Where Women Win in Washington

Men still dominate politics, government, and lobbying, but in fundraising, women play on level turf.

NEW YORK - MARCH 28: President of EMILY's list Stephanie Schriock attend Women In Politics Panel With Chelsea Clinton hosted by Glamour magazine at 92nd Street Y on March 28, 2012 in New York City.
National Journal
Elahe Izadi
See more stories about...
Elahe Izadi
Nov. 11, 2013, 3:14 p.m.

Ann Her­ber­ger had designs on be­com­ing “a great Broad­way act­ress.” That’s be­fore she ended up in Wash­ing­ton in the 1980s, and un­der the tu­tel­age of an ac­com­plished fe­male fun­draiser.

Now based in Miami, she raises cash full-time for prom­in­ent Re­pub­lic­ans — not­ably the Bush fam­ily — and loves her job as a pro­fes­sion­al fun­draiser. “They’re the most power­ful people that nobody knows,” she says.

It’s a com­mon tale. While men still dom­in­ate top jobs in polit­ics, gov­ern­ment, and lob­by­ing, pro­fes­sion­al fun­drais­ing rep­res­ents an arena in which wo­men play on level turf. Many cam­paign op­er­at­ives, lob­by­ists, and fun­draisers say fe­male fin­ance dir­ect­ors and fun­draisers are at least at par­ity with men, and may well out­num­ber them. Some even say that if there’s only one wo­man in the room, she’s likely to be the fun­draiser.

“It’s a unique place wo­men seem to own,” says Kirsten Bor­man, a na­tion­al GOP fun­draiser. “Wo­men get a lot more re­spect and are more eas­ily al­lowed at the table in this in­dustry. There is no boys club in fun­drais­ing. But make no mis­take, it’s still in­cred­ibly com­pet­it­ive.”

While wo­men ac­count for al­most 51 per­cent of the U.S. pop­u­la­tion, they make up roughly 18 per­cent of the cur­rent Con­gress — and that’s a re­cord high. Wo­men oc­cu­pied only one-third of the top con­gres­sion­al-aide jobs in 2011, ac­cord­ing to a Na­tion­al Journ­al sur­vey; about 40 per­cent of the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion’s top second-term posts; and just 35 per­cent of re­gistered lob­by­ists in 2012, ac­cord­ing to a Le­giS­torm ana­lys­is.

Be­cause fun­draisers are not re­quired to re­gister, there are no pre­cise stat­ist­ics track­ing gender. But those that do ex­ist point to a field largely pop­u­lated by wo­men. Wo­men dom­in­ate fun­drais­ing in the non­profit and phil­an­throp­ic world, and ac­count for 74 per­cent of the mem­ber­ship in the As­so­ci­ation of Fun­drais­ing Pro­fes­sion­als, ac­cord­ing to the or­gan­iz­a­tion.

“I don’t think there’s a glass ceil­ing at all for wo­men [in fun­drais­ing],” says Molly Al­len, who owns a con­sult­ing firm and raises money for House Demo­crats. While not­ing there are also prom­in­ent and ef­fect­ive male fun­draisers, she adds, “I’ve nev­er felt that I missed out on a cli­ent op­por­tun­ity be­cause I was a wo­man…. I guess it’s just be­cause we’ve proven ourselves to be equally suc­cess­ful, and con­tin­ue to do so.”

Rarely does any­one, man or wo­man, dream of be­ing a polit­ic­al fun­draiser when they grow up. A num­ber of wo­men say their entry in­to the field was co­in­cid­ence more than any­thing. But that has turned in­to an ad­vant­age, as the role of money in polit­ics has grown ex­po­nen­tially.

“It was al­ways the job nobody wanted on cam­paigns when I star­ted,” says one Re­pub­lic­an fun­draiser who’s been in the busi­ness for dec­ades and raises cash for statewide can­did­ates. “The po­s­i­tion [of fin­ance dir­ect­or] has grown in im­port­ance. The smart cam­paigns have al­ways real­ized the im­port­ance of money, but it’s al­ways been a back-burn­er thing in most cases.”

An­oth­er long­time Demo­crat­ic fe­male fun­draiser fell in­to it after “nobody wanted to do it.” But she quickly took to the job. “I got to do a lot more fun things than every­body else,” she says. “You also get more time with the can­did­ate than any­body else. Every­one wants to do field [work], but the field staff doesn’t get much time with the can­did­ate.”

