DC City Politics Disproportionately ‘Influenced’ By Rich White Men

Steve Birr | Vice Reporter

A vast majority of donors to Washington, D.C politicians are white, wealthy males, according to a new study from a liberal think tank.

Mayor Muriel Bowser and the D.C. Council financially benefit from the “outsized” influence of the District’s wealthiest voters. Demos, a public policy group dedicated to equality, published a report Thursday showing a disproportional influence on political campaigns, given the racial diversity of the city. Sixty-seven percent of all donations to the three candidates in the 2014 mayoral race came from donors who gave over $1,000 in contributions, according to the Demos study.

Donations under $50 in the mayoral race, coming from the small donor class, made up under two percent of all contributions.

“Of course donors are much more likely to support policies that reflect their interests,” Demos Policy Analyst Sean McElwee said in a statement. “In a city as demographically and economically diverse as Washington, D.C, it is deeply problematic that this small group of people has a much louder voice to shape the city’s policy outcomes.”

White people make up roughly 37 percent of the District’s population, but have a much larger impact on political donations. Sixty-seven percent of donors to D.C. Council candidates and 62 percent of donors to mayoral candidates are white. People making over $100,000 dollars hold a similar majority for contributions to mayoral and D.C. Council candidates, while just a quarter of the District population earns that figure, reports The Washington Post.

The Demos study notes the small donor base is a more diverse body. Nearly 50 percent of small donors are women and “people of color.” The group advocates a public financing system with a donor matching program.

“While D.C. has done much in recent years to benefit low-income people, students and workers, the city still spends large amounts of money to the benefit of wealthy interests,” Delvone Michael of DC Working Families said in a statement. “If we truly want to empower DC working families and enact policies that support their wellbeing, DC must implement a robust public financing system that would encourage politicians to collect contributions from the more diverse small donor pool.”

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