Race Critics: Capitol Hill Is Too White

Dave Eberhart, Newsmax, June 26, 2009

There’s not enough racial diversity among the congressional staff on Capitol Hill and activists want corrective action.

“Given such poor numbers, let’s acknowledge that there is something broken about the process,” said Citigroup lobbyist Paul Thornell, a former aide to Al Gore and former Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota. He added that there are “few intentional strategies in place to promote minorities.”

According to a report in The Hill newspaper, there are two Senate chiefs of staff who are minorities. In the House, there are but five white lawmakers who have African-American chiefs of staff. Furthermore, only four African-Americans are staff directors of either House or Senate committees.

“I don’t think people are out-and-out prejudiced or biased, but there’s a lack of effort,” said Robert Primus, chief of staff to Rep. Michael Capuano, D-Mass., and one of the rare black chiefs of staff to a white member of Congress. {snip}

The solution, say critics of the status quo: fully embrace the so-called “Rooney rule,” named after Pittsburgh Steelers owner Dan Rooney. The rule requires that NFL teams interview at least one minority prospect when filling head coaching jobs.

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“I don’t think that’s because there is a lack of African-Americans or people of color wanting to work on Capitol Hill,” Paul Brathwaite, executive director of the Congressional Black Caucus told Newsday three years ago.

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At that time, the number of African-Americans, Latinos and Asians employed by members of Congress had crept up to roughly 20 percent, according to a study by the Congressional Management Foundation.

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