- Our Research
- PACs & Donors
PACs & Donors
Our research shows that PACs and donors have an active role to play in leveling the playing field for women in politics. Even as some political scientists dispute the impact campaign spending has on electoral outcomes, anyone following the 2020 primaries knows that the viability of a candidate is often evaluated in part by her fundraising ability. Therefore, to ensure that more women can viably run for office, PACs and donors ought to be more intentional about supporting all women candidates, across the political spectrum.
In 2016, and with the support of a Network Grant from the Democracy Fund, we teamed up with the Center for Responsive Politics and Common Cause Education Fund to research PAC and donor giving to the men and women who ran in 2010-2016. Our end-goal was to devise strategies to challenge them to set targets for the percentage - or overall amount - that they give to women candidates. Scroll further for the key highlights from this report, as well as a list of actions PACs and donors may take to be changemakers and help advance women's representation and leadership in the United States.
*NEW RESEARCH COMING SOON*
In 2019, RepresentWomen teamed up with the Center for Responsive Politics once more to provide updated data and timely recommendations for the 2020 election cycle. Stay tuned for more information.
Download Top 25 PACS 2010-2014 Top Donors 2010-2014 What Are PACs?
- Overall, individual donors, while much less likely to be women themselves, give equally to men and women running for Congress, including in open-seat races.
- Top Democratic women donors give proportionally more to women candidates than the top Democratic men.
- Gender does not appear to play a role among the largest individual Republican donors, with both men and women underfunding Republican women candidates.
- PACs give fairly equitably to incumbent women and challengers, but underfund women running in open-seat races.
- Membership PACs overfund incumbent women but, like other PACs, underfund women running in open seats.
- A disproportionate amount of outside spending goes to opposing Republican women.
Evergreen Recommendations for PACs and Donors
- PACs, membership PACs, and leadership PACs should fund women in open-seat races at the same rate they fund men.
- PACs should set targets for the number of women candidates - especially Republican women candidates - and increase that target in each election cycle until parity is reached.
- PACs, like political parties, should consult with organizations that recruit and train women candidates to build the pool of candidates and design enforcement mechanisms.
- Donors should set targets for the number of women candidates they support - high impact donors should work in concert to publicize their commitment to women candidates.
- The public should hold PACs & donors accountable for meeting their targets through withholding gifts to PACs that don't meet their target and by rewarding those that do.
- The pool of women donors to campaigns should be expanded.
- Action by PACs and donors to fund candidates of all genders equally will both enable more women to run viable campaigns but also elevate the discussion of the need for balanced funding of all candidates and the structural reforms necessary to achieve gender parity in our lifetimes.
We would like to thank the Center of Responsive Politics for their ongoing work in tracking campaign contributions by PACs and donations to PACs, broken down by sector and industry.