The job ap­peals to many wo­men be­cause of the flex­ib­il­ity to work from home and be able to take breaks between cam­paigns without be­ing pen­al­ized. Suc­cess as a fun­draiser is also ob­ject­ive: You either raise your tar­get amount or you don’t.

“It’s a field dom­in­ated by black-or-white res­ults: Did you make your goal or didn’t you?” Her­ber­ger says. “That’s all that mat­ters.”

Show­ing savvy as a fun­draiser can lay the ground­work for oth­er polit­ic­al ca­reers, too. Stephanie Schriock led Howard Dean’s 2004 fun­drais­ing, an op­er­a­tion that helped change the way cam­paigns raise cash in pres­id­en­tial cycles. She went on to man­age cam­paigns for Demo­crat­ic Sens. Jon Test­er of Montana and Al Franken of Min­nesota. Now, Schriock leads EMILY’s List, which raises money for fe­male Demo­crats who sup­port abor­tion rights.

“I def­in­itely, over the years, have seen a lot of wo­men start in fun­drais­ing and move on to oth­er activ­it­ies in cam­paigns and polit­ics,” she says. “Wo­men really do a great job at the sort of de­tail-ori­ented­ness fol­lowed by re­la­tion­ship build­ing that is really im­port­ant in fun­drais­ing. At EMILY’s List, we ar­gue it’s the same abil­ity to re­la­tion­ship-build that is a good reas­on you should run for of­fice.”

Al­though wo­men see few gender bar­ri­ers to be­com­ing prom­in­ent fun­draisers, wo­men donors still lag be­hind men. In the 2011-12 cycle, far more men than wo­men con­trib­uted money to fed­er­al polit­ics, in­clud­ing can­did­ates, parties, and PACs; two-thirds of such dona­tions came from men, com­pared with one-third that came from wo­men, ac­cord­ing to the Cen­ter for Re­spons­ive Polit­ics.

That’s something GOP fun­draiser Lisa Spies, who led Wo­men for Rom­ney last year, wants to change. Dur­ing the 2012 cam­paign, their dir­ect­ive was to raise $10 mil­lion from wo­men, and they ended up rak­ing in $23 mil­lion.

“I had wo­men all over the coun­try tell me, “˜You know what? Nobody ever asks me,’ “ Spies says. “They call me and ask for my hus­band.”

What We're Following See More »
BACKING OUT ON BERNIE
Trump Won’t Debate Sanders After All
3 days ago
THE LATEST

Trump, in a statement: “Based on the fact that the Democratic nominating process is totally rigged and Crooked Hillary Clinton and Deborah Wasserman Schultz will not allow Bernie Sanders to win, and now that I am the presumptive Republican nominee, it seems inappropriate that I would debate the second place finisher. ... I will wait to debate the first place finisher in the Democratic Party, probably Crooked Hillary Clinton, or whoever it may be.”

AKNOWLEDGING THE INEVITABLE
UAW: Time to Unite Behind Hillary
4 days ago
THE DETAILS

"It's about time for unity," said UAW President Dennis Williams. "We're endorsing Hillary Clinton. She's gotten 3 million more votes than Bernie, a million more votes than Donald Trump. She's our nominee." He called Sanders "a great friend of the UAW" while saying Trump "does not support the economic security of UAW families." Some 28 percent of UAW members indicated their support for Trump in an internal survey.

Source:
AP KEEPING COUNT
Trump Clinches Enough Delegates for the Nomination
4 days ago
THE LATEST

"Donald Trump on Thursday reached the number of delegates needed to clinch the Republican nomination for president, completing an unlikely rise that has upended the political landscape and sets the stage for a bitter fall campaign. Trump was put over the top in the Associated Press delegate count by a small number of the party's unbound delegates who told the AP they would support him at the convention."

Source:
TRUMP FLOATED IDEA ON JIMMY KIMMEL’S SHOW
Trump/Sanders Debate Before California Primary?
4 days ago
THE LATEST
CAMPAIGNS INJECTED NEW AD MONEY
California: It’s Not Over Yet
4 days ago
THE LATEST

"Clinton and Bernie Sanders "are now devoting additional money to television advertising. A day after Sanders announced a new ad buy of less than $2 million in the state, Clinton announced her own television campaign. Ads featuring actor Morgan Freeman as well as labor leader and civil rights activist Dolores Huerta will air beginning on Fridayin Fresno, Sacramento, and Los Angeles media markets. Some ads will also target Latino voters and Asian American voters. The total value of the buy is about six figures according to the Clinton campaign." Meanwhile, a new poll shows Sanders within the margin of error, trailing Clinton 44%-46%.

Source:
×