Political Fund Raising by Women's Groups Is Growing Sharply

Article excerpt

Money, it is said, is the mother's milk of politics. Now, it is clear that large amounts of political money are coming from mothers.

The top political action committee was Emily's List, a group dedicated to electing women Democrats who favor abortion rights. Emily is an acronym for "early money is like yeast" (which helps raise dough).

The PAC not only raised $13.6 million, but its members separately were the largest group of contributors to federal candidates. Just a decade ago, groups such as Emily's List were only a gleam in the eyes of a few people who today call themselves the "founding mothers" of the women's political finance effort. Emily's List, which was founded in 1986, has grown from about 3,500 donors in 1990 to more than 60,000 today. As Emily's List has prospered, similar groups have come onto the scene and grown quickly. Impressed by such success, Hillary Rodham Clinton encouraged the Democratic Party to create the Women's Leadership Forum to raise money. She was the headline attraction at 27 events sponsored by the forum, bringing in $11 million. That is nearly twice the amount of money raised from Asian-Americans by former Democratic Party official John Huang, whose actions have drawn so much scrutiny. "There has been a psychological shift where women realize they can take control of their resources," said Ellen Malcolm, president and founder of Emily's List. "It used to be that women said, `I have to ask my husband.' " Despite this success, recent headlines about women donors have focused on a decision by the Hollywood Women's Political Committee to shut its doors. The committee, which has worked closely with major donors such as actresses Barbra Streisand and Jane Fonda, announced recently that it will go out of business on June 30 because its members are fed up with the current campaign finance system. "We will no longer collaborate with a system that promotes the buying and selling of political office," the Hollywood group declared. But despite the Hollywood group's star power - Streisand, for example, has headlined million-dollar galas for President Clinton - the group itself raised only $1.4 million in the last campaign, far less than the top women's groups. The Hollywood committee has contributed about $6 mill ion since its inception in 1984, just half the amount that Emily's List collected in the last campaign alone. To be sure, politics remains largely a man's world. Only nine of 100 US senators are women, as are about 12 percent of U.S. House members. And that is after a marked increase in recent years. But all those soccer Mom stories had a point: More women voted than men in the presidential election. …