New racial justice target: Defund the police foundations

Financial firms have been major donors to the New York City Police Foundation, which last year hosted a gala that honored Morgan Stanley CEO James Gorman.

New racial justice target: Defund the police foundations

Wall Street banks and other big corporations are under pressure to cut ties with nonprofit police foundations, which racial justice activists say are increasingly funding law enforcement practices that fuel violence against Black people.

Bank of America, Wells Fargo and Chevron are among the businesses that watchdogs are targeting for making donations to the privately run foundations associated with local police departments. Banks such as JPMorgan Chase have touted multimillion-dollar gifts to the police groups. One foundation last year honored Morgan Stanley’s CEO at its annual gala.

Color of Change, an online racial justice group with 7 million members, is calling on the companies to sever their relationships with the foundations, which for some police departments have become a resource for surveillance technology, SWAT team guns, armor, drones and K-9 dogs. Critics say the gifts by the nonprofits to police departments escape public accountability.

"Our end goal is to have an intervention on the funneling of private money into police forces and into policing," said Scott Roberts, senior director of criminal justice campaigns at Color of Change. "If the police foundations existed to raise money for the families of fallen police officers, we wouldn't say we need to abolish police foundations. It's the specific type of work that they're doing that we object to."

Some corporations are beginning to reconsider the support. Wells Fargo says it has paused donations, while other companies including Goldman Sachs have agreed to hold discussions with activists.

The conflict underscores the perils of corporations taking public stands on social issues. Many of the companies have also pledged this year to fight racial inequality following the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police in May, which sparked demonstrations nationwide and a movement to "Defund the Police." But they also have deep ties to law enforcement. Police foundations say much of the work they are doing is aimed at supporting their communities rather than equipping local police.

"When you come out on one side of social justice and cultural issues you risk alienating probably a third to half of the population, something no big business wants to do," said Capital Alpha Partners Director Ian Katz, who tracks financial policy and politics. "It's a reflection of the fact that so many issues have become political and partisan. There are no easy answers for banks here."

The companies facing heat from advocates have long records of supporting police foundations across the country, according to a report from the watchdog group LittleSis, public filings and information available on the foundation websites.

Wells Fargo and Bank of America are among the recent financial supporters of the Atlanta Police Foundation, and a local Wells Fargo executive serves on its board of trustees. The foundation has attracted scrutiny for its role maintaining cameras that are part of a city-wide surveillance system for Atlanta known as "Operation Shield." Watchdogs are also focusing on the Los Angeles Police Foundation for its role in helping fund surveillance systems.

Financial firms have been major donors to the New York City Police Foundation, which last year hosted a gala that honored Morgan Stanley CEO James Gorman. In 2011, JPMorgan awarded the foundation $4.6 million to help pay for 1,000 new patrol car laptops and security monitoring software in the NYPD's main data center.

The New Orleans Police & Justice Foundation today lists JPMorgan as a "corporate partner of police" on its website, and a managing director at the bank serves as secretary and treasurer on the foundation's board. Chevron said it contributed $1.27 million to first responder organizations last year, including $239,000 to police foundations.

Color of Change, Roberts said, escalated its work on the issue after the Atlanta Police Foundation paid $500 "bonuses" to officers after prosecutors filed murder charges against a former officer in the June 12 killing of Rayshard Brooks. The payments attracted attention because around the same time an unusual number of officers called in sick to work in what appeared to be a protest of the charges. The foundation said the payments were designed to show appreciation for officers deployed during the first weeks of social justice protests and were approved before the shooting.

In interviews and statements, representatives of several police foundations said critics were overlooking their community-focused efforts and argued that their mission was not focused on buying equipment for police departments.

Rob Baskin, a spokesperson for the Atlanta Police Foundation, said Color of Change "paints all police foundations with a broad brush" that fails to distinguish particular programs and goals.

The Atlanta foundation said its largest program is its "At-Promise" youth initiative that tries to divert youths who commit nonviolent crimes away from the criminal justice system using counseling, mentoring by police officers and tutoring. The bank SunTrust, now known as Truist following a merger, announced $3 million in grants last year to support the foundation's diversion efforts.

Baskin said the Atlanta foundation's programs are "not based on just writing a blank check to the police department" and that "we see no conflict whatsoever between good policing and social justice."

