Business

Black business leaders support Sharpton Campaign

Black business leaders support Sharpton Campaign
Even though has gained little mainstream voter support, Rev. Al Sharpton’s bid for the Democratic presidential nomination has so far attracted plenty of financial backing from a coalition of wealthy African American businesspeople and media barons. Even though has gained little mainstream voter support, Rev. Al Sharpton’s bid for the Democratic presidential nomination has so far attracted plenty of financial backing from a coalition of wealthy African American businesspeople and media barons.

The New York preacher is the candidate of choice for business executives such as billionaire cable TV mogul Robert L. Johnson, Cathy Hughes of Radio One Inc. and hip-hop entrepreneurs Russell Simmons and Sean "Puffy" Combs. Each has given Sharpton the maximum amount of campaign donations permitted – $2,000.

Due to contributions from African American businesspeople, Sharpton is among the Presidential campaign leaders in the percentage of funds that have come from large donors (those giving $1,000 or more to a candidate). Thanks in part to Black business supporters; Sharpton has raised 82 percent of his funds from large donors, third among all candidates behind President Bush at 84 percent and Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.) at 83 percent.

Sharpton’s high-profile business supporters say they believe he’s raising issues of concern to Black Americans they feel others in the Democratic field have ignored. "What we wanted to do is signal to the Democratic Party that we wanted someone who will be an active voice about issues of concern to African American business people," says Johnson. Sharpton, says, "Even if I lose, I have the option to negotiate points with the Democratic Party."

Sharpton has raised $330,000 and based his campaign on raising issues that might be "overlooked," such as affirmative action and abolition of the death penalty. He has only received 6 percent of his money from small donors, but outlines a platform of favoring constitutional amendments guaranteeing voting rights, universal access to health care and "equal high quality" education, and supports statehood for the Black District of Columbia and its 60-percent Black population.

Fund raising is an important part of politics. It takes money to run a political campaign – and for the presidential race, it takes a lot. In the 2000 presidential election, President Bush spent over $185 million. He has raised $83.9 million this year. Candidates need campaign money to pay for television, newspaper and radio ads, posters and billboards, promotional material, transportation and staff. The rules covering how politicians raise money and how much they can accept say that candidates can only accept up to $2,000 from an individual and up to $5,000 from political committees.

The group financially backing Sharpton represents a powerful collection of media properties targeting African Americans. BET, which Johnson sold to Viacom Inc. in 2001, is available in more than 75 million cable and satellite TV homes. Radio One owns 66 stations nationwide. Two other contributors, David Mays and Keith Clinkscales, head companies that publish such Black-oriented magazines as the Source and Savoy. Clinkscales, chairman and chief executive of Vanguard Media, says Sharpton is "cut from the cloth of the greatest civil rights leaders we’ve had in this country." He says a strong Sharpton candidacy can influence the Democratic Party’s platform next year and draw more African Americans to the polls. "He gives us an opportunity to let the party know we’re important," says Clinkscales. "The sad part is we haven’t asked for much, and the little we ask for we have difficulty getting."

Employees of Radio One – Hughes’ Lanham, Maryland-based company – have been the single most generous source of funds for Sharpton’s campaign. In addition to Hughes, her son Alfred Liggins and syndicated disc jockey Russ Parr, who have each given $2,000; other officers and employees of the company contributed $6,800. Other Sharpton financial backers include Black Enterprise maga

December 10, 2003
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