|(26) Racial Spoils in Fed Contracting
By Roger Clegg and John Sullivan 10/20/00
Racial Spoils in Fed Contracting (10/20/00)
Clinton Orders More Racial Balkanization.
Excerpts from Opinion by Roger Clegg, general counsel of the Center for Equal Opportunity & John Sullivan, associate director of the Project on Civil Rights and Public Contracts
"On October 6, President Clinton signed an executive order which, the White House declared, "directs Federal departments and agencies with procurement authority to take aggressive and specific actions" to make sure that certain racial and ethnic groups get an increased share of federal contracts. The order specifically "direct[s] each agency to establish goals" and to make clear "that these are minimum goals and are not considered a ceiling for such contracting."
"The odor of election-year politics is strong in the order. Vice President Gore joins President Clinton in the press release's headline and throughout its body; the order was pushed by Democratic congressmen seeking reelection; and agencies are given 90 days that is, just enough time to make sure the next president is stuck with their product to submit a "a long-term comprehensive strategic plan." This is serious election-year pork. One federal program alone awards more than $5 billion in contracts annually.
"The federal government is encouraging public and private actors to divide up contracting and jobs along racial and ethnic lines. The White House, moreover, says the order "directs federal departments and agencies to ensure that all creation, placement, and transmission of federal advertising are fully reflective of the nation's diversity." It trumpets as well a recent report by Vice President Gore's "National Partnership for Reinventing Government" and the Department of Commerce that encourages "holding managers responsible for building diverse staffs."
"Three days after President Clinton signed his executive order, the NAACP issued its annual report card on the "lodging industry." Different hotel chains were graded on, for instance, their "willingness to explore incentives and to establish programs to increase the number of African-American franchisees" and "to utilize African-American owned agencies and media in advertising campaigns." Other people of color are not mentioned.
"... the SBA defines economic disadvantage generously: $250,000 in assets, not counting house and business. Indeed, more than 90 percent of all American families would qualify only their skin color and ancestry remain as a stumbling block.
"... immigrants from countries with people of color will be deemed disadvantaged; those from countries populated by lighter-skinned people will not. As was true for economic disadvantage, social disadvantage is ultimately irrelevant: Every group in this country can point to some history of discrimination, so that issue becomes bureaucratic cover for a decision really driven by racial politics.
"But, with so much money at stake, expect other groups to petition for minority status. It is ironic that as courts are ending preference programs in public contracting around the country, there is simultaneously a more aggressive effort to enlarge federal preferences, as the president demonstrated in his recent executive order. It is even more ironic that, as race and ancestry matter less and less to most Americans in their private lives, the government insists on playing the race card politically."
(National Review 10/20/00 by Roger Clegg, general counsel of the Center for Equal Opportunity & John Sullivan, associate director of the Project on Civil Rights and Public Contracts)
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