Color of Change, which launched following Hurricane Katrina, has a long record of challenging corporate America for practices that it sees as perpetuating racism in the U.S.

"At a time when we're having a long overdue debate around how we should be resourcing policing, what the scope of policing should be, police foundations serve as unaccountable backchannels that funnel resources to police departments," Roberts said. "They fund some of the more controversial aspects of policing right now, including surveillance, more militarized equipment, increased police presence in Black communities — and all that is done outside of the oversight of the democratic process."

Company representatives said the donations to police foundations are a fraction of bigger philanthropic efforts that fund numerous other causes, and that their contributions to the foundations often have a specific purpose.

Bank of America said this year it gave $7,500 for pandemic-related personal protective equipment to the Philadelphia Police Foundation, which lost some financial backers this year amid police brutality concerns and attracted controversy for replacing SWAT unit rifles used by the city's police and funding a drone program. The bank said it gave the New York City Police Foundation $500,000 for coronavirus PPE as well. Before the outbreak, the bank had also donated to the Boston Police Foundation and the Los Angeles Police Foundation, according to its 2018 tax filing.

"Generally, our support for these foundations is directed toward promoting and improving relationships between police and the community," Bank of America spokesperson Bill Halldin said. "That might be funding a pilot program that one of those entities puts forth to us for consideration."

Color of Change has started reaching out to companies, and some have been willing to have conversations, Roberts said. The group plans to issue a report on corporate support for police foundations in the coming weeks. It has posted online petitions calling on corporations to divest from police foundations and refuse seats on their boards, calling out companies including Amazon, AT&T, Chevron and Target.

Some companies are reconsidering their support for the foundations.

Wells Fargo spokesperson Jennifer Dunn said the bank has paused giving to police foundations and other organizations as it evaluates their alignment with Wells' new social impact strategy and immediate community needs.

Dunn cited the significant economic impact of Covid-19 on those most in need and said Wells Fargo's primary philanthropic priorities are housing affordability, small business growth and financial health. Wells made a $50,000 contribution to the Atlanta Police Foundation last year to provide affordable housing for police officers so they could live in the neighborhoods they police, she said. In 2018, the bank's foundation gave money to several police groups including those in San Diego and Charlottesville, Va., according to tax filings.

Goldman Sachs confirmed it's in discussions with Color of Change. "We frequently review our giving to ensure it is targeted to causes we support," spokesperson Andrew Williams said. The bank is a sponsor of the Salt Lake City Police Foundation.

Some foundation leaders tried to distance themselves from groups that have helped arm police.

"I don't know if our board members would be part of the foundation if that was the case," said J.R. Howa, chair of the Salt Lake City Police Foundation. "We're not governed by the police department. We're not governed by Salt Lake City. Our whole mission is to bridge the gap between the community and the police department and give back to the community as much as possible."

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Biden’s weakness with Black and Latino men creates an opening for Trump

The Democratic nominee needs to replicate Obama-era levels of support among voters of color in order to win. He’s not there yet.

Biden’s weakness with Black and Latino men creates an opening for Trump

It was a huddle to marshal the faithful, featuring dozens of Black luminaries, from hip hop mogul Jay-Z to radio personality Charlamagne tha God to civil rights attorney Ben Crump. Vice presidential candidate Kamala Harris presided over the virtual meeting, which grappled with a nagging question for Joe Biden’s campaign: How to woo more Black men?

Last week’s call was the second in as many weeks focusing on Biden’s appeals to Black male voters. The mood, Crump said, was upbeat. But callers were frank about their concerns, urging Biden to deliver a positive message, so “it’s not just about anti-Trump but what we’re going to do on our side.”

“We know Black women are the backbone of the party,” said one participant, who asked not to be identified. “But Black men are going to have to overperform.”

But right now, they’re underperforming. And, according to a spate of recent polling, so are Latino men, a subject Harris tackled recently in Zoom meetings with Hispanic influencers.

Black and Latino men still need to be convinced that Biden represents their interests, Crump said. Black men want to hear more about opportunities to build businesses and fixes for the economy, in addition to talk about criminal justice and policing reform.

