Have the black 1 percent abandoned Barack Obama?
It’s no secret that the Obama-backing Super PAC Priorities USA is lagging miles behind the other side when it comes to the 2012 campaign war chest. Mitt Romney-backing Super PACs, like Karl Rove’s American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS, are putting up huge numbers month after month and shelling out millions on attack ads as if money is going out of style.
And while the official fundraising for the Obama campaign is also less than Romney of late, the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision has shifted the political landscape for the foreseeable future, and Democrats are struggling to keep up.
President Obama does have a solid base of support in Hollywood, which is made up of a number of rich Democrats who are not shy when it comes to hosting high-priced dinners in support of the cause. But it seems there is one key difference between the president’s grassroots support among everyday folks and his support among the wealthy Hollywood stars.
To date, the president’s major Hollywood fundraisers have all been hosted by almost exclusively white celebrities. While singer Mariah Carey did perform at one of the recent New York dinners there haven’t been any “Dinner with Beyoncé” emails hitting supporters’ inboxes, even though Beyoncé and her husband, rapper Jay-Z, have been vocal supporters of the president since 2008. Perhaps that dinner is in the works, but to date only a select few black elites have been the face of Obama fundraising dinners.
Part of the reason they are so far behind is because most liberals, particularly left leaning potential donors (i.e. rich Democrats) are ideologically opposed to what Citizens United has done to politics. Progressives dislike the decision and think that the idea of unlimited campaign donations to political candidates is antithetical to democratic values. So just because someone is a billionaire and a supporter of President Obama’s re-election doesn’t mean they are willing to circumvent their core values to win an election. That impulse doesn’t appear to exist on the right.
And while democratic supporting unions and special interest groups are no stranger to funding candidates in order to influence outcomes, those entities are not normally made up of a dozen individuals with millions in disposable capital gains income. Unions are often singled out as the same thing as corporate-backed groups but they are a collective make up of people, not companies, and have raised only a quarter of what the other side has. Wall Street backs both sides, uncertain of the outcome, but certainly there is no love lost when it comes to their support for the president. Mitt Romney’s campaign has even said outright that its corporate donations like those from the Koch Brothers that are the “financial engine of [the Republican party.”
With no black owned corporations or celebrities opening up their checkbooks as wide as David and Charles Koch of Koch Industries, the Democrats and President Obama are at a severe disadvantage come November. Month after month, both the campaign and the Super PACs are behind the opposition. And it’s not reasonable to expect middle and lower income black voters who have stuck with Obama through the past three years to donate in large amounts. While black voters haven’t historically been large campaign donors, during the recession blacks had the largest drop in wealth compared with other groups, decreasing the likelihood of them writing big checks for Obama even more.
It may be past time for the upper income black voters and Democratic millionaires who support the president to step it up. The wealthy donors on the Left who dislike Citizens United will make its permanence more certain by sitting this one out and allowing President Obama to be continually out raised and potentially defeated in November.
Follow Zerlina Maxwell on Twitter at @zerlinamaxwell