WASHINGTON, D.C., Jan. 4, 2021 -- Photo taken on Jan. 4, 2021 shows the Georgia State Capitol building in Atlanta, Georgia. Georgia is one of five states where the Black Economic Alliance's PAC is planning to invest in down-ballot contests in the midterms.
CNN  — 

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A political organization created by Black business executives is planning to invest in down-ballot contests in the midterms, in an effort to influence races the group views as crucial to democracy’s future.

The Black Economic Alliance’s PAC will endorse candidates for lieutenant governor, attorney general and secretary of state for the first time this year, according to plans shared first with CNN.

The group will engage in five states: Georgia, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin and North Carolina with the potential to invest in a sixth, Maryland, said David Clunie, the group’s executive director.

The group picked the targeted states, in part, because the Black voting population in each is large enough to be decisive in these races.

The nonpartisan alliance launched in 2018 with the goal of improving economic outcomes for African Americans. Its leaders raised more than $6 million and nearly $5 million in the 2018 and 2020 cycles, respectively, to boost Black turnout and influence races for the White House, Congress and gubernatorial seats.

But the violent January 6, 2021, assault on the US Capitol, fresh revelations from the House select committee investigating the attacks and the raft of new state laws that restrict access to the ballot have made clear that the “threats to democracy are imminent,” Clunie said.

And, although building Black economic power remains a top goal for the group, “we can’t get access to the economy if we can’t get access to our democracy,” he added.

The alliance has not disclosed its budget for the new effort. But Clunie said it has set a goal of reaching some 10 million voters – particularly voters who registered for the first time in 2020 and those who typically drop off during the midterms – and encouraging them to cast ballots for candidates who “make really important decisions about the integrity of our democracy.”

Last year, the alliance and prominent Black executives banded together to underwrite a full-page newspaper ad, urging corporate America to get off the sidelines and oppose legislation that restricts access to the ballot.

In one of the highest-profile confrontations over voting rights, Major League Baseball last year moved the All-Star Game out of Atlanta to protest changes to Georgia’s voting laws. But, since then, the corporate response to election laws passed in other states has grown muted.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, a Democrat who serves on the alliance’s board, said many corporate leaders are struggling to decide what pressing national issues merit action on their part.

But he said alliance members understand that “a good business environment and a functioning democracy are interdependent.”

The organization joins a raft of groups giving more money and attention to once-sleepy races involving election administration. They range from the Democratic Association of Secretaries of State to American Bridge 21st Century, the liberal opposition-research group.

Both sides of the political aisle are ramping up fundraising for these races.

The Republican State Leadership Committee, the main GOP group focused on state legislative and secretary of state contests, and its policy partner recently announced raising a combined $53.1 million so far in this cycle – far outpacing what these groups had collected at this point in the 2019-’20 cycle.

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