by Malou Liwanag- Aguilar/Asianjournal.com
OAKLAND, CA — The 80-20 Initiative, a national, nonpartisan, political action committee, announced last Jan. 18 in a press conference that its board has voted unanimously to endorse Sen. Hillary Clinton for California’s Democratic primary. The committee has also appropriated $30,000 to support Clinton in the Asian ethnic media, to be released starting Feb. 5, a day they call the Super Tuesday.
Questionnaires for the candidates
In the desire to get the much-needed support from the presidential candidates, 80-20 formulated six questions which are directed to issues of equality and affirmative action in the Asian American community. This includes the nomination of qualified Asian Americans to serve as Article II life-tenured federal judges. At present, only 0.6% of Level III Federal judges are Asian Americans, all of which are at the District Court level.
Part of the questionnaire also addressed the issue of enforcing Executive Order 11246 on behalf of Asian Americans. EO 11246, signed by former US Pres. Lyndon B. Johnson on Sept. 24, 1965 required Equal Employment Opportunity and “prohibits federal contractors and federally assisted construction contractors and subcontractors, who do over $10,000 in government business in one year from discriminating in employment decisions on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin.”
The Executive Order also required contractors to implement affirmative action plans to increase the participation of minorities and women in the workplace. Pursuant to federal regulations, affirmative action plans must consist of an equal opportunity policy statement, an analysis of the current work force, identification of problem areas, the establishment of goals and timetables for increasing employment opportunities, specific action-oriented programs to address problem areas, support for community action programs, and the establishment of an internal audit and reporting system. In the past similar efforts have already been made on behalf of women and other minorities, but has not been fully applied in Asian Americans.
With the questionnaire sent to all Republican and Democratic candidates, only Clinton and John Edwards answered “yes” to all six questions, with their affixed signatures confirming their support for the issues raised.
“We want all presidential candidates to put their promises in writing,” said Joel Wong, former president of the Chinese American Political Association.
Sen. Barrack Obama, said to be Clinton’s fiercest rival in the race, unfortunately declined to sign. This has prompted the organization to question Obama’s stand on helping fight racial discrimination and challenged him to sign the questionnaire.
Kathleen To, President of 80-20 said, “Sen. Clinton promised in writing with one unambiguous word, YES, that she’ll use the power of the presidency to eliminate all discrimination against Asian Americans in workplaces, including the glass ceiling, and signed it. Sen. Barrack Obama willfully refused. That is why we endorse Sen. Clinton.”
To has also explained that 80-20 was most considerate to Obama, having had the questionnaire for six months as all the other candidates. “You may recall that 80-20 challenged Sen. Clinton to be the first of the top-tier presidential candidates to reply to its questionnaire with all yeses. We focused on Sen. Obama for a reply, only after Sen. Clinton & Edwards have both replied with all yeses, although Obama has had our questionnaire for 6 months as all others,” said To and added, “By then it was clearly politically safe for him to also answer yes. However, he willfully refused. So it was NOT that we picked on him, it is he who didn’t care for us! Sen. Obama left us with no choice but to defeat his candidacy.”
“Asian Americans are still underneath the glass ceiling,” said Joel Wong. “We must break the glass ceiling and think of the common good for Asian Americans.” He also added that the only way to get ahead in the US is through the political process.
Clinton over Edwards
Members of the press asked 80-20 why the organization chose Clinton over Edwards, since both signed ‘yes’ to all questions. They explained that it was a matter of strategy.
“The race is between Clinton and Obama,” said Joel Wong and added, “We chose Clinton because we chose the candidate who will help Asian Americans unconditionally.”
Guest community leaders also spoke about their support for Clinton and the need to push for equality and unity.
FilAm community leader Fel Amistad said, “This is pivotal for all Asian Americans. EO 11246 is being ignored, we are taken for granted. I call on our fellow Asian Americans to support Sen. Hillary Clinton, who has done tremendously well.” He also stressed that the community must be united to advocate for our own rights and representation.
The 80-20 Initiative is dedicated to winning equal opportunity and justice for all Asian Americans through a swing bloc vote, ideally directing 80% of the community’s votes and money to the presidential candidate endorsed by the organization.
Present at the press conference were top leaders of the Asian American community in the Bay Area, including Harrison Lim of the Chinatown 6-Company, Niraj Baxi, former president of the National Federation of Indian-American Associations (NFIA), Fel Amistad of the Filipino American community, Peter Cheng of the Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos community, and Leon Chow of the Chinese American community. Leaders of 80-20 and its affiliates, the Asian Pacific Islander American Public Affairs Association (APAPA) and the Chinese American Political Association (CAPA), were also present.