July 10 2015
Hillary Clinton has a secret fundraising weapon in the 2016 election for president that could significantly boost her numbers, and it's not her husband, former president Bill Clinton.
It's the 3 million women affiliated with progressive activist organization, EMILY's List, which has grown its membership by five times since Clinton's 2008 run and doubled its donors.
Founded on premise of protecting abortion rights, EMILY's List will only support female candidates who are pro-choice.
It has already endorsed Clinton for the White House, as she's the only woman running who backs abortion, and is on track to raise more than $60 million this election cycle for her and other female candidates running for office from across the country.
'Hillary Clinton is by far the most qualified person to be the Democratic nominee, and she just happens to be a woman,' said Marcy Stech, EMILY's List Communications Director.
Stech said Clinton has a record 'second to none' of championing causes that benefit women and families.
'It's clear that the country's ready for it. It's the right time, and she's the right candidate,' she said.
The more than $60 million that EMILY's List plans to raise for the upcoming cycle comes through its independent expenditures, including its Madame President project, political action committee and bundling for chosen female candidates.
In 2012 it raised more than $52 million. It increased that amount to more than $60 million in 2014. Now, with Clinton expected to be at the top of the Democratic ticket, EMILY's List is energizing and broadening its base of donors – and female candidates - like never before.
Call it the 'Hillary effect,' if you will.
EMILY's List is hesitant to slap that label on its latest round of recruits because it's been grooming many of the female candidates it's supporting this cycle for years now. But it admits that Clinton's presumptive nomination for president has inspired its members to seek elected office, as well.
'Our members and candidates are excited about Hillary,' Stech said, in no small part because Clinton is talking about the issues their candidates 'care so deeply about, and they can often speak from their own personal experience of balancing family, work and economic challenges.'
Clinton has made traditional women's issues such as paycheck fairness, paid sick leave and access to preventative health measures, in addition to continued health insurance coverage of birth control under Obamacare, central themes of her campaign.
EMILY's List didn't set out to fight for those issues when founder Ellen Malcolm, an alumnae of Jimmy Carter's administration and the multi-partisan National Women's Political Caucus, and two dozen like-minded women planted the organization's first seeds in 1985.
Back then, it was focused solely on funding pro-choice women's bids for elected office. Malcolm's theory was that 'Early Money Is Like Yeast' (EMILY) – it makes the dough rise.
The group's efforts were immediately validated when Barbara Mikulski of Maryland, one of their two test cases, became the first woman to win a U.S. Senate election in 1986. Mikulski will likewise hold the title as the longest serving female federal lawmaker when she retires in January of 2017.
Malcolm, who served as a co-chair of Clinton's first presidential campaign in 2007, stepped back from day-to-day operations at EMILY's List in 2010 after 25 years at the helm, and Democratic strategist Stephanie Schriock was brought in to oversee the influential women's group.
EMILY's List has expanded its messaging in recent years beyond the cause of abortion, made legal by the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court case in 1973, to encompass other issues of importance to women.
'Republicans come up with creative new ways to restrict opportunity for women and we need to hold them accountable,' Stech said.
It's founding principle remains the same, however. Women who are against access to abortion, regardless of their overarching political beliefs, don't qualify for the platinum package.
Cases in point: ex-Senators Mary Landrieu of Louisiana and Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas. Both voted to restrict access to healthcare for women and lost EMILY's List support as a result.
Both lost their seats in GOP wave elections when the map was difficult for Democrats. Lincoln was ousted in 2010, and Landieu lost her re-election bid in 2014.
Next year, it's Republicans who will be on the defensive as they fend off challenges to 24 of the 54 seats they hold in the U.S. Senate.
EMILY's List, so far, has put up a candidate in just one of those races - Tammy Duckworth of Illinois, a current Member of the U.S. House of Representatives. It's three other recruits are competing for seats currently held by retiring Democrats.
Donna Edwards, another Member of the House, is looking to replace Mikulski while Kamala Harris of California and Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada, both of whom have served as the attorneys general of their home states, are respectively vying for Dianne Feinstein and Harry Reid's soon-to-be vacant offices.
While it's primarily the job of the various committees directly connected to the Democratic Party to herd the blue team's candidates to victory in 2016, Stech said EMILY's List has a mutual interest in seeing candidates who share Clinton's ideology get elected.
Without women, Democrats lose. And if Democrats lose the House and Senate to Republicans again, Clinton won't be able to put into effect much of her agenda should she make it to the White House, anyway, Stech said.
But unlike the party committees – and Republican and conservative women's groups that have comparable missions – EMILY's List is willing to come to blows with candidates who share its values if they get in the way of its female recruits.
Party officials will sometimes ask respected community members to seek elected office and will offer financial support to candidates who meet certain criteria, but they do not otherwise endorse in primary elections.
Various women's groups on the right end of the political spectrum have followed the lead set by the party committees and established themselves as non-profits, which legally prohibits them from supporting candidates or their affiliated committees. They instead focus on issue advocacy.
That has the effect this election cycle of keeping them from outright endorsing the only Republican female presidential candidate, Carly Fiorina.
