DCCC Responds to 2014 Fannie Lou Hamer Report

fudge_israel_photo.jpegPowerPAC+'s Fannie Lou Hamer Report issued powerful data that demonstrated the lack of diversity in Democratic Party hiring. The media inquiries that followed have elevated the conversation on how well the Democrats are engaging people of color who comprise 40% of its voting base.

On July 29th, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) briefed 11 African-American reporters on the committee’s efforts to engage voters of color in this year's midterms. 

Lauren Victoria Burke, managing editor of Politic365, asked DCCC leaders what the committee planned to do about the findings of the 2014 Fannie Lou Hamer report. (In case you missed it, our report revealed that a shockingly low 5.9% of consulting firms employed by the Democratic Party over the past two cycles were led by people of color).

Read on for the DCCC’s response. 

Note: Our report focused on consultants, but this conversation will reference all vendors. For those unfamiliar, “vendors” is politico-speak for all the groups employed to provide products and services for a campaign. 

Lauren Victoria Burke, Politic365: On the vending question, I know you saw the PowerPAC+ report and you say you are changing some things with regard to vending, but quite frankly we’ve been having this conversation for a very long time with regard to minority vendors. When you say you’re tabulating data on minority vendors, what does that look like now? Do we have a starting point we could compare to later, and how are you getting money to people on the ground who are African American who get out the vote? Are you going to buy ads on the Tom Joyner show? Are you going to buy ads in the African American? What exactly is that?

Rep. Steve Israel (D-NY), DCCC chair: So, on the vendor piece … for the first time ever, we will have an online platform that will reach out to vendors, take their information, that will be searchable by our people so that when we need a vendor, we have a searchable database - who those vendors are, are they minority-owned, what services do they provide, what goods do they provide – so that we can actually quantify. Part of the problem that we had in the past is, you’re right, everybody sits here and says “Ok, we’re going to do a better job of reaching out to vendors,” but then there’s no one simple place to get information on who those vendors are. Example: we wanted to do a vendor showcase for minority vendors last year and we had a hard time embracing where those vendors are, what they do, etc. So, my marching orders were, well, there’s this thing called the internet and this thing called a search engine, so why don’t we employ those radical technologies to identifying vendors and bringing them all in. **Note: The DCCC has put up a registration page for minority vendors. It can be found here: https://action.dccc.org/page/s/vendor-diversity 

Rep. Donna Edwards (D-MD), DCCC Recruitment Committee Chairwoman: In the past, a lot of our efforts have been that members of the CDC and others’ word of mouth identifying vendors, and that’s just not, not only has it not been effective, but it’s not even efficient to reach the broad swath of vendors there are around the country. So the idea that we’re going to actually use the technology that we have and use that to master both identifying and allowing vendors to self-identify to use about their capacities I think changes the game for us and isn’t just dependent on “Do you know somebody who knows somebody and can you tell them about somebody else?”

LVB: And minority media buys? What are you doing about that?

SI: We intend to do them in districts where, Donna just mentioned, I’m not saying all the districts, but where we have districts where a minority media buy will help get out the vote, we’re going to use every tool in our toolbox.

LVB: Okay. You know we’ve heard this for years, right? I mean this is something that keeps coming up a lot, and the last thing that PowerPAC+ did was a fairly devastating number.  We’ve heard that before, and we’ve actually heard, too, that members have told you vendors, that has been communicated over the years, over the past few cycles. I know I’m telling you stuff you already know, but when you say that this is the moment, this is going to happen, I’m not going to lie to you, I’m deeply skeptical.

SI: I understand that. I understand it. With respect to members telling me of vendors, I would appreciate knowing what members told me of vendors, because I’m telling you I’ve never heard from a member on vendors.  Now, maybe they told others in DCCC, so I need to understand that and learn it and fix it, but I am telling you I have never had a member say to me, with exception of one, Grace Napolitano who has a Latino research firm that she would like us to hire, that was it. So I want to know they told, who the vendor is, and now when we have that information, we’ll actually have a database, so you won’t be able to have this “Well, maybe, maybe not” anymore, because we actually have a database, we have a platform, we have checks and balances for the very first time.

Kelly Goff, The Daily Beast and The Root: My question is two-fold in terms of the issue of diversity. The first thing I wanted to ask is whether part of the diversity efforts a response to some of the criticisms of the report on the lack of diversity at least in the DNC in terms of consultants? What I mean by that, I don’t mean to put you on the defensive, but in my experience has been that sometimes people are not aware of the extent of a problem until criticism becomes public, and then everyone sort of figures it out.

SI: It’s two issues. It’s accountability, and it’s win-ability. And the two are not mutually exclusive.  So on accountability, when we see an audit, we want to be accountable.  So we saw that audit and we want to make sure we’re being held accountable for it, but many of the decisions we made, for example hiring a diversity director, hiring a national training director, doing the vendor internet database, were decisions that we made prior to the audit.

Correction: We previously wrote that the DCCC briefed 7 African-American reporters, but the correct number of reporters were 11. 

Listen to the full exchange at 19 minutes and later 23 minutes below: 

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