Many Democrats, like Rep. Eric Swalwell, have
left the LGBT Caucus, apparently over the new
$400 annual fee.
Membership in the caucus dropped precipitously from 114 to just 54 this year, according to Buzzfeed. Some say the new $400 annual membership fee dissuaded some from reupping with the caucus. Most congressional caucuses charge members a fee, which are typically far more taxing on a congressmember's budget than the amount the LGBT Caucus is asking. The Progressive Caucus, for instance, charges $2,000 a year for membership.
Swalwell has not given a reason for not rejoining the LGBT Caucus, but, last year, his reason for not joining the Congressional Progressive Caucus was also cost. As a low-ranking Democrat, the amount of money budgeted for his office is sparse in comparison to other lawmakers, he said last year. Instead of paying to join the Progressive Caucus, he said, he would rather give his staff a raise.
During the last session of Congress, Swalwell, though, belonged to five other caucuses: Wine Caucus, Anti-Bullying Caucus, Science and Labs Caucus and Internet Caucus, according to his website.
South Bay Reps. Anna Eshoo and Zoe Lofgren also did not renew their membership in the LGBT Caucus.
In the East Bay, Swalwell is alone when it comes to either caucus. Both Reps. Barbara Lee and Mike Honda are members of both groups. However, when it comes to the LGBT Caucus, Lee and Honda aren't just members, but vice chairs, a position that costs each member $2,100 annually, according to the Washington Blade, a respected LGBT newspaper based in Washington.
Just last week, Honda tweeted to great fanfare and support a photo of his transgender grandchild.
Meanwhile, a source told the paper, the new $400 price tag is just an excuse.
“Members and staff who say their offices cannot afford the annual membership dues are being less than honest with their constituents,” the source said.
“This is a question of priorities, and members of Congress who are declining to rejoin the Equality Caucus over a fraction of a percent of their annual budget are not prioritizing equal rights for the LGBT community. Donors who value true champions of LGBT equality in the House should keep these names in mind when opening their wallets for the 2016 election cycle.”