“No one ever became famous for saying what they were going to do.”
Those were the words of Larry Kawa, a South Florida orthodontist and growing political power broker in Florida and national Republican politics.
In addition to forming his own PAC, he and his wife Virginia have contributed thousands of dollars and raised over half a million dollars hosting fundraisers for GOP candidates.
As a major GOP donor, Kawa is not unique in the world of big money Republican politics.
What makes him stand out is that he just doesn’t talk about the need for the party to attract those who traditionally support Democrats; he puts his money where his mouth is.
He recently footed the bill for a three course dinner for an overflow crowd of over 400 black and white guests in Boca Raton.
In addition to Kawa, speakers included former RNC Chairman Michael Steele, former Florida Lt. Governor Jennifer Carroll, Congress of Racial Equality spokesman Niger Innis and radio host and author Kevin Jackson.
The real star of the evening was Carroll who told diners that the sooner “we move away from focusing” on Obama and focus on “real issues impacting black families and bringing solutions, the sooner we can move to some sort of recovery . . . The conversation . . . needs to change to solutions.”
The next day, Kawa hosted a luncheon for nearly 40 guests, including the speakers from the prior evening, who mixed, mingled and discussed the economy, diversity and other issues regarding strengthening the party.
Why is Kawa unusual?
As I stated in my earlier column, “The GOP’s Minority Problem,” today’s GOP leaders have:
“… virtually no meaningful business or personal relationships with blacks, minority media, black organizations, and institutions . . . rarely any black or minority spokespersons . . . loyal black Republicans . . . rarely consulted. All of this sends a message to black voters: ‘we do not care about you, your issues and do not need you.’”
Kawa obviously knows black conservatives and Republicans and is willing to seek their advice. He actually asks: “What do you think?”
Historically, most major GOP donors privately spread the word that spending money to woo blacks — or Romney’s 47 percent — is a waste of time. So they don’t and they reap what that philosophy sows — defeat.
The irony is that Kawa probably spent more of his own money on these two events than the Republican Party of Florida has spent on outreach and diversity since the departure two years ago of its embattled Chairman Jim Greer, now serving 18 months in state prison after pleading guilty to a number charges related to his stewardship of the party.
As one disenchanted Florida black Republican who attended Kawa’s dinner said:
“You can say what you want about Greer, but he did more for black and Hispanic outreach through the party’s African-American and Hispanic Leadership Councils than anyone has done since — in Florida and many other states.”
The clear message to that black Republican and others from Kawa’s two events is that you can’t leave the future of the party to the party establishment.
That message was reinforced the next evening at a Deerfield Beach screening of the Kevin Williams’ popular documentary “Fear of a Black Republican” sponsored by former Florida Congressman Allen West’s PAC — “The Allen West Guardian Fund.”
It was attended by more than 100 mostly white conservatives —diversity advocates as well.
They had a dialogue with a panel including Williams, Innis and Jackson. The bottom line take away from Williams, West and the speakers: “We have to do it a little bit at a time, don’t give up and definitely do not rely on the GOP establishment.”
To many at the screening, the “tea party” is the model — “do it yourself.”
West, who lost his seat in 2012 after redistricting by Florida’s GOP legislature, was one of only four black Republicans to serve in the United States House of Representatives in nearly a century.
His Guardian Fund supports conservative military veteran and minority Republicans running for state and federal office.
According to its website, since the 2012 election cycle, the fund has helped seven military veteran candidates win seats in the House of Representatives.
His work, like Kawa’s, is important, particularly in light of the redistricting.
According to the Cook Political Report, after 2012 redistricting, the average Republican district is now 75 percent white and House Republicans now represent 6.6 million fewer minorities than in 2010. David Wasserman, House Editor for the Report put it in perspective:
"What's amazing is Republicans were able to actually make their districts . . . whiter in the 2012 round of redistricting even though minorities were responsible for most of the growth of the U.S. population in the past 10 years.”
As Cook wrote in March:
“. . . how many fewer GOP legislators have strong reasons to shake hands or kiss babies at Puerto Rican Day parades, Martin Luther King Jr. Day commemorations, or Asian food festivals . . . Given the nation’s demographic trajectory, Republicans might want to take note — and show up.”
Kawa and West have their work cut out.
But, they are not merely saying what they are going to do — they are doing it!
It might just work.
Clarence V. McKee is president of McKee Communications, Inc., a government, political and media relations consulting firm in Florida. He held several positions in the Reagan administration as well as the Reagan presidential campaigns and has appeared on many national and local media outlets. Read more reports from Clarence V. McKee — Click Here Now.
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