NEW YORK — One of the primary donors central to funding Andrew Gillum’s recent meteoric rise is The Collective, a little-known but increasingly influential political organization seeking to build a “black political power” movement while complaining that there are too many “white men” holding public office.
The organization runs a “Black Campaign School” where The Collective’s co-founder says they train people on how to build a political movement in America’s “heightened, almost racist environment.” He charged that this environment has spiraled into “white supremacy” under the tenure of President Trump.
The Collective PAC, based in Washington, D.C., reportedly spent nearly $2 million to aid Gillum, Tallahassee’s mayor, in his successful primary fight for Florida’s Democratic gubernatorial nomination. The money reportedly went to fund television and radio ads and get-out-the-vote drives, playing a key role in helping Gillum defeat his contenders, some of whom were better-funded and had more statewide name recognition.
The Collective has plans to continue to aid Gillum as he faces off with his Republican challenger, Ron DeSantis. Some of the funds have been donated to Gillum’s associated political committee, Forward Florida.
The Tampa Bay Times recently reported that The Collective’s support for Gillum “appears to be wildly disproportionate to the other Collective-endorsed candidates running for governor.”
Asked why his group singled out Gillum, The Collective’s co-founder, Quentin James, noted the centrality of Florida to national politics, including the possibility of putting the Democrats in charge of the Senate and House.
Florida presents unique opportunities in 2018, including the possibility of electing the state’s first African-American governor and attorney general, flipping some congressional seats including in Florida 18 and 27, re-electing Senator Nelson to the United States Senate and returning voting rights to to its citizens who have served their time.
James confirmed that Gillum could expect “far” more support from his Collective group. “We have plans to far exceed that amount before the primary and the general election,” he wrote in an email to the newspaper.
The Collective’s support for Gillum came alongside donations to aid the politician by other progressive groups, including one run by billionaire Tom Steyer, who spent $1.4 million on Gillum’s race. Days before the Aug. 28 primary, billionaire George Soros joined with Stayer to lead a group of donors making a $650,000 infusion into Gillum’s coffers.
James, The Collective co-founder, formerly served as the National Director for the student coalition of the Soros-funded Sierra Club. He also served as a National Board Member for the NAACP, which is heavily financed by Soros.
James co-founded Vestige Strategies, a consulting firm that he runs with his wife, Stefanie Brown James, who held national roles in campaigns for both Hilary Clinton and Barack Obama. Brown James is also The Collective’s co-founder and senior adviser.
Vestige Strategies’ website boasts “experience” and “recognitions” including work for the Soros-financed groups NAACP and the Sierra Club. Other listed groups include the super PAC Ready for Hillary, as well as Obama’s 2008 and 2012 campaigns.
The Collective, meanwhile, is a race-centric organization that says on its website it is “working to fix the challenge of African American underrepresentation in elected seats of power throughout our nation.” The aim of the organization is to “reach political equity — a place where African American elected officials represent the community’s population statistically.”
The Collective boasts it has been “building black political power since 2016.”
In a profile last year, James complained that “white men” hold too many elected positions.
Why is it that white men, who are 31 percent of our population, hold over 65 percent of all elected positions? We have a situation where the people who write the law, defend the law and fund the law don’t represent the demographics of the American population. If this continues, we will be stuck in a position of continually asking those from outside our communities to save our communities. I don’t want that future and I bet most people in our community don’t either.
Since 2016, the group has been holding weekend retreats called the “Black Campaign School,” where James says the training focuses on building a political movement amid what he claims is America’s “heightened, almost racist environment,” one that he says exploded into “white supremacy” in the era of Trump.
“He’s really inspired a heightened level of white supremacy and white nationalism in our country,” James claimed about Trump. “If we aren’t preparing people on how to run in a heightened, almost racist, environment, then we’re doing them a disservice.”