Brown Money

South Asian American influence of money in U.S. politics is a complex, growing force.

Issue #12

Good morning —

No, I’m not going to talk about GameStop or Dogecoin today.

Let’s talk about South Asian American influence of money in U.S. politics. This week, FiveThirtyEight data journalist Dhrumil Mehta dove deep into the numbers in a new story, and here are some fascinating highlights:

  • By some measures, two South Asian American candidates ran for national office in 2000. In 2020, it was about 40.

  • Suraj Patel, who lost to his Democratic primary challenger in New York’s 12th Congressional District, received 70% of donations from individual contributors who had the last name Patel.

  • More than a quarter of funding traced to donors with South Asian names was given to South Asian candidates.

  • But this is interesting about part of the “samosa caucus”: “Not relying on funding from Indian Americans has probably made it easier for Ro Khanna, Ami Bera and Pramila Jayapal to openly criticize the Indian government without alienating their donor — or voter — base.”

  • Another noteworthy excerpt: “South Asian Americans clearly have enough money and concentrated political will at this point to help put candidates on the map. But who they choose to support — whether candidates who look like them or those who also support their causes — may ultimately shape the kind of influence this community has on U.S. politics writ large.”

Over the last year, we’ve heard anecdotally the growing political forces that are Asian American communities. But now, we’re increasingly seeing the campaign finance numbers that show the data behind it all.

Thanks for joining the conversation,

Vignesh Ramachandran (@VigneshR)
Co-founder of Red, White and Brown Media

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