An inside look at the rise of female campaign donors

Betsey Guzior, Bizwomen engagement editor
Oct 21, 2016, 11:23am CDT Updated: Oct 21, 2016, 12:16pm CDT


Diane Hendricks, chief executive officer of ABC Supply Co., is vice chair of the Trump Victory Committee. She has donated $5.48 million to conservative causes this election cycle.

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Women are influencing the 2016 election from a place where it counts — their pocketbooks.

This election cycle is on track to have a record number of contributions from women to national political campaigns.

The Center for Responsive Politics and the Washington Post found that 37 women rank among the top 150 donors. As of the end of June, those donors contributed nearly $63 million to super PACs.

They still are underrepresented among the top 20 donors — just four, and none are in the top 10. But it’s still better than the number of major female donors in 2012, when 31 women ranked among the top 150 donors. Combined, those women contributed $70 million to super PACs, meaning female donors are on track to beat that record in 2016, according to the Post.

Hillary Clinton‘s candidacy is part of the reason; but women are donating to Donald Trump’s campaign in numbers close to what the 2012 and 2008 GOP candidates raised from women. And studies show women tend to be gender-neutral when choosing which candidate to support.

In fact, women played a big part to influence the GOP nomination during the primaries. Linda McMahon, the former CEO of the WWE, threw her support behind Chris Christie’s bid, but since then has given $6 million to Rebuilding America Now, a super PAC supporting Trump. Laura Perlmutter, a one-time film producer and the wife of the CEO of Marvel Entertainment, gave $2 million to Conservative Solutions PAC, which backed Marco Rubio’s campaign, but also contributed almost $500,000 to Trump’s campaign.

In an era of big donors (egged on by the Citizens United decision that allowed unfettered donations that didn’t need to be reported), Lauren Leader-Chivée, the co-founder of All in Together, an advocacy group for women in political leadership, wants women to know they can harness their political power without forking over six- and seven-figure donations.

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