Womens Enews (USA), August 23, 2004
Spending on Pro-Choice Vote
(WOMENSENEWS)--When the moment came this year
to decide between making a political campaign
donation or supporting the ballet that she
loves, Polly Rothstein didn't hesitate. She
"I'm putting more into electoral organizations
and cutting down on non-electoral," said
Rothstein. "I look for aggressive campaigns
that identify voters and get them to the polls,
and don't just spend my money on big offices
and consultants," said Rothstein.
While Rothstein has long worked for choice--she's
founder of the Westchester Coalition for Legal
Abortion, Inc. in New York and co-author of
a 1990 manual "Pro-Choice Power: How to
Turn Pro-Choice Supporters Into Pro-Choice
Voters and Change American Politics"--pro-choice
organizations and political campaign experts
say that she is not alone.
Even before the typically frantic fall donation
season, campaign chests of both political parties
are bulging, says Deborah Goldberg, director
of the Democracy Program, which specializes
in campaign finance issues, at the Brennan
Center for Justice, part of the New York University
School of Law. "A record-breaking year,"
As of Aug. 18, presidential candidates had raised
$582 million dollars, already exceeding the
2000 total of $529 million, and House and Senate
candidates had raised $801 million, which is
$201 million more than 2002 totals, according
to the Center for Responsive Politics, a Washington,
D.C., watchdog group, which analyzed reports
of the Federal Election Commission.
Pro-Choice Spending Record
Amid those heavy flows of political donations,
pro-choice political organizations like Planned
Parenthood Action Fund, NARAL Pro-Choice America,
EMILY's List, The WISH List and the Republican
Majority for Choice are also expected to raise
substantial sums during election season of
over $50 million to support pro-choice candidates,
get out the vote and broadcast advertisements.
That anticipated gush of pro-choice election
spending can be explained in part by the fierce
passions that have been stirred by what many
advocates see as the Bush administration's
campaign to reverse Roe v. Wade.
"The stakes are so high. Women's reproductive
rights are so close to being lost," said
Gloria Feldt, president of the Washington-based
Planned Parenthood Action Fund, which is endorsing
200 pro-choice candidates, including giving
its first-ever endorsement of a presidential
candidate to Senator John Kerry. "The
anti-choice people have organized themselves--we
In March, Gloria Steinem, who founded Voters
For Choice, another group that raised funds
for pro-choice candidates, announced that it
merged with the Planned Parenthood Action Fund.
But it can also be explained by campaign-finance
laws that took effect after the last federal
election in 2002 and now offer certain membership
organizations a special chance to flex their
political muscle and shake their money trees
Under the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, qualified
membership organizations, such as issue-oriented
advocacy groups, may run broadcast advertisements
in the days before the election. Broadcast
advertising by groups with hidden donors and
that mention or target a candidate is prohibited
in the 60 days before the general election.
More Chance to Flex Muscle
This has meant that some pro-choice groups--such
as Planned Parenthood Action Fund and NARAL
Pro-Choice America--can actually flex more
"In any election, there are last-minute
issues. The ability to do these last-minute
TV ads is really meaningful," said Elizabeth
Cavendish, interim president of NARAL Pro-Choice
America. "It gives us an advantage."
NARAL Pro-Choice America--which has it been touting
its new ability to enter the last-minute political
fray to its members and other possible contributors--hopes
to raise $25 million for its election activities,
including $500,000 for a Political Action Committee
or PAC that will make direct donations to candidates.
NARAL will also fire up its Choice Action Network,
a technologically sophisticated online and
direct mail community developed in the past
three years and with over 600,000 subscribers.
Some groups work specifically with pro-choice
candidates of only one party and they, too,
are gathering money and momentum for political
The Republican Majority for Choice hopes to raise
$2 million for 40 male and female pro-choice
House and Senate Republican candidates, according
to Jennifer Blei Stockman, national co-chair.
Funding Pro-Choice Republicans
The WISH List, formed in 1992--WISH stands for
Women In the Senate and the House--raises funds
for pro-choice Republican female candidates.
It is supporting 11 federal candidates, said
President Pat Carpenter, along with state and
local candidates. In 2002, the WISH list collected
$775,000 dollars for 225 candidates across
the country, said Carpenter, an amount that
it hopes to match this year.
The WISH List encourages members to write checks
to endorsed candidates. Individuals may give
$2,000 to a candidate under the new campaign
finance law, a doubling of the prior limit
of $1,000. These donations are then delivered
in a group from the WISH List. The technique--known
as bundling--allows the individual donors to
put more financial punch into their pro-choice
message. Like NARAL and Planned Parenthood,
the WISH List also has a Political Action Committee,
or PAC, that makes direct donations to candidates.
The much larger Democratic equivalent, EMILY's
List (EMILY stands Early Money Is Like Yeast),
is raising campaign funds for 19 pro-choice
Democratic women running for office, and is
already topping its prior fundraising feats,
which were considerable.
"People are paying more attention and getting
more engaged," said Ramona Oliver, communications
By the end of the second quarter, the 19-year
old organization had added 22,000 members to
its existing 73,000 members and spurred $6.7
million in candidate donations, said Oliver.
It expects the numbers to continue to rise. Donations
are bundled, as well as delivered through a
Political Action Committee.
In the last Congressional cycle in 2001-2002,
EMILY's List members contributed a total of
$9.3 million to candidates. For eight years,
EMILY's List has been the nation's largest
Political Action Committees, according to Oliver.
"It's fantastic. It's individual women
and men who are making donations," said
Cynthia L. Cooper is an independent journalist
in New York who frequently reports on reproductive
rights and justice issues.
For more information:
Women's eNews--"Decision 2004: Our Candidates,
Our Choice": - http://womensenews.org/article.cfm/dyn/aid/1921/
<< Women's Enews -- 8/23/04 >>
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