Over the years, the Democratic Party has not always prioritized Latino men, which has left some disillusioned about politics altogether, Democrats said. Some Hispanic men with roots in Latin American countries that have a long history of strongmen leaders are drawn to Donald Trump’s braggadocio, particularly in Florida, Democrats told POLITICO. And some young Black or Latino men could protest by voting third party —or simply sit out the election. A few holdouts among that population in battleground states like Arizona and Michigan could determine the election.

“That's not to say they're breaking for Donald Trump,” said veteran pollster Cornell Belcher, who worked on Barack Obama’s campaigns and is African American.

But, Belcher said, “they don't see a great deal of difference between Democrats and Republicans.”

Black women and Latinas are two of Biden’s most reliable constituencies, and he’s expected to still win big majorities of both Black and Latino men, too. But as Biden aims to replicate Obama-era levels of support among voters of color, POLITICO interviews with more than 20 Democratic strategists, lawmakers, pollsters and activists reveal ambivalence on the part of Black and Latino men. And President Donald Trump’s campaign is working to exploit that ambivalence.

Republicans are aggressively courting Black and Latino voters, outspending Democrats on social media outlets like Facebook. Last week, the Trump campaign spent six figures on ads in urban radio markets featuring former NFL player Herschel Walker and Georgia state Democratic Rep. Vernon Jones. And one week after Biden picked Harris as his running mate, the campaign opened a joint Black and Latino “community center” in Philadelphia. They also opened a field office earlier this year in Milwaukee on Martin Luther King Jr. Drive — a first for a Republican presidential candidate.

In rallying the Latino community, Biden’s campaign needs to reach beyond establishment Democrats to grass-roots Latino leaders who are in contact with young people and their communities, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), former Biden rival, told POLITICO in a recent interview.

“But I think there is a likelihood that if that is not done, turnout in the Latino community could be lower than we would like and it could result in Biden losing some very key states,” he said.

Rev. Al Sharpton said he frequently gets calls to his radio show from Black men asking what Democrats plan to do for them: “I’ve had Black men call up and say, ‘Well, what about us?‘”

Super PACs are spending hundreds of millions of dollars on ads that “talk to white people,” said Chuck Rocha, a former senior adviser to Sanders’ presidential campaign. By contrast, Latino-run PACs have raised roughly $6 million.

“They're leaving no stone unturned with white people, but there are rocks all over the field that aren't being turned over for brown people,” Rocha said. “Black and Brown voters, especially Latino men, are being left out of the equation.”

The holdouts

Part of the urgency comes from the mixed picture emerging in public polling. A recent Monmouth University poll found Biden at 67 percent support among Black, Latino and Asian voters — far ahead of Trump but below the usual Democratic consolidation of voters of color. Hillary Clinton won the same demographics, 74-21 percent, in 2016.

There’s a “notable swath of voters who are holding back from Biden,” Belcher said. Last week, the pollster shared data with members of Congress that demonstrated Biden’s relative vulnerability among Black men, particularly younger ones. (Belcher did not discuss specifics of the data with POLITICO.)

Belcher addressed another argument some Democrats are making: that Biden’s strong support among white college-educated voters, along with a slight increase in support from non-college-educated and elderly white voters, could compensate for any weakness among voters of color in battleground states. Clinton lost Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin by less than 80,000 votes, and Florida by a little more than 1 percentage point.

Belcher cautioned that Democrats need only remember 2016 if they think they can rely on white voters to secure the race. But he said the Biden campaign's outreach efforts show that it is paying attention to voters of color; the Democrat's vulnerability on that front, Belcher said, "is fixable."

As for Hispanic voters specifically, Biden has extra work to do with Latino men, who appear to be more drawn to Trump than Latinas.

In Arizona, the Latino population — which is overwhelmingly Mexican American and Democratic — supports Biden 62-29 percent, according to a poll by Equis Research, a Democratic firm. But there was a notable shift among young Latino men under age 50, whom Trump made marginal gains with in August compared to earlier this year. The group isn’t sold on Trump, though, with only 26 percent saying they’re very likely to vote for the president.

Among Latino voters in Florida, men support Biden over Trump by 10 percentage points, but women back Biden by 21 points, another recent Equis survey showed.