One, the Susan B. Anthony List, a pro-life group that, like EMILY's List, focuses on the politics of abortion, could legally endorse Fiorina if it wanted to. Yet it has opted to lend its support to all of the GOP presidential candidates who support a ban on abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, regardless of their gender or prospects of being elected.
Mallory Quigley, SBA List's Communications Director, told DailyMail.com in a statement, 'It is no surprise EMILY's List is getting behind Hillary Clinton – they share the same extreme position of supporting abortion on demand, all the way up until the moment of birth, for any reason, at taxpayer's expense.'
'For our part, Susan B. Anthony List is completely focused on electing a pro-life president who will advocate for and sign into law the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act,' she said. 'We are praising all of the thirteen likely and declared candidates have stated their support for this bill and encouraging them to go on offense on this issue. We plan to make this the defining abortion issue of the 2016 general election.'
Just two declared and one expected Republican presidential candidate out of a field of 16 – Donald Trump, former New York Governor George Pataki and Ohio Governor John Kasich, who will make official his bid at the end of this month – have declined to state their positions on the issue.
The rest share SBA's beliefs and will therefore share it's blessing to run - all 13 of them.
Concerned Women for America, a group that's stated mission is 'to protect and promote Biblical values among all citizens' and counts among its core principles 'the sanctity of life,' told DailyMail.com that it believes that a 'candidate must be chosen on merit.'
'While we look forward eagerly to the first women president, we cannot support a candidate purely based on gender,' Penny Nance, CEO and President of CWA, said. 'We very much like Carly Fiorina, but have not endorsed a candidate.'
She added, 'Incidentally, I think Carly Fiorina would agree. She expects to win the voters support based on her ability to perform. May the best man or woman win.'
EMILY's List's Stech said her group's willingness to get involved in primaries are its ingredients to success. That it endorses female candidates early in the process is what has made it more effective than women's groups on the other side of the aisle, she said.
'You can't just sit on the sidelines and hope that women make it through,' she said, stressing that her organization considers a multitude of factors when deciding which female politicians to back, the most important of which is that they are the best candidates for the jobs they are seeking and because they have the right perspective.
It's a method that even conservatives will admit has cemented the organization's status as a political powerhouse.
Mindy Finn, the principal at Empowered Women, a new group on the right, and a senior adviser to the Republican National Committee, said 'there's no question that having a motivated base of women is really powerful.'
'There has been some efforts that have grown in the last couple years' to build a women's movement on the right that is as influential as EMILY's List, she said, 'but there's still a lot of work to be done.'
Other conservative, women's groups operating outside the party apparatus have focused their efforts on persuading women to vote for Republicans rather than recruiting them and then financially supporting their runs for office.
Independent Women's Forum, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, will spend the 2016 election cycle talking 'to women about how a smaller, less intrusive government provides women and their families with the freedom to make the choices that make the most sense for them -- whether in education, healthcare, the workplace, or at home.'
'Our research shows that when we give women the facts they recognize that more one-size-fits all solutions are not the answer,' said Sabrina Schaeffer, executive director of IWF.
Schaeffer said, 'It's exciting to see a woman with the right policies working to reach the White House' and that 'Fiorina's business experience, commitment to individual liberty and free market policies, and confidence in all Americans is a stark contrast to Hillary Clinton's identity politics and her stale, top-down government solutions.'
But she, like, the president of CWA, said Fiorina's gender shouldn't be the reason conservatives support her for president.
'Hopefully having her in the race means that we can get past gender politics and look at policies that actually help women and their families so that we can ensure a stronger economy and more plentiful job opportunities for all,' Schaeffer said.
Empowered Women is seeking to tap into the same vein as IWF but differs in that its goal is to create a nationwide network of Republican women who are loosely affiliated with the group and speak to the media under its banner from a perspective the organization hopes will attract women who consider themselves independent to the Republican Party.
Only when the group has a reliable base of women voters, said EW's Finn, can the GOP move on to the 'next step which is wanting to actually invest through their pocketbook and their contribution.'
She said the grassroots group is 'taking a step back and doing a lot of research...in this initial phase, because we believe that there's an need for creative new ideas on those issues, but also even to communicate how existing conservative economics and policy can achieve those ends as opposed' to federal mandates.'
Already, the group has a 200-strong membership in D.C. It's still pre-launch in New York City but expects that chapter it to be equally large when it gets in full swing later this month.
EMILY's List's Stech said that even if conservative groups threw their support behind Fiorina, who's averaging two percent in the polls, she'd have a difficult time gaining traction in 2016.
The former Hewlett Packard executive has made the case that she would be the best candidate to face Clinton because she's a woman, too. Her nomination to the Republican Party ticket would help erase the GOP's gender gap, she says.
Fiorina frequently spends the better part of her speeches talking about misogyny and Hillary Clinton.
Stech said a plan like Fiorina's is fundamentally flawed because 'at the end of the day her strategy is to tear down, and people want to know what you're going to do.'
'Women trying to tear down other women,' she said, 'isn't a winning campaign strategy.'