U.S. Senator Doug Jones (D-AL) was elected with the overwhelming support of Black voters and has heralded himself as a champion of the Black community. However, Jones has not put his money where his mouth is when it comes to spending campaign cash.
According to NBC exit polls, 96% of Black voters backed Jones in his 2017 special election victory. Black women were especially supportive, as 98% said they voted for Jones.
Jones, asked about the role Black voters’ support played in his election, has said, “It was critical. We focused on making sure that we got the African American vote out.”
“We did get more African Americans as a percentage out than even when President Obama did in his first race, a fact that I was very proud,” he added. “The Black community came out and worked hard. It’s community engagement; it’s a 365-days a year job.”
The Black community also bolstered Jones financially in 2017. Three entities alone — the Congressional Black Caucus PAC, Black PAC and Blacks in Government Political Advancement Council — spent more than $933,000 combined on Jones’ special election bid.
Yellowhammer News analyzed Jones’ campaign spending for his 2020 reelection bid, looking at the processed FEC data as of Thursday, October 15. This data includes all of 2019 as well as the first and second quarters of this year (Q3 2020 spending data had not yet been processed electronically).
Through June 30, Jones’ campaign in 2019-2020 spent $7,648,235.42, not counting refunds to contributors. This included spending money with several hundred different entities, including businesses and other organizations.
While Jones’ campaign has advised that its “data shows that the African American vote is once again going to be critical” to his chance at victory, it appears that the campaign has not felt the need to reciprocate support when it comes to the Black community.
Out of its 2020 cycle spending through the close of Q2, only $81,975.08 was spent across 32 Black-owned businesses and organizations. That accounts for less than 1.1% of the money Jones’ campaign spent during this critical time period.
Breaking down that spending, Yellowhammer News found that $25,000 of it went to the Alabama New South Alliance, the political arm of the Alabama New South Coalition, for printing sample ballots.
Missing in the spending beneficiaries were Black-owned political and/or communications consulting firms. This is not for a lack of available talent, Yellowhammer News was advised.
“Alabama and the Southeast are home to some of the nation’s top Black political and media talent,” said Greg Jones, chair of the National Black Professional Lobbyist Association and president and CEO of the Jones Group.
Only $4,123.08 was spent by Jones’ campaign with Black-owned restaurants or catering services. The majority ($48,110.24) of the campaign’s spending with Black-owned entities went to donations and event sponsorships, all for not-for-profit organizations rather than private businesses. This included $5,900 to the Alabama Democratic Conference and $3,500 to the Alabama New South Coalition, both for event sponsorships.
Drilling down, the data showed only a total of $8,864.84 being spent by Jones’ campaign with Black-owned private businesses. This amounted to 0.12% of the campaign’s total spending during the period.
In stark contrast to this objective data comes Jones’ past remarks, especially considering this period included the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in Alabama.
In a June open letter, Jones wrote, “The last few months have made the truths of being Black in America clear to all. … We have watched as Black-owned businesses failed at twice the rate of others, and unemployment for Black Americans rose faster and will stay higher than the rest of America.”
At a roundtable discussion with minority business owners and entrepreneurs on August 11, Jones said, “In Alabama, small businesses employ half of all employees, and entrepreneurs account for 25% of all new business in the United States, but we also know that in this world we’re living in today, minorities and minority-owned businesses have been affected disproportionately by the COVID crisis, hurt disproportionately from their counterparts.”
Jones’ campaign did not respond to a request for comment from Yellowhammer News.
Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn