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PACs and Donors

Our 2020 PAC report 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. Our 2020 PAC report on the 2018 election cycle, analyzes the data collected by the Center for Responsive Politics with a gender lens. PACs and donors have a vital role to play as changemakers in 2020 and beyond and helping to increase women's representation. 

Scroll further for the key highlights from this report, as well as a list of actions PACs and donors can take to be changemakers and help advance women's representation and leadership in the United States.

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Key Findings

  • Overall, individual donors are less likely to be women, and women who do donate on average donate less than men. This can have a gendered outcome for candidates and campaigns.
  • It takes more money to win as a woman. Although success rates between men and women are roughly equal when in the same race type, to win as a woman requires more money. Specifically women who won in challenger and open seat races significantly outraised those who lost. 
  • Republican women are particularly underfunded. Republican women received the least amount of funding from both PACs and individual donors. Additionally, while the number of women elected to Congress in 2018 arched a record high, the number of Republican women declined. 
  • Intentional action must be taken to level the electoral playing field. Due to the structural imbalance of power and systemic barriers women face to increasing their representation, intentional actions, such as committing to recruiting and funding more women candidates, will have a profound impact on women's representation. 

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Evergreen Recommendations for PACs and Donors

  • PACs should fund women in open-seat races at the same rate as men. This is true for both Membership PACs and Leadership PACs, both of which overfund incumbent men at the cost of women and people color running in open-seat races. 
  • PACs should become active agents for change by setting funding targets for women candidates. These funding targets for women candidates should increase with every election cycle until gender parity is reached in Congress.
  • PACs, like political parties, should consult with organizations that recruit and train women candidates. Building with these organizations PACs can use their role as political gatekeepers to build a pool of candidates and design enforcement mechanisms for reaching legislative gender parity.
  • 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. Members of membership PACs should call on their leadership to commit to funding more women and call them out when they fail.

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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. 

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