Money and wealth in the United States has traditionally been concentrated in the hands of a few, mostly older white males. Hence, it is no wonder that most of our government is representative of a very similar demographic.
“Civil Rights & Publicly Funded Elections” - www.neaction.org
· People of color make up 31% of the population but only 11% of elected state legislators and 14% of Congress.
· Candidates of color are typically underfunded.
· Civil rights enforcement has lagged.
“The great amounts of cash come from neighborhoods where wealthy, non-Hispanic white populations dominate.
Civil rights refers to the equal treatment of all citizens irrespective of race, sex, or other class. It refers to the promise of equal opportunity to get a job, to attend good schools, or live in the neighborhood of one’s choosing. It also refers to the promise of fair and equal political representation—the notion that all voices are equal in the creation and carrying out of the law.
Many years after the passage of the Civil Rights Act, the nation is far from this reality. In the United States, people of color have lower incomes and fewer financial assets than whites. They control fewer business interests and are disproportionately represented among those living in poverty. Thus, when it comes to running for office, people of color lack the access to personal wealth and the networks of large donors that many privately-funded candidates enjoy.
What’s more, because large political donations carry with them greater accessibility to politicians, the voices of regular citizens, who have less money to give, often are drowned out by the voices of the rich.
Publicly funded elections hold the promise of changing this imbalance. Where publicly funded elections exist today, they are making it possible for candidates of color and others of modest means to compete financially—even against candidates who run traditionally and receive large private contributions.
Although it’s too soon to gauge the long-term impact of publicly funded elections on minority representation in Arizona, some trends are emerging.
· First, the percent of candidates of color has increased each election since 2000, when the program was introduced.
· Second, the percent of candidates of color who use Fair Elections has jumped substantially each year.
· Third, candidates of color use Fair Elections to a greater degree than their white peers. Many say the availability of public funding was an important factor in their decision and ability to run for office. In a survey of candidates of color by the Fair Elections Institute, an overwhelming number said they could not have run without public funds.
Increasingly, Fair Elections are seen as a critical component of the broader struggle for racial justice and civil rights. They are an important step within a broader comprehensive agenda. The reforms are not just about cleaning up elections or electing more people of color. They are about improving neighborhoods and schools in communities with urgent needs.
In essence, publicly funded elections can play a role in changing a campaign finance system that has privileged some and hindered others based partly on race and wealth. In this sense, the movements for campaign finance and civil rights are in harmony—to develop an electoral system whose outcomes are determined not by wealth or race, but by notions of fairness, justice, equality and democracy.
For specific updates on these and other hot-button issues, talk to your Staff Link or email
. Data for specific industry and sector big money contributions can be found at www.opensecrets.org/industries/index.php