Although people of color comprised 45 percent of Democratic voters in 2012, less than 2 percent of the $1.1 billion collected over a four-year period by the three primary Democratic fundraising committees went to people of color – defined as U.S. residents who are African American, Latino, Asian American or Pacific Islander, or Native American – according to the “2014 Fannie Lou Hamer Report” by PowerPAC+, a national advocacy organization that helps elect progressives to office by building on the political power of the multiracial majority in America.
Actually, the Minority Business Enterprise (MBE) figures are even smaller than reported because the study counted any firm that had a person of color as a principal owner, not the more commonly accepted definition requiring that they be the majority owner.
The research was compiled from Federal Election Commission reports filed by the three largest Democratic fundraising committees: the National Democratic Committee, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.
“Even amidst the massive infusion of ‘outside’ money, the Democratic Party remains the largest source of funds for Democrats seeking office (other than the Presidency). Each cycle, the Party takes in hundreds of millions of dollars and uses these funds to provide the national electoral infrastructure and support those of the states,” the report stated.
It explained, “While most of the media attention falls on the mega-donors who make significant financial contributions to the Democratic Party, in the aggregate, small donors actually contribute more to the Party’s finances than do the mega-donors. Indeed, donors who made contributions of less than $200 provided a full third of the Party’s financial resources over the past two cycles, having donated over $371,345,529.”
According to the report, “Well over half a billion dollars was spent on these consultants over the past two election cycles, an amount that represents approximately half of the funds raised and disbursed by the Party.”
But few of those dollars found their way to people of color.
Overall, of 285 firms receiving disbursements from the Democratic Party in the 2010 and 2012 election cycles, only 14 – or 4.9 percent – were MBE firms. Five of the MBEs were polling firms, three provided communications services and six provided political strategy services or IT.
Among the 14 firms, four of them received 87 percent of all dollars disbursed to MBEs. They were, in order, Peter D. Hart Research Associates, Inc., $2,206,772.50 (25 percent of all MBE Research dollars); SKD Knickerbocker, $2,138,671 (24 percent); Brilliant Corners Research, Inc., $1,908,369.26 (22 percent) and Thoughtworks ($1,328,464.92).
Peter D. Hart, whose firm received the most MBE dollars, is a White male. Yet, highly-respected Black pollster Ronald L. Lester received only $45,670.00 from the Democratic Party, according to the report. Brilliant Corners, headed by Cornel Belcher, an African American, was third among MBEs with $1.9 million. Dewey Square Group, with Minyon Moore, African American, and Maria Cardona, a Latina, on its team received only $81,054.73, or 0.9 percent of MBE dollars.
Among the study’s recommendations:
• Conduct a disparity study to diagnose the problem;
• Set goals for diversifying contract awards;
• Make a plan to increase access and capacity and
• Measure progress and hold decision-makers accountable.
In 2014, the Democratic Party has no credible excuse for such poor performance. Even with an exaggerated definition of what constitutes a Minority Business Enterprise, Democrats fall short.
“… Today’s voter looks quite different from the model voter of even 50 years ago who was much more likely to be male, have a job with a union that afforded him time off to vote during the work day, and have access to an array of news sources that offered some semblance of balanced reporting on the candidates and their positions, among other things,” the report stated. “Today, women, especially those not married, form a core part of the Democratic Party’s base, as do Voters of Color. To put it bluntly, these voters are already the largest constituencies within our Party, and their influence will only increase over the coming decades.”
Diversifying spending with Black vendors, Black media and African Americans who offer professional services does not detract from the Party’s overall goal.
“…The ultimate goal of these efforts is to win,” the report observed. “And winning among today’s multiracial and ever evolving electorate requires cultural competence at its finest.”
This report should be followed up with others, including an examination of spending by Republicans.
As the report noted, “It is deeply disappointing that we are even having this conversation in 2014… If People of Color are smart and talented enough that one of them can serve as leader of the free world, then they are certainly smart and talented enough to run political campaigns for Congress, Senate, and the White House.”
George E. Curry, former editor-in-chief of Emerge magazine, is editor-in-chief of the National Newspaper Publishers Association News Service (NNPA.) He is a keynote speaker, moderator, and media coach. Curry can be reached through his Web site, www.georgecurry.com. You can also follow him at www.twitter.com/currygeorge and George E. Curry Fan Page on Facebook