Feature Week of June 20, 2004
BLACKS AND AMERICAN POLITICS
Who’s Calling The Shots?
Blacks need to get real! Why do we refuse to recognize that getting parity in America is all about the “Benjamins”?
Instead of facing the reality of the situation, the question most African Americans will be asking among themselves the next few months is: Who are you going to vote for in the 2004 presidential elections? The real question to pose is: Which campaign are you supporting financially?
This year's presidential race is being fueled by more than a million donors and is well on its way to becoming the country's first $1-billion political campaign. The money represents unprecedented interest in the campaign throughout the country. Already, donations are more than double what was raised at this point four years ago. By the time it's all over, when money spent by the political parties, state party organizations, independent groups, conventions and the candidates is tallied the total will be $1 billion or more.
The RNC says it has a million new donors since Bush took office. And the DNC counts a million new donors since 2001. However, not many of these are black donors. Studies show that 95 percent of reported federal contributions come from whites. Not only are Blacks in the numerical minority in many county, state, and federal elections, but economic disadvantages further dilute Black political voices in privately financed election systems. According to Public Campaign, white American communities contribute the most money to political campaigns. White Americans give 94 percent of the contributions, averaging $65 per person. In contrast, Blacks comprise 6 percent of campaign contributors and average $0.24 per person. For every 100 people who contribute money in wealthier communities, one in communities of color contributes.
In an economic and political system in which money is so important; African Americans, who have great needs and issues, put less money on the table, and thereby receive little, or no consideration and concern for issues important to them. The NAACP cites the current campaign fundraising system as “a civil rights issue” citing that: “The dominance of wealthy interests in our political process blocks fundamental change on issues important to many African Americans”.
Unfortunately, even black incumbent lawmakers defend privately-financed systems, and dismiss meaningful campaign finance reform. Most long-term incumbents from predominately black districts now serve on major congressional committees and raise most of their money from corporate PACs and wealthy contributors outside of their communities. Harlem’s Congressman Charles Rangel is an African American who has adapted well to established systems. His National Leadership political action committee supports House candidates, particularly in areas where candidates might mobilize African-American voters. The PAC raised $416,250 during the most recent reporting period - the end of March. It doled out $27,000 in contributions to 13 candidates, including $10,000 to Rangel, equaled only by a $10,000 contribution to Rep. Ben Chandler of Kentucky. The PAC’s contributions come from a variety of sources, ranging from the thousands of dollars given by American Indians interested in casino gambling to actor Paul Newman, $5,000, and builder and landlord Jack Rudin, $5,000. If his PAC is successful restoring the House to Democratic control, one of the biggest beneficiaries will be Rangel, who would become chairman of the Ways and Means Committee.
The $1 billion will translate into television advertising, particularly in the 17 battleground states where the presidential election is being fought most intensely. It's also paying for voter mobilization drives and hefty fees for dozens of political consultants who strategize, produce ads and conduct polls, as well as to the broadcast stations and networks selling air time.
Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie says: “The thought of a $1-billion presidential campaign shouldn't bother people. When you look at the amount of money spent to get people to vote and participate in the political system, it pales in comparison to what is spent to get people to buy toothpaste."
© 2000-2004 William Reed - www.BlackPressInternational.com