EMILY’s List (EL)

EMILY’s List (EL)


EMILY’s List (EL) is a political action committee that raises millions of dollars each year for Democratic, pro-choice, female candidates running for elected office. The organization strives to make these funds available to the recipients as early as possible in each election cycle, so as to give them every opportunity to gain maximum public exposure and credibility, and thus to access additional campaign donations from a wide variety of sources thereafter. “EMILY” is an acronym standing for “Early Money Is Like Yeast,” which, as EL’s slogan puts it, “helps the [political] dough rise.”[1]

EL was established in 1985 by political activist Ellen Malcolm and another two dozen women who resolved to pool their efforts and resources in support of progressive female candidates nationwide. These founders initially gathered in Malcolm’s basement to prepare fundraising letters—geared primarily for their own friends and acquaintances—with details about the new network they were forming. Within a year, EL had amassed 1,155 members.

The group continued to experience steady growth until 1992, at which point the television program 60 Minutes aired a profile about Ellen Malcolm and EL. This exposure led to a swift, dramatic rise in membership.

Two years later EL became more of a “full-service” campaign organization, offering in-depth political consultation and engineering aggressive “get-out-the-vote” initiatives aimed at women.

In 1995 EL launched its Women Vote! project specifically to “harness the power of the gender gap and get women voters to the polls.” This was particularly important, said the organization, in light of the fact that “women tend to favor Democratic candidates, so when women vote, Democrats win.” In its effort to “educate and mobilize” female voters to actively support “pro-choice Democratic women candidates and Democrats up and down the ballot,” Women Vote! makes extensive use of polling and research, sophisticated message testing, cutting-edge data and technology, and all manner of voter-contact techniques. In 2012 alone, Women Vote! created 20 unique television ads and delivered some 4.7 million mail pieces and 148 million online impressions to potential female voters in 17 key states.

In 2001, EL implemented a Political Opportunity Program (POP) designed to train “qualified, pro-choice Democratic women” to wage successful campaigns for state and local political offices. During its first decade of activity, POP held more than 180 trainings for approximately 6,300 individuals in 36 states. Not waiting passively for good female candidates to emerge on their own, EL seeks them out by researching up-and-coming community leaders and talking to local officials all over the United States.

Formally, there are only three requirements a candidate must meet in order to be eligible for support from EMILY’s List: The candidate must be a woman, she must be a Democrat, and she must support unrestricted access to taxpayer-funded abortion-on-demand. EL has occasionally withdrawn its support from women expressing even the barest opposition to any abortion-related “right.” U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu (D-Louisiana), for instance, lost EL’s backing in 1997 after she voted in favor of a ban on the practice commonly known as “partial-birth abortion.”

Consistently accusing Republicans of conducting “a sustained assault on the right to choose and advances for women,” EL affirms: “We hold the GOP accountable. We don’t just help our candidates respond when they are attacked—we define their GOP opponents before they can hide their records.”

Whenever EL throws its support behind a particular candidate, its political professionals interact “early and often” with her campaign staffers, helping them to become adept at research, field operations, fundraising, and management.

Among the more noteworthy candidates whom EL has supported over the years are Tammy Baldwin, Barbara Boxer, Hillary Rodham Clinton, Rosa DeLauro, Dianne Feinstein, Barbara Lee, Sheila Jackson-Lee, Cynthia McKinney, Janet Napolitano, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Jan Schakowsky, Kathleen Sebelius, Hilda Solis, Nydia Velazquez, Elizabeth Warren, Maxine Waters, Diane Watson, and Lynn Woolsey. For a comprehensive list of political office holders assisted by EL, click here.

From 1985 through 2013, EL cumulatively raised more than $100 million for its preferred candidates. The organization experienced particularly dramatic growth between 2010 and 2013, expanding from 400,000 members to over 2 million during that brief period.

Ellen Malcolm served as EL’s president from 1985 until 2010, at which point she became the group’s board chair and was succeeded as president by Stephanie Schriock. The latter had previously served as national finance director for Howard Dean‘s 2004 presidential campaign, and as manager of Al Franken‘s 2008 U.S. Senate bid in Minnesota.

EL is a national partner of the America Votes coalition. To view a list of additional members belonging to this coalition, click here.[2]

For additional information on EMILY’s List, click here.


[1] One of the group’s major, long-term objectives is to help build a society where women “are equally represented at all levels of government and achieve the highest leadership positions with our legislative and executive bodies.”

[2] EL is also a constituent of the so-called “Shadow Party,” a term that DiscoverTheNetworks employs in reference to the large network of nonprofit activist groups that were initially organized by George Soros, Hillary Clinton, Harold Ickes, and others to support Democratic candidates and causes, and to guide the Democratic Party ever-further towards the political left. For a comprehensive discussion of the Shadow Party, its constituent members, and its agendas and activities, click here.

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