While the new Congress has a record number of African American lawmakers, Black legislators are raising only a fraction of the financial support they should be, according to an analysis by GovPredict.
America’s 61 Black representatives and senators should be getting about 11 percent of congressional political contributions, yet they received only 6.2 percent in the 2019-2020 election cycle.
The reasons for that are many. Some Black lawmakers represent districts with a high percentage of low-income residents, making fundraising difficult. Black mega donors and fundraisers are also rare, according to a 2018 Center for Public Integrity report, with many Black celebrities preferring philanthropy to politics.
All of that makes contributions from Political Action Committees an important source of support for Black lawmakers, who must raise money to stay in office. For many, PAC money matters—and many PACs have stepped up to provide support, ensuring their contributions go to a diverse group of candidates.
Supporting Black Lawmakers
Though maligned in previous decades as a source of big-money influence, PACs long ago transcended that reputation to emerge as a stable and reputable force in an ever-changing—and sometimes murky—campaign finance system. PAC money is regulated and transparent, providing a sound way for companies, nonprofits and associations to support lawmakers.
Roughly 1,400 PACs gave a total of $360 million to members of Congress in the 2019-2020 election cycle. Of that total, 9.9 percent went to the 61 Black lawmakers who now serve in the House and Senate.
While it is not completely proportional—Black lawmakers make up about 11 percent of Congress—PACs are an important source of funding for many African American legislators. They allow lawmakers to cultivate fundraising outside their districts and receive support from industries and organizations that endorse their work and their positions.
Head of the PAC
Though it continues to grow, Black representation in Congress is still extremely uneven. African Americans make up about 13 percent of the U.S. population. In the new Congress, there are 58 Black representatives in the House (including two non-voting members), which is about 13 percent. Yet in the Senate, there are only three Black members, which is just 3 percent.
Among the PACs that contributed more than $40,000 in total to Black lawmakers, there were 80 that gave 13 percent or more of their contributions to Black members of Congress.
The top contributor by percentage was the Votesane PAC, an organization that serves as a conduit to allow voters to contribute to any candidate they like. Almost 44 percent of the PAC’s contributions went to Black lawmakers, totaling about $75,000 through December of 2020.
Ranking second and third were PACs that focus on supporting Black lawmakers. The Collective PAC gave 43 percent to Black lawmakers totaling $84,000 through Nov. 23 of 2020. The Congressional Black Caucus PAC gave 40 percent totaling $259,000 in that same period.
Here are 20 top contributors thereafter, ranked by the percentage of contributions directed to Black lawmakers from Jan. 1 of 2019 to Nov. 23 of 2020, unless otherwise noted:
- Navient Corp. gave almost 32 percent totaling $47,000.
- The American Federation of Teachers gave 29 percent, totaling $66,000.
- The International Longshoremen’s Association gave 25 percent, or $47,500.
- The Unite Here Tip Campaign Committee, affiliated with the Unite Here labor union, gave 24 percent, or $141,000.
- The King & Spalding law firm gave 24 percent totaling $49,000.
- The Midwest Region Laborers’ Political League gave 23 percent, or $71,000.
- The Congressional Progressive Caucus PAC gave 23 percent, or $50,000.
- The J Street PAC, run by the pro-Israel advocacy group J Street, gave 23 percent, or more than $87,000.
- The American Federation Of State County and Municipal Employees gave 22 percent, or $429,500.
- Polsinelli PAC, which represents the Polsinelli law firm, gave 21 percent, or $45,000.
- Walgreen Co. PAC, called WalgreensPAC, gave 21 percent, or $58,000.
- The Consumer Technology Association PAC gave 21 percent, or more than $43,200 through Oct. 14 of 2020.
- The Discover Financial Services Political Action Committee gave 20 percent, or $50,000.
- The Machinists Non Partisan Political League, which is associated with the International Association Of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, gave 20 percent, or $392,000.
- United Mine Workers Of America gave almost 20 percent at $84,000.
- Laborers’ International Union Of North America (LIUNA) PAC gave 19 percent, or $332,000.
- State Farm Federal PAC gave 19 percent, or $108,750.
- The International Association Of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail And Transportation Workers Political Action League gave almost 19 percent, or $254,500.
- The Seafarers International Union gave almost 19 percent, or $78,750.
- The Service Employees International Union gave almost 19 percent, or $313,503.
This post is part of a Black History Month series. Next week: thoughts on how to diversify your organization’s PAC contributions.
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