Last summer, I participated in a fundraiser for Congressman Tony Cárdenas in San Fernando, CA. We raised about $12K from a network of Latino small business professionals. The congressman was pleasantly surprised…Why? Because even though he is one of the strongest Latino advocates in government, Cárdenas told me that more than 95% of his political donations came from outside of the Latino community. Hmmm…seriously?
In September, I spoke with María Teresa Kumar, the CEO of Voto Latino, one of the most effective voter registration organizations in the country. María shared a similar story, expressing to Sol Trujillo and I at L’ATTITUDE, that the funding for her organization also comes almost exclusively from outside of the Latino donor community. My God….
Money is part of the political process. If Latinos want our issues prioritized, we need more Latinos in congress and we need to donate money to candidates who support our issues. While none of this is a secret, it is simply not a discipline that we have acquired. With all the talk about the growing Latino political clout, the reality is we have a long way to go. We may have the numbers, but we don’t know how to play the game. I know a lot of people who consider themselves advocates, who say they’re passionate about our issues, but when it comes to writing a check they go dark. Everyone has the choice on whether or not they want to participate in our political process, and there is definitely reason to be somewhat cynical, but if you don’t express your views with your vote AND your pocketbook, you aren’t playing major league ball, and your viewpoints will never be heard.
Marisa Calderon, my friend and colleague, recently took the bold step of running for congress in her home district, the 53rd congressional district of California. I think she would be an outstanding elected official. She has a large network of Latino professionals, so it will be interesting to see how well she is supported by them. Sol Trujillo and I have both made maximum donations to her campaign and I hope some of you will as well.