Back Door Affirmative Action

HOW TO GET AROUND THE U.S. SUPREME COURT? Very, very carefully. The Clinton Administration on June 24 created a new program that gives some minority firms preferential treatment in bids for federal contracts--without violating a three-year-old Court ruling striking down an affirmative action program. The new plan, which does not need congressional approval, will give minority firms a small advantage if the Commerce Dept. concludes that their share of federal business is smaller than their overall market share. But to comply with the court ruling, the plan does not create quotas or guarantee that minority firms will be selected. President Clinton says the program "will help level the playing field for firms that have suffered from discrimination." Among the sectors most affected: financial services, transportation, and electronics.

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