A separate internal Republican poll of likely Hispanic voters in the state, taken a month earlier in August and shared with POLITICO, showed Biden and Trump deadlocked among men, 40-39 percent, while women supported the Democrat by 18 points.

Following a playbook that worked for them in 2018, Republicans and Trump have courted these voters by hammering away at socialism. That’s a message which has resonance for voters hailing from Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela, countries with a complicated relationship to both communism and socialism.

Rep. Darren Soto (D-Fla.) said he thinks Biden, who has repeatedly said he’s not a socialist, needs to drive the message home in South Florida on his next visit.

Soto, who became the first person of Puerto Rican descent in the state to win a congressional seat, said Biden has another dynamic working against him as well with some Latino men.

“There is some machismo in our community, unfortunately,” said Soto.

“There’s good machismo,” Soto said, and there is “caudillo machismo,” referring to henchman-style leaders, whose style sometimes appeals to Latino men. For fans of caudillo machismo, he said, Trump’s aggressiveness appeals.

Josh Ulibarri, a Democratic pollster, said the party's failure to secure overwhelming Latino support is long in the making. “We’re in this position because we haven’t worked [to win over] Latino men in the last decade.”

Biden is clearly trying to remedy that. On Tuesday, he visited Florida to court Latinos after a number of polls showed his weakness with the state’s unique mix of pan-Latin American voters. Though he’s ahead overall among Florida Latino voters, Biden’s margins lag behind those of Hillary Clinton in 2016, when she narrowly lost the state.

The campaign is sensitive about the perceived wariness among Black and Brown men. Reporters were not invited to listen in to the two calls with Harris — one last week, another on Aug. 29 — and the campaign refused to discuss details or provide comment to POLITICO. The calls included Black men who had previously signed a letter urging the selection of a Black woman running mate. And sources said they were told not to talk to reporters about the virtual meetings.

The difficulty of reaching young Black and Latino men — many of whom don't get their information from traditional channels — has been complicated by the pandemic. But the Zoom meetups with Harris, as well as ad buys and Latino outreach stops in Florida, are aimed specifically at these crucial voters.

Trump’s play at the margins

As the election nears, Democrats are inclined to replay everything that went wrong in 2016. But the two election cycles are dramatically different. There’s the coronavirus, for one. What’s more, the incumbent remains unpopular and the country is in the midst of a national debate about systemic racism and police brutality.

The nation’s state of chaos brings a particular urgency to Trump’s push for voters at the margins.

Trump’s campaign believes he needs to siphon a few more percentage points from voters of color, building on his successes in 2016, when relatively low Black and Latino turnout compared to white voters helped him squeak by in battleground states. To that end, his campaign is spending millions, particularly on digital ads, and focusing on the economy and criminal justice — two top policy priorities for these groups.

As Trump made swings through Nevada and Arizona this week, he held Latino-focused events with local officials.

“It is getting a lot easier to be Republican ... whether you’re Hispanic or anything else,” Trump said at a Phoenix event.

Florida could be one of Trump’s biggest plays to win over Latinos. The diversity of the state’s population makes it fertile ground. And QAnon conspiracy theories — which lie about the Black Lives Matter movement and falsely accuse Biden of being a pedophile — are infiltrating Spanish-language radio, online conservative news sites and social media feeds, likely boosting Trump's profile.

Florida, a must-win state for Trump, has a sizable population of Republican-leaning Cuban Americans, who wield political power and could account for at least 30 percent of the Latino vote there. They’ve found common cause with other members of the Latin American diaspora fleeing left-wing revolutions in their home countries.

“In Florida, it’s extraordinary, the reversal of trends," said former Miami Rep. Carlos Curbelo, a Republican.

"The Republican [is] gaining ground with minorities and the Democrat [is] gaining ground with ... white voters and seniors,” said Curbelo.

Still, Trump is trying to cram his election-year appeals to Black and Latino men into a career and presidency spent extolling police power, chanting “build the wall,” and furthering birther conspiracies about the country’s first Black president. (And more recently, Harris.) At the same time, he’s hoping to drum up support among white voters with ominous warnings of suburbia on fire.

The week after the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer, Trump started running a flurry of ads about law enforcement and crime on Facebook, according to an analysis by New York University’s Online Political Ads Transparency Project.

