The House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Howard Berman, D-Calif., yesterday postponed a discussion of a bill to ease travel restrictions and enhance exports to Cuba.
Berman released the following statement:
The Committee had been scheduled to consider this legislation but it now appears that Wednesday will be the last day that Congress is in session. That makes it increasingly likely that our discussion of the bill will be disrupted or cut short by votes or other activity on the House floor. Accordingly, I am postponing consideration of H.R. 4645 until a time when the Committee will be able to hold the robust and uninterrupted debate this important issue deserves.
U.S. Congressional District 25 candidates Democrat Joe Garcia and Republican David Rivera have addressed the Cuba issue at length because 34 percent of Florida’s 1.7 million Hispanic voters are of Cuban ancestry. Garcia, a Democrat, supports easing travel restrictions while Rivera, a Republican, calls for maintaining all restrictions.
Chairman Berman, as well as 13 other Democrats and seven Republican committee members, receive contributions from the US-Cuba Democracy PAC, a Miami-based organization that opposes easing any restrictions related to Cuba. These committee members represent Arizona, California, Florida, Indiana, Missouri, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, and Texas.
The bulk of the PAC contributions were made to the chairman and vice-chairman, and the chairmen and members of the Western Hemisphere, Terrorism Nonproliferation and Trade, and the International Organizations Human Rights and Oversight subcommittees that address issues involving Cuba-U.S. relations.
OpenSecrets.org data show that since the 2004 election cycle the US-Cuba Democracy PAC raised over $2.7 million, and according to a Public Campaign report released in November 2009, more than $1.7 million of that money has gone to federal candidates. Overall, individuals and organizations that support the embargo have contributed close to $11 million dollars to 337 federal candidates since 2004.
The report also indicates:
The U.S.-Cuba Democracy PAC wasn’t operating in isolation. Individual donors to previous Cuban-American hard-line PACs and to the leadership PAC, called Democracy Believers PAC, run by Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart (R-FL.), often made donations to the same members of Congress or political committees supported by the U.S.-Cuba Democracy PAC.
Florida Republicans Lincoln Diaz-Balart, Mario Diaz-Balart, and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen are one, two, and three on the list of the top 15 recipients of these contributions. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., stands at number four.
Democrats, who outnumber Republicans on this list by two to one, include Sens. Bob Menendez, Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee chairman, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
Florida Democrats Sen. Bill Nelson and Reps. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Kendrick Meek and Ron Klein are on the list.
The Public Campaign report indicates that at the beginning of this decade “the House and Senate repeatedly passed appropriations amendments attempting to stop the use of federal funds to enforce the embargo in various ways.”
According to the report, a “September 2009 survey by Bendixen & Associates found that 59 percent of Cuban-Americans favored repealing the travel ban for all Americans. Just 29 percent opposed the repeal.”
The report concludes:
The case of U.S.-Cuba Democracy PAC’s use of targeted contributions to members of Congress raises serious questions about how our entire system of financing campaigns operates. Aside from a handful of major policy initiatives, the public depends on members of Congress to act in the best interest of all the people, not just a narrow slice of motivated individuals.