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Cuban-American Money
in US Elections


Roots of the Cuban-American Political Movement
Patterns in the Money
Cuban-American National Foundation/Free Cuba PAC
The Major Players
Cuba-Related Legislation
The Rise of Anti-Embargo Interests
Top Recipients of Cuban-American Money
Ethnic Comparisons
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Top Recipients of Cuban-American Contributions, 1979-2000

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The Patterns in Cuban-American Contributions

The sum of all political money relating to Cuban-Americans identified in this study is $8.8 million. This amount pertains only to campaign donations at the federal level; state level contributions were not included. Of the total, approximately $8.6 million went to federal candidates, their leadership PACs or political parties; the rest went to political action committees unrelated to Cuban issues.

The following several pages show how and where Cuban-American money flowed. From almost every perspective, the Democrats maintained a 56 to 60 percent advantage in total money received, whether from Cuban-American individuals or from their PACs. Democrats received more money than did Republicans in six of the eleven election cycles examined; their advantages were greatest in the 1990's when Cuban-American contributions were highest. In the peak cycle, 1995-1996, Democrats received fully 71 percent of all Cuban-American funds, although their share of the money has been on the decline since then.

Of all Cuban-American contributions identified here, 48 percent has been given in the past six years. However, this may be partly explained by soft money to party committees. Because parties were not required to disclose soft money donations until 1991, there is likely to be a significant amount of party money in the 1980's that remains hidden.

The following two charts illustrate significant patterns of Cuban-American political contributions with respect to recipients and party. The first chart shows the breakdown of money from individuals to candidates, party committees and all types of PACs. The second chart looks at individual giving to candidates, party committees and leadership PACs, broken down by party.

To Candidates $3,890,854
To Party Committees $3,190,435
To Leadership PACs $168,500
To Cuban-American PACs $1,346,658
To Other PACs $201,085

To Democrats $4,317,148
To Republicans $2,904,391
To Third Parties $25,750

The totals above cover the entire 1979-2000 period, and include contributions to federal candidates and political parties. The solid tilt toward the Democratic party is due in no small part to the contributions of the two top Cuban-American donors, Florida businessmen Alfred Estrada and Paul Cejas, who together account for approximately 26 percent of all Democratic donations. Without those two donors, the party split is more even, with 53 percent of the Cuban-American money going to Democrats and 47 percent to Republicans.

Presidential/Congressional Party Splits

While Democrats received more money overall from the Cuban-American community over the last two decades, there was a significant difference between the patterns to congressional candidates versus presidential candidates. Among congressional candidates, 56 percent of the community's contributions (just over $1.8 million) went to Democrats, while 44 percent ($1.4 million) went to Republicans. But among presidential candidates, Republicans collected 69 percent of Cuban-American contributions ($436,866), with Democrats collecting just 31 percent ($196,800).

The chief beneficiaries of the presidential contributions were George W. Bush and his father. The elder Bush collected $165,225 from Cuban-Americans; his son drew $114,550. As with most presidential candidates, all that money came from individuals, rather than Cuban-American PACs. The top three presidential recipients, the senior Bush, his son and Bob Dole, together accounted for 54 percent of all the money the community spent on presidential contributions since 1979.


Summary of Cuban-American Giving by Election Cycle, 1979-2000

Cycle Total From Indivs From PACs Soft Money* To Dems To Repubs Dem Pct GOP Pct
1980 $183,925 $183,925 $0 N/A $124,350 $50,575 68% 27%
1982 $240,627 $181,720 $58,907 N/A $82,857 $148,270 34% 62%
1984 $472,550 $301,600 $170,950 N/A $133,350 $315,700 28% 67%
1986 $430,700 $342,400 $88,300 N/A $148,361 $215,339 34% 50%
1988 $746,284 $561,637 $184,647 N/A $400,343 $312,391 54% 42%
1990 $552,741 $399,767 $152,974 N/A $252,239 $291,027 46% 53%
1992 $923,614 $748,787 $172,000 $2,827 $454,672 $458,632 49% 50%
1994 $1,024,522 $631,727 $167,500 $225,295 $779,746 $229,976 76% 22%
1996 $1,751,393 $1,110,143 $164,550 $476,700 $1,249,761 $499,382 71% 29%
1998 $883,865 $642,815 $110,000 $131,050 $589,415 $287,400 67% 33%
2000 $1,610,981 $1,178,331 $100,500 $332,150 $869,820 $683,761 54% 42%
TOTAL $8,821,202 $6,282,852 $1,370,328 $1,168,022 $5,084,914 $3,492,453 59% 41%

*Disclosure of soft money donations was first required in 1991.

As seen in the charts on this page, the peak year for Cuban-American political contributions was the 1995-96 election cycle, when the Helms-Burton, which proposed to tightening sanctions on Castroís Cuba, was being debated in Congress. (See Cuba-Related Legislation) Democrats got the lionís share of the money that year, as they had in the previous cycle and would again in 1998. This was in contrast to the pattern in earlier years, and in the presidential election years of 1988, 1992 and 2000, when George W. Bush or his father were the GOP presidential nominees.

Though the Free Cuba PAC was set up explicitly to deliver contributions to candidates, the great majority of Cuban-American contributions have come directly from individuals giving hard money donations. ("Hard money" refers to the limited, regulated donations that may go directly to federal candidates.) In all, individual contributions made up 71 percent of the money given by the community over the period covered in this study. Soft money - the unlimited contributions to political parties that have been the fastest-growing element of campaign funding over the last decade - made up only 13 percent of the overall total. (In 1991, the Federal Election Commission amended its regulations to require national parties to disclose their soft money donors.) PACs - primarily the Free Cuba PAC - account for the remaining 16 percent.

Next: Cuban-American National Foundation/Free Cuba PAC