NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Al Gore Endorses Racial Preference Program

March 14, 2000

At the Apollo Theater in Harlem in February, Al Gore promised to revive a preference program killed by a stroke of Bill Clinton's pen in 1995.

In their debate at the Apollo, Gore asked Bill Bradley why "In 1995 you were the only Democratic senator to vote against affirmative action to help expand the number of African American-owned broadcasting outlets -- radio stations and TV stations[?]..."

What Gore was referring to was Bradley's vote for House Resolution 831, one of the first bills enacted in 1995 by the new Congress. The law increased and made permanent a health insurance deduction for self-employed individuals that had expired in 1993. The bill was signed by President Clinton.

What was controversial about the resolution was that it paid for the health insurance tax break, in part, by repealing the Federal Communications Commission's "tax-certificate program."

  • Under the tax-certificate program, devised in 1978, a company selling a media property to a "minority-led investor group" could indefinitely defer paying taxes on the profit from the sale.
  • The purpose of the policy was to increase the number of minority owners in broadcasting -- but some bought the stations at a discount due to the tax break, and quickly sold at full market prices to nonminority firms.
  • Over the years, the FCC issued 330 of these tax certificates, costing taxpayers around $2 billion.

"One of the things I would seek," said Gore, "is to repeal the measure that Senator Bradley supported." In other words, Gore wants to restore the program.

In this, says Terry Eastland, Gore has moved to the left of Bill Clinton and the New Democrats at the Progressive Policy Institute: although Clinton expressed regret over the demise of the program, he has not proposed its resurrection; and shortly after it ended, a PPI analysis of affirmative action recommended that Congress end all FCC preference programs related to telecommunications ownership.

Source: Terry Eastland (American Spectator), "Broadcasting While Black," Weekly Standard, March 13, 2000.


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