition. That did not make it right,"
Campbell told the Senate. There are still places in this country, he added,
"where American Indians called prairie niggers, which is about the most
vulgar term I can think of" for both groups of people.
In moving to reconsider the earlier vote, Sen. Robert F. Bennett (R-Utah)
said many Republicans had supported Helms because they had been told he was
offering "a Republican amendment." Bennett said he asked his colleagues, "Do
you understand what we have just done? They said no." He said he wanted to
"make sure that the party of Lincoln does not bear the taint that some might
have given to us by virtue of this vote."
When it came time for the final tally, nearly all Democrats voted against
Helms, as did 15 Republicans who had supported him originally.
It is impossible to say whether the debate had any real effect on the
Senate. Many of those who were there then have left. There have been few if
any debates since that day that have touched as personally and directly on
the country's racial divisions.
Braun went on to fight for legislation to repair crumbling schools, provide
pension equity for women and clean up abandoned industrial sites. But she
was dogged through most of her term by ethical questions involving her
handling of personal and campaign funds and by controversy over her
privately financed visits to Nigeria at a time it was ruled by an infamous
dictator, Gen. Sani Abacha.
As she neared the end of her six years in the Senate, questions about ethics
appeared to trump her accomplishments, and she was defeated for reelection
by Peter G. Fitzgerald (R). Braun was later tapped by President Bill Clinton
as ambassador to New Zealand, winning confirmation over the objections of
Helms and Fitzgerald.
As Braun saw it, she said in the Post interview, the United Daughters of the
Confederacy patent debate has embarrassed Helms and turned him into "my
nemesis thereafter." During consideration of her ambassadorial nomination,
Helms "sent out blanket subpoenas, six subpoenas to all the government
agencies, the State of Illinois, the Western world just about," she added.
Looking back on the debate over the insignia, Braun said in another
interview that she sensed a "sea change in the direction of the Senate" in
dealing with racial issues. "They felt they had done something good for the
country on race," she added. "The feeling in the chamber was higher than I
had experienced before or since."