New Players, Old Game

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Hillary Clinton seems to be collecting a lot of donors from an unusual demographic: a transient group of immigrants in New York's Chinatown. This article in the Los Angeles Times is interesting in its exploration of why this population gives such large sums relative to its income, what forces are compelling this surge in donations by a population that seldom votes, and how social pressure and hope for personal gain fuel political giving.

Political fundraising really is quite a stew:

At this point in the presidential campaign cycle, Clinton has raised more money than any candidate in history. Those dishwashers, waiters and street stall hawkers are part of the reason. And Clinton's success in gathering money from Chinatown's least-affluent residents stems from a two-pronged strategy: mutually beneficial alliances with powerful groups, and appeals to the hopes and dreams of people now consigned to the margins.

Clinton has enlisted the aid of Chinese neighborhood associations, especially those representing recent immigrants from Fujian province. The organizations, at least one of which is a descendant of Chinatown criminal enterprises that engaged in gambling and human trafficking, exert enormous influence over immigrants. The associations help them with everything from protection against crime to obtaining green cards.

Many of Clinton's Chinatown donors said they had contributed because leaders in neighborhood associations told them to. In some cases, donors said they felt pressure to give.



Clinton's campaign appears to treating these donations with caution particularly the status of the immigrants making these donations as it relates to FEC rules about the national origin of funds going to federal candidates. All in all the article is a new take on the temptations of the campaign contribution game.