What We Do

Campaign Finance Reform

"We have fought and died for the right to vote," veteran civil rights activist Gwen Patton remarked in 1990, "but what good is the right if we do not have candidates to vote for? Getting money out of politics is the unfinished business of the voting rights movement." This understanding animates all of NVRI's work. So long as access to money is a prerequisite to electoral participation, minority communities and the non-wealthy will be denied full political representation. NVRI seeks to act as the legal arm of a new civil rights movement challenging the inequalities wrought by private funding of political campaigns.

Martin L. King with Harry Belafonte,Tony Bennett during the Selma to Montgomery march for voting rights, 1965
The Racial Divide in Campaign Funding

Numerous studies have documented racial disparities in campaign fundraising. A 1997 survey by Public Campaign found that over 90 percent of large contributors to federal campaigns were white. A Public Campaign study in 1998, examining campaign contributions by zip code, found an enormous gap in giving. A single, ninety percent white district in Manhattan, with roughly 107,000 people, gave over $9.3 million to federal candidates, while 9.5 million persons in 483 communities of color gave a total of $ 5.5 million.

Thus it is clear that minority neighborhoods give far less to candidates than white neighborhoods. While this is no surprise given racial income disparities, it leaves minority voters without the clout that campaign contributions bring. And it leaves the candidates that minority voters prefer handicapped in today’s money-driven electoral contests, since voting preferences remain racially polarized in many elections – minority candidates draw strong support from minority voters but far less support from white voters.