Written by Katelyn Leenhouts
CBS and Salon have recently noted a (presumably) unintended consequence of the Citizens United decision: political fundraising is increasingly monopolized by men. Women have provided around 20 percent of the funds donated to super PACs this far in the election cycle, and super PAC money is growing fast.
This disparity may not be by design, but it also shouldn’t be surprising. An AlterNet story reasons that women, who hold 75 percent of nonprofit fundraising jobs, should be skilled at getting super PAC donors to write checks, and that we should see more women on contributor lists as a result. But there’s a crucial difference between development pros and political donors: the first get paid and the second give money away. And women have less money than men by any measurement.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, women earn 81 percent of what men do. Their wealth—assets like homes and savings minus debt—is half men’s, when neither are living with partners or over age 64 [pdf]. As the CBS article points out, women make up 17 percent of Congress and run only 18 of the Fortune 500 companies (that’s 3.6 percent). The higher you look on the ladder of financial well-being and power, the greater the inequality gets.
So as billionaires provide more of the money in politics, it stands to reason that the proportion of dollars with women behind them will shrink. The Center for Responsive Politics just provides evidence to support the logic. A similar breakdown of which donors are white, black, or Latino, would surely find the white/black and white/Latino wealth gaps likewise reflected in political giving.
The idea of three-fourths of nonprofit fundraisers pushing their fellow women to win (or tie) the money race is exciting, but rich women would need to donate at much higher rates than their male counterparts and give much greater amounts to get us there. Without real limits on campaign spending, donors will never reflect the diversity of constituents, and neither will elected officials’ actions.
Katelyn Leenhouts is an intern with Common Cause California.