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Communities of Color Donate Far Less to Presidential Campaign

J. Mijin Cha

The Washington Post reports that nearly all sizeable campaign contributions in this year’s presidential election have come from people living in predominantly wealthy, white neighborhoods. Even though Latinos comprise about 16 percent of the U.S. population, less than four percent of the $1.3 billion in itemized contributions came from Latino neighborhoods. Roughly 2.7 percent came from majority African-American neighborhoods and less than one percent came from Asian neighborhoods. In contrast, over 90 percent came from majority white neighborhoods.

The Post article points out that even though they are not a large donation base, Latinos are a much courted demographic due to their increasing number. While, there is a benefit to being a growing constituency, money does buy access to candidates. As the Post quotes:

“The most important voice is the vote, and financial contributions come in second,” said Arturo Vargas, director of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials. “Not being a major source of financial contributions and not having a tradition of contributing to candidates complicates our development as a political community. Even if the candidates deny it, the reality is that donors are those who enjoy the best access to candidates."

There are steps that can be taken to amplify communities’ voices even without large donations, like public financing. Public financing provides funds to match individual donations, thereby increasing their importance. In New York City, for instance, a $20 individual donation is matched 5 to 1 and becomes $100. This match allows small donations to add up to substantially larger contributions, providing incentive for more donors to participate, even at a small level.