In response to an article on the Washington Post on Republican presidential candidates turning down invitations to speak to Hispanic and African-American audiences, Public Campaign President and CEO Nick Nyhart, and George Washington University law professor Spencer Overton sent this letter to the Post speculating on the reason those invitations were turned down. Read on for the full text.
Regarding the Sept. 28 news story "Leading GOP Candidates Skip Debate on Black Issues":
Every politician knows that fundraising can make or break a candidacy. But in refusing to go to the Morgan State University debate, GOP presidential hopefuls admit an even nastier truth. If you need to troll for money, you go to the predominantly white, wealthy areas. You don't go looking in neighborhoods where folks are likely to be African American, Latino or members of households whose income is below the elite range.
Consider Baltimore, the city at the center of this controversy. In the 2004 elections, the wealthy, mostly white residents who live in the Zip code 21210 in the Roland Park neighborhood, home of majestic houses and country clubs, contributed $170,000 to presidential candidates, according to an analysis by Public Campaign. In contrast, about seven miles away, in the predominantly African American neighborhood of Johnston Square, where one out of three households is below the poverty level, presidential candidates collected just $45,000 from the Zip code 21202 -- even though nearly twice as many people live there.
This is a primary reason why, once elected, candidates neglect the needs and concerns of African Americans, Latinos and other Americans who do not give large contributions but prioritize the wish lists of the pharmaceutical, oil and banking industries.
There are bills in Congress to change the campaign finance dynamic. If Congress adopts a system of comprehensive public financing, perhaps in September 2011 the candidates will be courting us, the voters, instead of big-money contributors.
Nick Nyhart is president and chief executive of Public Campaign, a nonprofit organization that supports campaign finance reform. Spencer Overton is a professor of law at George Washington University .