Quoting page 150-151: Political camouflage, needed by legislators eager to please civil rights and minority organizations while avoiding punishment by voters for supporting racial quotas, was provided by the bureaucratic obscurity of the government’s procurement process. Voters did not understand the complexities of government contracting and agency regulation. …
The weaknesses of minority set-asides were chiefly two. First, they were indubitably racial and ethnic quotas, and hence were politically controversial. As government benefits tied to ancestry, they violated the classic liberal creed that Americans possessed equal individual rights. … Nonminority contractors were barred by their ancestry or their skin color from even bidding on contracts paid for by taxpayer dollars, including their own.
Second, and less obviously, set-aside programs produced a common set of flaws in implementation. The most severe problem was the concentration of set-aside contracts on a few successful firms. Agency officials, needing to spend a large amount of money on minority procurement contractors every fiscal year, found very few minority contractors able to do the job. Four-fifths of all certified minority firms had no employees, their personnel roster consisting solely of the owner of the enterprise. As a consequence, agency set-aside contracts were typically concentrated on only a few firms large enough and sufficiently experienced to meet the terms of the contracts, providing constructing, street paving, computer services, military uniforms, or other goods and services. In 1990, for example, only fifty firms, representing less than 2 percent of the certified minority firms in the 8(a) program, accounted for 40 percent of the $4 billion awarded. … such firms never seemed to “graduate” from the set-aside program, weaned from the incubator and ready to compete in the normal marketplace of competitive government contracting. … Almost all the contracts were awarded on a no-bid or “sole source” basis; in fiscal 1991, for example, only 1.9 percent of the 4,576 contracts in the 8(a) program were awarded on a competitive basis.
Hugh Davis Graham (Collision Course: The Strange Convergence of Affirmative Action and Immigration Policy in America)