Dem Party hires few minority firms
Donna Brazile says the lack of diversity among the party's consultants is 'embarrassing.' | AP Photo
By JOSE DELREAL | 6/25/14 11:00 AM EDT Updated: 6/25/14 11:42 AM EDT
Less than 2 percent of the money disbursed by the Democratic Party’s three largest committees went to firms with full or partial minority ownership, according to a new report released Wednesday that suggests a disconnect between the party’s increasingly diverse voter base and its Beltway leadership.
The report, compiled by PowerPAC+, a political action committee funded by Democratic megadonor Steve Phillips, takes the Democratic committees to task for their failure to solicit a broad group of minority consultants to compete for the hundreds of millions of dollars they dole out for political activities.
“The fact that this is occurring under the first black president’s watch should be a wake-up call because it’s embarrassing,” said veteran strategist Donna Brazile, vice chair of the Democratic Party for voter registration and participation. “The people exist, the organizations exist, and the resources are there. This is a failure by those that are running and managing the party.”
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The report analyzes Federal Election Commission data of expenditures in the 2010 and 2012 cycles made by the Democratic National Committee, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
Responding to the findings, Democratic Party officials acknowledged the need to diversify their base of consultants, though they stressed that they are already taking steps to broaden outreach. That includes in-house training programs that aren’t reflected in the spending reports, the officials said.
“When you look at the two parties, it is clear which party has a demonstrated commitment to diversity and policies that will help all communities,” said DNC Communications Director Mo Elleithee. “Having said that, we can always do better. And I’m happy there are people out there holding our feet to the fire.”
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Of the $514 million paid to consulting firms overall, the study found, only $8.7 million went to firms with “any ownership share African-American, Latino, Asian American or Pacific Islander, or Native American individuals.” That amounts to 1.7 percent of all the money disbursed to consultants by the three committees.
The total share of contracts given to firms with partial minority ownership — without considering the amount money involved — is also low. Of the 284 firms contracted by the three committees, only 13 had minority principals.
“It is surprising how stark the problem is. I think we’ve seen, in some ways, that the election of the first black president has masked the problems we have underneath in terms of the infrastructure and the operatives,” said Phillips, who has donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to the party over the past decade.
Some Democratic strategists and donors worry that the lack of diversity in the consulting class could hurt the party’s electoral prospects in 2014 and beyond by making it more difficult to connect with minority voters. Nearly half of the voters who backed President Barack Obama for reelection in 2012 were minority, according to exit polls.
“We’re not going to have this black president to fall back on forever to engage the electorate,” said Phillips. “We’re not just saying that you have to contract with consultants of color — although we think we should — but we need to … bring in the expertise to reach out to the party’s base.”
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Gautam Dutta, executive director of the Asian American Action Fund, added: “The Democrats are the party of opportunity, and they need to put their money where their mouth is. There needs to be much more outreach efforts on the part of the campaign committees so we can bring more diverse talent into the fold.”
One gap in the report is the fact that the committees’ spending isn’t tracked at the state level, where minority consultants might be employed by the state parties. That is due in part to the lack of access researchers had to the actual contracts.
Democratic Party officials emphasize that they are taking steps to bring a diverse array of consultants onboard.
“Drawing on the diversity in our party to hire the most qualified experts is critical to our success,” said DSCC press secretary Justin Barasky. “This cycle, the DSCC has significantly expanded our outreach to diversify campaign staff and field operations in targeted states and look to continually improve on our diversity.”
Read more: http://www.politico.com/story/2014/06/dem-party-hires-few-minority-firms-108284.html#ixzz36DghpS39