Money: a Necessary Political Evil

By Political Parity on October 30, 2014

Money makes the political world go round. It’s sad but true. You don’t have a shot of being credible—leaving aside the Eric Cantor massacre this past summer—unless you can raise money, and a lot of it. When it comes to asking for money, female candidates have a harder time than their male counterparts.

  1. We tend to ask for lower numbers.
  2. We apologize for asking.
  3. We take no for an answer.
  4. We lack the “good-ole-boy” network.

But does this mean that raising money is impossible for female candidates?  Elise Stefanik’s race for New York’s 21st Congressional District suggests quite the opposite. Political Parity’s early analyses of Federal Election Commission data about Republican women in their primaries found:

“[there are] no clear sex-based differences in the amount that candidates raised…once incumbency was taken into account.”

If you think about it—this female money disadvantage—it’s crazy. When I consider the major fundraisers on the right and left for key Super PACs and Caucus groups—it’s largely women who are running the money show. And they’re raising millions. So obviously women know how to ask, know how to be discreet, and know how to close a deal.  And we certainly are much better at raising resources for others than for ourselves.

Lesson: The largest problem I’ve encountered while working with female candidates contemplating a run in 2016 or 2018 is their assumption that national groups will share donor lists or provide financial backing for their candidacies. This, sadly, is not the case.

While it was crystal clear in 2008 (and again in 2012) that Republicans needed to do a better job reaching women voters, this did not translate into female candidate recruitment. A plethora of mostly women-led groups sprang up to focus on “messaging to women” and other, similar strategies, but no single group took charge of financially supporting or promoting women candidates.

House Candidate Support

Source: FEC data collected and analyzed by Bob Carpenter

Women planning to run need to start raising money early, without any expectation of being helped by the party or a national effort. Again, there are a few exceptions—the Joni Ernst, Monica Wehby, and Shelley Moore Capito Senate 2014 races, for example—but these are not the rule. Expect to work twice as hard as your male counterparts in the primary stage.

Speaking of the 2014 election cycle, while it may have been a financial struggle to get through their primary races, there are several great, Republican women on the current general election ballot. Here are just a few new stars to watch for on November 4th:  Shelley Moore Capito (WV), Senate; Joni Ernst (IA), Senate; Mia Love (UT), House; Elise Stefanik (NY), House; and Marilinda Garcia (NH), House.

Sarah Lenti is the founder of her political consulting firm, SML Advisory Partners. Sarah’s clients range widely from candidates and politicians to international non-profits, independent documentary films and super PACS.  Previously, she served under Dr. Condoleezza Rice at the National Security Council, worked on three Presidential election campaigns, and led the policy research for Governor Mitt Romney’s book, No Apology: The Case for American Greatness.Connect with Sarah on Twitter with #PrimaryHurdles and #GOPWomen.