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Politics

Anti-Castro Cuban-American Political Donations Lowest in Years

December 26, 2014 - 6:00pm

President Obama gave many reasons for issuing his executive action on Cuba last week. But one development never quite made it into his public comments -- a weakened opposition.

Political donations by wealthy pro-democracy Cuban-Americans are the lowest theyve been in recent memory.

Of the money that is circulating, fewer and fewer contributions are reaching members of the Democratic Party.

As a result, those opposed to liberalizing Cold War-era restrictions against the communist Castro dictatorship arent viewed as the political threat they once were, according to Russ Choma of the Center for Responsive Politics.

Simply put, the largest PAC (political action committee) representing strong opposition to normalized relations with Cuba just hasnt shown the same powerful financial punch it had in the past, and it hasnt been supportive of Democrats in recent years anyway, reported Choma on OpenSecrets.org, an award-winning campaign finance website.

Contributions by the prominent U.S.-Cuba Democracy PAC, whose mission is to promote an unconditional transition to democracy in Cuba, has precipitously dropped since 2008. Six years ago, its political spending topped $1 million. But by 2014, it spent a total of $379,000.

The group, dominated by Florida-based donors, opposes any U.S. government action it sees as economically benefiting the Castro regime and furthering its hold on power, including the lifting of trade and travel-related sanctions.

Obamas executive action did just that.

Though the 55-year-old trade embargo -- an act of Congress -- will remain in place, American investment and travel to the island nation will be allowed to dramatically increase.

Watchdog contacted the U.S.-Cuba Democracy PAC, but our request for comment was not immediately returned.

USCD-PAC has dedicated its efforts to electing federal candidates who will hold the line on a democracy-first, liberalize-later approach to Cuba. In recent years, however, the decline in overall contributions has led to a smaller number of candidates receiving support, suggesting lost influence.

According to OpenSecrets, 184 House members and 24 senators received contributions in 2008, about 59 percent of which went to Democrats. In 2010, 69 percent of the PACs spending supported Democrats.

That changed after a Republican midterm wave in 2010. Two years later, and after Obama began to ease travel restrictions, allowing Americans, for example, to fly directly to Cuba from both Tampa International Airport and Miami International on nearly a dozen weekly flights, USCD-PAC, the leading anti-Castro political committee, started giving heavily to Republicans.

But by 2014, 64 percent of only $379,000 went to Republican candidates, with less than $250,000 going to federal races.

The decline in political resources, along with the rise of younger, American-born members of the exile community -- more prone to favoring normalized ties with the Cuban government -- suggest an opening for the historic policy shift.

But, Viveca Novak, spokeswoman for the Center of Responsive Politics, sounds a note of caution.

We have no evidence of causation, she told Watchdog in an email.

Its always hard to say how campaign contributions influence policy, since there is rarely an explicit quid pro quo, she said.


William Patrick is a reporter for Watchdog.org. Contact him at wpatrick@watchdog.org and follow him on Twitter @WillPatrick77.

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