Race and campaign finance

Featured, Politics — By Faye Anderson on February 26, 2010 at 14:34

Out of the blue, I was invited to be an official blogger at CPAC 2010. I quickly seized the opportunity to be a witness to the rebirth of a movement that was declared dead a year ago.

What a difference a year makes. This year’s Conservative Political Action Conference attracted 10,000 attendees, who could scarcely contain their enthusiasm. Few were more fired up than David Bossie, fresh off his victory in the landmark Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.

Citizens United cut a wide swath in the historic Marriott Wardman Park Hotel. In addition to having one of the biggest booths in the Exhibit Hall, the organization sponsored a film festival. “Hillary The Movie,” which was at center of the battle over corporate spending on federal elections, was not screened because it had been screened last year.

In a message to CPAC attendees, Bossie wrote:

The decision clearly irked President Obama, who made a point of attacking the Court during his State of the Union address. On behalf of Citizens United, I would like to take this opportunity to thank the conservative community for its firm support during our two year courtroom battle.

Bossie encouraged conservatives to take “full advantage of the political opportunities that the decision affords.”

But as Judith Browne‐Dianis, Co-Director of the Advancement Project, observed during her recent appearance before the House Committee on House Administration, communities of color do not have comparable resources with which to fund competing ads.”

Browne‐Dianis testified:

Certainly this ruling ushers in a new, unprecedented era of direct corporate wealth influence in our elections in ways never before imagined. The literature suggests that this large influx of private corporate wealth in federal, state, and local elections will have a particularly devastating impact on communities of color, which lack comparable resources with which to fund competing ads. This disparity is due, in large measure, to the lingering negative effects that racial discrimination has had in the distribution of property in the United States.


Given the historical and lingering racial disparities in property distribution and transfer and in net worth accumulation, coupled with the low representation of people of color in the management sphere of our nation’s largest companies and the overwhelmingly White non-Hispanic demographic of major campaign contributors, it is easy to see why any campaign finance regime that allows and relies heavily upon large private financial contributors—especially major corporations—would structurally exclude people of color from any significant degree of effective political influence.

Indeed, the disparate impact of money in electoral politics was documented in the groundbreaking report, “Color of Money: 2003,” which found that “campaign money—not votes—is now the currency of our democracy, determining who is able to run a viable campaign for office, who usually wins, and who has the ear of elected officials.”

Then as now, moneyed interests represented by K Street lobbyists have the ear of Congress.

To borrow a phrase, the more things change, the more they remain the same.

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Author: Faye Anderson (9 Articles)

Faye Anderson

Faye M. Anderson, a public policy and social media consultant, focuses on the intersection of technology, public policy and civic engagement. Faye is the founder of Tracking Change Wiki, an online platform to promote accountability and engagement in the policymaking process. As a citizen journalist, Faye provides fact-based commentary and curates links to news and information that resonate with African American readers, political influentials, thought leaders and activists. Faye’s writing has appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and Stanford magazine, among other publications. She has a JD from Stanford Law School, a BA from the City College of New York, and a Certificate in French Proficiency from the Université Cheikh Anta Diop de Dakar, Sénégal.

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