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"We need to incorporate communities of color into our electoral process, one which currently favors those with wealth over average citizens. A shift to a Clean Elections system such as in Arizona would ensure that all voters are an integral part of elections."
Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva


Statements on Unveiling of the Web Site, December 11, 2003

Nick Nyhart, Executive Director, Public Campaign

Stephanie Moore, Executive Director, Fannie Lou Hamer Project

Antonio Gonzalez, President, William C. Velasquez Institute

Press Releases


White, Wealthy Neighborhoods Source of Most Campaign Contributions People of Color Largely Left Out of the Money Game

December 11, 2003
New Interactive Website, www.colorofmoney.org, Launched

Washington, DC…A new study, Color of Money 2003, shows a dramatic disparity between America’s diverse population and the small number of people who finance political campaigns: nine out of ten dollars contributed by individuals to federal campaigns and parties (of contributions more than $200) in the 2000 and 2002 elections come from majority non-Hispanic white zip codes, yet nearly one out of three Americans is a person of color. Eighty-five percent of the campaign contributions studied were “hard money” contributions, untouched by the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision Wednesday to hold up the Bipartisan Campaign Finance Reform Act ban on “soft money” contributed to political parties.

The 34-page report, released today by Public Campaign, the Fannie Lou Hamer Project, and the William C. Velasquez Institute, is a companion to a new interactive website, www.colorofmoney.org, where users can conduct their own research on campaign money, race/ethnicity, and income in their own communities, looking up information about their state, city, and zip code, as well as viewing color maps of the 25 top contributing metropolitan areas nationwide.

Color of Money 2003 provides analysis of more than $2 billion in individual contributions ($200+) to federal candidates, parties, and PACs, attributable to more than 25,000 zip codes nationwide over the course of two election cycles, 2000 and 2002. These data are compared these data with U.S. 2000 Census information on race, ethnicity and income of people ages 18 and over by zip code. The report provides vivid evidence of how our nation’s system of privately financed elections disenfranchises racial and ethnic minorities while providing disproportionate power and access to wealthy and predominantly white neighborhoods.

“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,” said Nick Nyhart, executive director of Public Campaign. “Our democracy is in crisis because the election system discriminates against large sectors of our society. Unfortunately, this remains true despite the positive decision by the Supreme Court this week to hold up the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (BCRA). Clearly, the Court believes money does not equal speech and that we can regulate the role of money in politics to enhance democracy. However, big money is still drowning the voices of average people in our electoral system. Regrettably, the Court did not address this core issue, that candidates and communities without access to wealth are essentially shut out of meaningful participation in the process.”

“This country has always offered an answer for the underserved: Get involved. Vote. Make your voice heard,” said Antonio Gonzalez, executive director of the William C. Velasquez Institute. “But the Latino community’s voices would be amplified if we had real, comprehensive campaign finance reform.”

"The current campaign finance system acts like a modern-day poll-tax, blocking low and moderate income voters from having an equal, effective voice in the political process," said Stephanie Moore, executive director of the Fannie Lou Hamer Project. "We need to restore the principle of 'one person, one vote' by providing candidates a means to run for office without relying on special interest money."

Major findings of the study include:

• Nearly ninety percent of the more than $2 billion contributed by individuals in the two recent federal elections comes from zip codes that are majority non-Hispanic white. In comparison, just 1.8% of campaign funds come from predominantly Latino zip codes, 2.8% from predominantly African American zip codes, and .6% from predominantly Asian Pacific American neighborhoods.

• The top contributing zip code nationwide—10021, on Manhattan's exclusive Upper East Side—is the source of $28.4 million for federal campaigns in the 2002 and 2000 elections, and is home to 91,514 people ages 18 and over, 86% of whom are non-Hispanic white. Nearly 40% of the households have incomes of $100,000 or more. This one zip code contributes more campaign cash than:

o the 532 zip codes nationwide with the largest percent of African American residents, representing 7,654,609 people ages 18 and over, 84 times more people than live in 10021;

o the 533 zip codes nationwide with the largest percent of Latino residents, representing 9,355,643 people ages 18 and over, 102 times the number of people writing the zip code "10021" on the return flap of their envelopes;

o the 167 zip codes nationwide with the largest percent of Asian Pacific American residents, representing 3,523,852 people ages 18 and over, 39 times the number of people who call 10021 home.

o The zip code 10021 is also the source of more federal campaign money than is contributed by each of 30 states, with adult population ranging from 4.5 million to 365,000.

• The neighborhoods supplying most of the money for federal campaigns in this country are also among the nation's wealthiest. Nearly one out of two federal individual campaign dollars ($200+)—$991 million—comes from a person living in a wealthy zip code, although just 12% of the adult population lives in these neighborhoods. Meanwhile, just 5.9% of individual campaign dollars—$118.8 million—comes from poor neighborhoods, although nearly 9% of adult Americans live in these communities. Another way to look at it: individuals living in wealthy neighborhoods supply eight dollars for every one dollar that people living in poor communities give to federal campaigns.

• These disparities play out starkly across America’s states and cities. In California, where nearly one out of two residents are people of color, 85% of the campaign cash comes from zip codes that are predominantly non-Hispanic white. In New York City, more than half the population are people of color, but 93% of the campaign cash comes from non-Hispanic white zip codes.

Public Campaign, the Fannie Lou Hamer Project, and the William C. Velasquez Institute are advocates for Clean Money/Clean Elections campaign finance reform, which is already law in five states—Arizona, Maine, North Carolina, New Mexico, and Vermont. Under this system, candidates who agree to abide by strict spending limits and to raise no private money can qualify for a full and equal grant of public funds for their campaigns.

Clean Money systems have been in place for statewide elections in Arizona and Maine only since the 2000 election cycle. Nevertheless, in Arizona, there are already promising results showing that the system gives a boost to candidates of color. From 2000 to 2002, Arizona saw a substantial increase in the number of Latino and Native American candidates. Thirty-seven candidates from racial and ethnic minority communities ran for office in 2002, compared to only 13 in 2000. Of those 37 people, 21 opted for public funding.

Campaign finance data used in Color of Money were provided by the Center for Responsive Politics (www.opensecrets.org), a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to analyzing campaign finance data from the Federal Election Commission (FEC). The methodology used for determining the racial and ethnic makeup of the U.S. population was developed by John R. Logan at the Lewis Mumford Center at the University of Albany. (http://mumford1.dyndns.org/cen2000/report.html). The three organizations will periodically update the Color of Money website and issue reports with new analyses on how campaign contributions affect communities of color. The Color of Money project will show how the current campaign finance system has consequences that affect people's lives, from the wages they earn and the taxes they pay, to the quality of the schools their children attend and the air they breathe.

# # #

Public Campaign (www.publicampaign.org) is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to sweeping reform that aims to dramatically reduce the role of big special interest money in American politics.

The Fannie Lou Hamer Project (www.flhp.org) is a national education and advocacy organization dedicated to strengthening our democracy through bringing justice and equity to the campaign finance system.

The William C Velasquez Institute (www.wcvi.org) is a tax-exempt, nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that conducts research aimed at improving the level of political and economic participation in Latino and other underrepresented communities.

The Color of Money Project was made possible by funding from the Ford Foundation and the Joyce Foundation

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