By Shukoor Ahmed
Opinion: Optics of attending fundraiser hosted by people linked to the Hindutva movement were horrible
A couple of my friends were concerned about the candidacy of Indian American Aruna Miller for lieutenant governor of Maryland, especially her ties to three South Asian American donors, citing an article in Intercept.
The article mentioned that Wes Moore, Democratic candidate for governor, and Miller held a fundraiser last month with supporters of former President Donald Trump and people linked to the Hindutva movement.
READ: Indian American Aruna Miller poised to be Maryland’s next Lt.-Gov. (July 26, 2022)
The fundraiser was held at the home of Jasdip “Jesse” Singh, the founder of Sikhs for Trump, according to Intercept. The event was co-hosted by one-time Trump adviser Sajid Tarar, who founded Muslims for Trump.
It was organized in part by Dr. Sudhir Sekhsaria, a local allergist who had previously helped Miller as treasurer during her unsuccessful congressional run in 2018, soliciting thousands of dollars in donations from people affiliated with Hindu nationalism, the Intercept said.
I have known Sajid Tarar and Jasdip Singh for a long time and did not know Sudhir Sekhsaria. My immediate response after reading the article was that it is not a big deal and donors have lots of reason to donate, including familiarity, issues they care about, party affiliation, personalities, access and also an element of affluence and generosity.
I am very liberal and progressive and was not able to convince moderate and conservative friends. I promised them to look into the story and look into the facts regarding the donations of these individuals.
READ: Wes Moore picks Aruna Miller as running mate in Maryland governor’s race (December 10, 2021)
In full disclosure, I have played an active role in Maryland and Prince George’s County politics since 1998, when I first ran for the Maryland House of Delegates in District 23.
Over the last 24 years, I ran five times and helped over 50 campaigns, mentored a dozen campaigns including most of the millennials elected on the PGCPS Board of Education.
I was an early supporter of Jack Johnson for County Executive in 2002. Also, I am a technology entrepreneur who never got a single dollar from government contracting.
I have never applied for a government job and did not take a single dollar from any lobbyist or a political campaign though l have lobbied as an unpaid citizen. My in-kind contribution to many campaigns could be in hundreds of thousands of dollars.
READ: Indian American Aruna Miller raises $230,000 for another potential congressional run (April 16, 2021)
Over the years, I built tools like www.statedemocracy.com, which connected citizens with elected officials, www.pgCampaigns.com which helped candidates to run campaigns better and citizens to engage their candidates, www.pgBallot.com, which helps voters to make their own sample ballot, and a voter registration and absentee ballot application for former Vermont Governor Howard Dean, among many tools.
I believe in empowering voters so that they could make their own decisions. So I suggested my two friends to go to Federal Individual Donor Search and Maryland Donor Search to find out more about campaign donations of Sekhsaria, Singh and Tarar and look at the campaign finance reports of Moore-Miller and their Republican rivals Dan Cox and Gordana Schnifanelli.
https://www.fec.gov/data/ (Federal Individual Donor Search)
https://campaignfinance.maryland.gov/Public/ViewReceipts?theme=vista (Maryland Donor Search)
These are some charts/information I found from the two sites. This insight will help you make the decision who you would like to vote for on Nov 8. In my view, Moore and Miller would be excellent governor and lieutenant governor. They would be 10 times better than their Republican opponent Dan Cox.
Sekhsaria has donated to most Democrats, whereas Singh and Tarar have donated heavily to Republicans in recent years. They starred at the 2016 Republican National Convention, where Trump was elected as the GOP nominee. (See the federal and state contributions of the three individuals in questions below this article.)
If I was a political operative/advisor to Moore and Miller, I would have advised them not to attend a fundraiser hosted by them. The optics are horrible, and I would expect better from our candidates, elected officials and their political handlers.
(Shukoor Ahmed, founder and CEO of V-Empower Inc, is a tech entrepreneur, mentor, angel investor, product strategist and politico and more information can be obtained from www.shukoor.com )
Thank you Shukoor. Your article goes much further than the lazy journalism of the Intercept. There is an inconsistency being applied to both South Asian candidates and donors.
As you show in your article, White candidates have accepted donations from the donors named in the Intercept article for years with complete impunity (including every Maryland state-wide candidate this year). Why is it that the only time their donations are considered to have a nefarious Hindu Nationalist agenda is when they are donated to someone of Indian Origin?
Westerners & Asians alike support politicians and parties for a host of reasons. Sometimes they will support a party or a candidate one cycle and their opponent and opposition party the next. This is a fundamental part of democracy. South Asians, like their white counterparts, should be able to participate in the political process and support the parties and candidates they want for whatever reasons they want without fear of reprisal.