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Decision 2018

Stung by criticism, DNC hires more minorities, elevates women

A new DNC report, obtained by NBC NEWS, shows the party is employing more blacks and Latinos as it responds to attacks that it has taken them for granted.
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WASHINGTON — Nearly half of the Democratic National Committee's staff are now people of color and 51 percent are women, according to a report to be published Monday by the DNC.

The report was prepared as the party responds to criticism that it has taken minority voters for granted while overlooking them for jobs and contracts.

The DNC became more diverse as it staffed back up after its post-2016 election lull, seeing a big jump in the number of Latinos (from 5 to 22) and smaller increases in the number of African-Americans (from 22 to 30), Asian-American/Pacific Islanders and LGBTQ people (from 14 to 19).

Overall, 44 percent of DNC staffers are people of color, according to the report obtained by NBC News, and 70 percent of department heads are now women.

Party officials, who are elected by the entire DNC, are more diverse than ever, as well, with a two-fold increase in the number of African-Americans among the party’s top elective ranks.

"Our mission is not complete, but we’ve made unprecedented progress," wrote DNC Chief Operating Officer Laura Chambers, who prepared the report.

"We simply cannot be effective advocates for the communities we represent if we do not accurately reflect them at every single level — from staff, to party officers, to elected officials," Chambers added.

People of color, and especially African-American women, are Democrats’ most loyal voters, and were crucial to recent victories in Alabama and Virginia.

But many feel the party hasn't "put them in the driver’s seat," as the moderator put it during a December conference hosted by the Congressional Caucus on Black Women & Girls.

DNC Chairman Tom Perez has tried to address the concern, but faced persistent pushback from some in the party.

"The Democratic Party has a real problem," a group of prominent black female political leaders wrote last year in an open letter to Perez, which was published by NBC News. "The data reveals that Black women voters are the very foundation to a winning coalition, yet most Black voters feel like the Democrats take them for granted."

In particular, the letter writers expressed "significant concerns" with Perez' initial round of staff hires, and called on him to convene a meeting to discuss their ideas for "hiring of key staff and consultants to investment in training and leadership opportunities."

The DNC invited black women leaders to their headquarters last month. Also in April, it hosted a luncheon for 60 diverse businesses, aimed at broadening the party's vendor pool by connecting them to opportunities in the larger Democratic world.

The DNC has been trying to cut down on its use of outside contractors, and now spends just 2 percent of its operating budget on vendors. But the new report says 29 percent of that money is now directed to contracts going to women and minority-owned businesses.

That's still far from representative of the party's base, as a recent BuzzFeed investigation noted. But the DNC says it's moving in the right direction.

Previously, less than 2 percent of the $515 million spent by various Democratic groups on consultants over two election cycles went to minority-owned businesses, according to a 2014 report by PowerPAC+.

Separately, the DNC recently began offering paid internships, responding to criticism that underpaid internships are untenable for people without means. The report says the move has paid off, with people of color comprising 42 percent of spring interns, the first class to be paid, compared with just 18 percent in the prior class.