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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


December 11, 2003

Statement of Antonio Gonzalez, President, William C. Velasquez Institute

In the Color of Money project, we see how Latinos and other racial/ethnic minorities are systematically excluded from the political system, simply because they are less likely to be able to afford to give the campaign contributions that are the mothers milk of American politics.

When a small, wealthy group of donors in effect decides which candidates will have enough money to run a viable campaign, it is no great surprise to see that the agenda of policymakers is skewed toward their interests rather than those of people of color.

In recent weeks alone, we’ve seen an energy bill that would award more than $20 billion in tax breaks to the oil, gas, coal, and nuclear industries—a tidy payback for over $71.8 million in campaign contributions they’ve made since 1999. We’ve also seen a Medicare bill that is estimated to award the pharmaceutical industry, already the world’s most profitable, with $139 billion in increased profits because it explicitly rules out government efforts to negotiate lower drug prices.

Latinos in the U.S. share a common experience of political, economic and social exclusion. They are at the bottom among major American racial and ethnic groups in terms of educational attainment, per capita income, access to health care, and homeownership, whereas they are first or second in rates of incarceration, teen pregnancy and military service.

This country has always offered an answer for the underserved: Get involved. Vote. Make your voice heard. And Latinos have headed that call. Today we represent the fastest growing group in terms of registration and voting. In the 2004 elections Latinos are likely to reach the goal of 10 million registered voters for the first time in American history.

But the Latino community’s voices would be amplified if we had comprehensive campaign finance reform. Clean Money campaign reform evens the playing field, by reducing the importance of private money donations in elections. Candidates who agree to abide by spending limits and meet tough qualifying conditions, raising a large number of very small contributions from in-district voters, receive equal public grants of money to run their campaign. This makes it possible for a candidate to run a viable campaign for office without having to rely on wealthy donors.

Clean Money campaign reform would not solve all the problems of the Latino electorate, but it would help make the system more inclusive and more responsive to their needs.

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