A black entrepreneur and philanthropist who ran for president last year is suing the Democratic National Committee for ‘racial bias towards white candidates’ which he claims thwarted his chances of winning the primary, court documents obtained by Courthouse News reveal.
Willie Lee Wilson, from Chicago, Ilinois, filed a federal complaint in Washington last week claiming the DNC “met his campaign with coldness and adversity” and “intentionally denied him equal logistical assistance and guidance, resources, and access to certain information while simultaneously providing such to similarly situated white presidential candidates.”
A self-made businessman (he started off as janitor at McDonald’s making $2/hr and now manages several of the chain’s franchises) and preacher with a strong Catholic background, Wilson was the only African American in the Democratic primary race. Though hardly a household name in the black community, for years he has been involved with both the NAACP and National African American Leadership Summit—something he says has put him at a disadvantage.
“The Democratic Party talks about inclusion,” Willie Wilson told Courthouse News in a phone interview. “I found that it was not so.”
Wilson, who was on the ballot in several states during the 2016 Democratic primaries, claims the DNC was reluctant to let him participate in state and DNC sponsored events—including a weekend conference in Minneapolis—because they saw him as a threat to Clinton’s already weak hold on black voters.
The DNC did not returned Heat Street‘s request for comment.
According to the suit, Democratic state party officials repeatedly told him and his campaign workers that he was not a DNC “sanctioned” candidate.
His attorney, Wayne Kendall also claims that the party prevented Wilson from accessing its voter database, a “seriously vital tool for mounting any sort of a credible opportunity to have a national campaign.”
“Only White candidates were allowed to attend and to speak at the DNC’s Minneapolis event,” the complaint says, referring to Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Martin O’Malley, Jim Webb and Lincoln Chafee.
Wilson also recalls numerous emails, phone calls and requests being denied or blatantly ignored by the party staff and “arbitrary” actions that jeopardized his bid, including refusing to put his name as a candidate on the DNC website.
He first stint in politics in 2015, when he won 11 percent of the vote in Chicago’s mayoral race. The 50 year old business owner, who self funded his presidential campaign, is now asking in excess of $2 million in compensation and $5 million for punitive damages for racial discrimination, breach of contract and civil conspiracy.
Of course, accusations of bias are nothing new for the Democratic National Committee. During the campaign, a collection of leaked internal emails exposed a concerted effort by key DNC staffers to damage and sideline Bernie Sanders’ campaign, and prompting the resignation of DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz days before the Democratic National Convention.
The Vermont senator later sued the DNC for actively trying to undermine his campaign by, among other things, blocking access to a key voter database.