Editorial: Getting involved in politics should not be limited by state borders

A controversy is stirring in Oregon as United States Congressman David Wu is receiving criticism for out of state donations for his reelection campaign. Wu, a Democrat, is the first Taiwanese American to be elected to the United States House of Representatives. As he heads into a tough season of campaigning to retain his seat in Congress, he has received a heavy amount of donations from Asians, mostly out of state.

“His latest financial disclosure report reveals that about three-quarters of the $230,000 he raised in the last three months came from donors with Asian surnames,” reports the Oregonian.”It’s friends helping friends,” stated Cupertino, California councilman Barry Chang in the Oregonian article, “that’s about it.”

Chang was one of those that helped Wu with fund raising for his campaign in Northern California.  Wu’s list of donors also includes many residents of New York.

One of Wu’s supporters, Howard Li, owner of the New York-based Waitex Group of Companies, reports company revenues exceeding $110 million a year.

Opponents of Wu argue that his donations are coming from outside of Oregon.

Thus, the argument is that Wu is lacking support inside Oregon. The most recent campaign financial disclosure report indicates that only eight percent of Wu’s campaign donations came from Oregon donors. Meanwhile, Wu’s chief opponent, Brad Avakian, has raised $195,000 between April 1 and June 30 with most coming from Oregonians.

While opponents may make the argument that Wu is seeking favor from friends outside the borders of the state of Oregon, he is not breaking any campaign laws.

The fact that donors have “Asian surnames” should not have negative meaning. In fact, it should be seen as a source of pride and community. Notably, Wu’s opponent, Avakian, an Armenian-American, has received donations from the Armenian-American community. But, not as much as Wu. This does not mean that just because you are Asian or Mexican or Italian that you should write out a check to a politician with the same ethnic background. But Wu’s donors show that Asian Americans are increasing its involvement in politics. It also means that they are making a political statement with their checkbooks.

The modern political campaign demands cash and its necessary to seek out campaign funding where you can find it. Out of state contributions does not stop Wu’s opponents from doing the same.

Wu is not the only politician receiving out of state contributions. In the state of South Carolina, Republican Governor Nikki Haley brought in $52,210 in campaign contributions in the past three months. Nearly 88 percent of the money came from out-of-state businesses, political action groups and individuals.

Asian American candidates from Hawaii and California have come to Seattle to raise funds for their campaigns back home. The practice goes back to the 1980s (and maybe farther) to former Delaware Lieutenant Governor Shien Biau (“S.B.”) Woo. He sought help from outside the state of Delaware seeking contributions to his senate campaign.

Race is not only a factor when political candidates seek contributions outside their state. Women candidates have sought funding from outside women’s groups to fund their campaigns.

The amount of money raised by Wu from Asians is a positive sign that Asians are becoming more involved in politics. Contributing to campaigns should know no state boundaries.

It is likely that opponents facing Wu this year may argue to Oregon residents that Wu raised money beyond the borders of Oregon and therefore is not representative of the voters in his district. However, soliciting contributions and serving your constituents are two separate things. The fact that Wu is receiving donations from other states does not mean he would neglect the voters that would reelect him. ♦

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  1. [...] Originally published in the July 23-29 edition of the NW Asian Weekly.  [...]


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