Prior to Floyd’s killing, the campaign spent only $50,000 on Facebook ads about criminal justice, according to data from Bully Pulpit Interactive, a Democratic firm. In the months following, Trump pumped $6 million into Facebook ads touting his record on criminal justice.

Terrance Woodbury, a Democratic pollster with HIT Strategies, thinks Trump’s tactic on social media is having an effect. In 2016, Trump won 8 percent of Black voters under the age of 35; he's now at 16 percent with that demographic, Woodbury said.

During recent focus groups with Black voters in Wisconsin, Georgia and Florida, Woodbury asked participants what Trump has done to make their life better. When Trump’s messaging about pre-Covid-19 Black employment and investments in historically black colleges came up, young men could "recite it verbatim.”

Democrats go on the offensive

In an attempt to address the relative lack of enthusiasm among Black men, Biden’s team launched ads this week directly aimed at the demographic. Two of the spots feature mask-wearing Black men hanging out at a barbershop, cracking jokes about Trump and chatting about the economy and the havoc wreaked by coronavirus.

Meanwhile, on Thursday, in partnership with the Congressional Black Caucus, the Biden campaign announced a virtual bus tour in more than a dozen battleground states to activate the Black vote.

The campaign also expanded its polling of Latinos to states including Pennsylvania and North Carolina, which it said is a first for a Democratic candidate.

“The Latino vote is a legitimate part of the discussion in Pennsylvania now,” said Matt Barreto, a pollster for the Biden campaign.

On Thursday, Harris met with Latino elected officials and community advocates at a Puerto Rican and Latino nonprofit in Philadelphia. Harris told reporters she and Biden would earn Latino support by talking about “relevant policy,” such as the disparity among Latinos and whites when it comes to contracting Covid-19.

This week, the progressive group United We Dream Action and its PAC launched two voter engagement programs aimed at mobilizing 6 million voters on the margins, including undecided or unmotivated Latino voters, as well as young and first-time voters. The effort by the immigrant youth group will encompass states such as Arizona, Florida and Minnesota.

Similarly, billionaire Mike Bloomberg announced he would spend as much as $100 million in Florida, much of it specifically targeted toward Latinos.

The Collective PAC, a group focused on growing Black political power, is working with a range of groups to target Black male voters, including Unite the Country. It intends to spend at least $7 million on mobilization efforts focused on Black men in Milwaukee, Detroit, Philadelphia and Charlotte, including micro-targeting on digital, social and radio, said Quentin James, the group's founder.

Despite the recent push by Biden’s campaign and Democratic outside groups to court Black and brown voters, the Democratic nominee is still dogged by aspects of his long record in Congress, said Desmond Meade, executive director of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition.

He pointed to Biden’s refusal to clearly apologize for his authorship of the 1994 crime bill. Trump’s signing of the First Step Act in 2018, which expanded early release for certain felony offenders in federal prison, has prompted some Black men to give the Republican a second look, Meade said.

“As a returning citizen, I had to admit the error of my ways and make amends for what I did. Joe Biden hasn’t owned up to his mistake,” said Meade, who helped lead Florida’s voter-approved effort to give people with felony convictions the right to vote.

Even so, he said, Trump hasn’t said enough to condemn police brutality and abuse, which Biden has done.

The issue came up on the conference call with Harris last week.

A lot of people still have issues with the 1994 crime bill, said Crump, the civil rights lawyer. “You have to go ahead and own that and talk about how it was a mistake.”

Democrats working to mobilize voters said the most effective tack is persistent communication. In Philadelphia, former Mayor Michael Nutter is assembling an independent effort to reach out to Black voters in battleground states, especially men. It features family members of those killed by police violence.

“In 2016, we ignored this as a problem,” Nutter said. "We’re not now."

During the virtual meeting last week, Harris, who served as California attorney general before being elected to the Senate, talked about the need to manage expectations. She said she couldn’t get all the reforms she wanted in her home state. But, repeating a favorite talking point, she said she tried to change the system from the inside.

“I don't have all the answers,” Harris told the group, according to Crump and another source. But “together," she said, "we can figure out solutions.”

Holly Otterbein contributed to this report.

Source : Politico USA More   

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