As elections draw closer, Democrats and GOP make a beeline for Indian American fundraisers

From Obama to GOP Gov. candidates in Illinois.

By Deepak Chitnis

WASHINGTON, DC: With the 2014 midterm elections slowly shifting into high gear, politicians on both sides of the aisle are reaching out to wealthy Indian Americans in an effort to secure donations for campaigns, as both Democrats and Republicans look to sway votes and take control of both houses of Congress.

On the Democrat side, President Barack Obama invited two well-known desi fundraisers, Azita Raji and Shefali Razdan Duggal, to an important state dinner that’s been organized for Francois Hollande, the President of France.

Raji is a member of the President’s Commission on White House Fellowships, while Duggal is part of the National Finance Committee and the Women’s Leadership Forum, both of which are part of the Democratic National Committee (DNC).

Additionally, Duggal is a co-chair for the Ready for Hillary Political Action Committee (PAC), which aims to create awareness and support for Hillary Clinton’s likely 2016 White House bid. Duggal is also a member of the White House Council of Women & Girls, which champions a lot of causes that First Lady Michelle Obama has advocated during her time in the White House.

Both Duggal and Raji are seen as key fundraisers for the Democrats, and will likely be in attendance at several high-profile, liberal-based events throughout the year until the elections on Tuesday, November 4.

But Republicans are also making their presence felt in the same way.

Three of the four Republican candidates for Illinois gubernatorial seat spoke at a forum on Sunday night that was hosted by the Indian American Republican Organization (IARO). The event, which featured candidates Bill Brady, Kirk Dillard, and Dan Rutherford, was said to be part of an effort by the GOP at large to rectify a growing “brand problem,” which is that the party is generally viewed unfavorably by minority groups across the US.

One of the key issues brought up by the candidates was immigration, which the GOP has been infamously reticent to budge on but which is obviously a very hot-button issue for Indian Americans. The GOP was charged with being anti-immigration by a community member present at the event, who asked why Indians should vote for the GOP if they don’t want to help them.

During his speech on Sunday, Dillard said that it was important to keep bringing in high-skilled workers, particularly from India, but that a bill allowing such an influx to remain high would have to also not compromise border security. Both the other candidates echoed that sentiment, with Brady in particular saying that such a classification was really the doing of the Democratic Party.

The state of Illinois has just under 220,000 Indian Americans in its state, meaning that appealing to the demographic is crucial for both Democrats and Republicans. Both parties will continue looking to desis, the most affluent minority group in the US, more and more frequently as election day draws nearer.

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