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Women face glass ceiling among elite donors

November 12, 2013

Madison – Women have long been on the short end of a gender pay gap with men – they now earn about 77 cents for every dollar paid to a guy – but the breach is even greater among high-end campaign contributors where women donate only about 25 cents for every $1 doled out by men.

A Wisconsin Democracy Campaign review found $3 of every $4 from Wisconsin’s top echelon of campaign contributors – households that donated $20,000 or more in 10 years – come from men even though women are half the state’s population and their social, political and economic clout has grown.

This gender divide among high-end, special interest campaign contributors suggests that women have woefully less access and sway than men with policymakers because big campaign contributions remain a critical means to influence government policy and spending.

The Democracy Campaign reviewed about 54,700 contributions from individuals and couples who contributed $20,000 or more to partisan statewide and legislative candidates during two 10-year periods – between 1993 and 2002 and between 2003 and 2012 – and found:

  • Contributions from women in top donor households nearly quadrupled between the two 10-year time periods, but men continued to contribute about three times more than women in both decades.

The 264 households that contributed $20,000 or more from 1993 through 2002 doled out a total of $8.62 million. Men contributed $6.45 million or 75 percent of the contributions and women contributed $2.05 million, or 24 percent. Another $121,449, or 1.4 percent, came from couples or individuals whose gender could not be determined. These top donors represented a half-percent of all the individuals, couples and families that made large individual contributions from 1993 through 2002, but their donations comprised 17 percent of the total $50.7 million in large individual contributions to partisan statewide and legislative candidates during this period.

The 716 households that contributed $20,000 or more from 2003 through 2012 doled out $30.32 million. Men contributed $22.32 million or about 74 percent of those contributions and women contributed $7.87 million or 26 percent. Another $129,387, or four-tenths of a percent, came from couples or individuals whose gender could not be determined. This group of high-end donors again represented a half-percent of all the individuals, couples and families that made large individual contributions from 2003 through 2012, but their donations comprised 25 percent of the total $123.4 million in large individual contributions to partisan statewide and legislative candidates during this period.

  • Contributions from these high-end donors, especially from men, favored Republican candidates for statewide office and the legislature regardless of gender. Women gave a third more to Republicans than Democrats between 1993 and 2002, but that gap substantially widened between 2003 and 2012 when women from $20,000-plus donor households contributed nearly twice as much to Republicans as Democrats.

In households that donated $20,000 or more from 1993 through 2002 men contributed $4.61 million to Republicans compared to $1.83 million to Democrats. Women doled out $1.17 million to Republicans compared to $872,326 to Democrats.

Table 1
Gender Breakdown Of Campaign Contributions
From $20,000+ Households To Partisan Candidates
1993 – 2002

Contributor
Gender
Republican
Candidates
Democratic
Candidates
Independent
Candidates
Male $4,608,493 $1,827,200 $14,050
Female $1,171,389 $872,326 $4,600
Couple $95,411 $9,940 $0
Unknown $10,298 $5,800 $0
TOTAL $5,885,591 $2,715,266 $18,650

Between 2003 and 2012 men in big-donor households contributed $15.2 million to Republicans compared to $7.1 million to Democrats. Women contributed $5.13 million to Republicans – more than four times the amount in the previous 10-year period – and $2.74 million to Democrats.

Table 2
Gender Breakdown Of Campaign Contributions
From $20,000+ Households To Partisan Candidates
2003 – 2012

Contributor
Gender
Republican
Candidates
Democratic
Candidates
Independent
Candidates
Male $15,198,388 $7,098,944 $22,485
Female $5,129,956 $2,736,910 $6,650
Couple $51,637 $29,850 $800
Unknown $46,600 $500 $0
TOTAL $20,426,581 $9,866,204 $29,935
  • Candidates for governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general were the top recipients of campaign cash from these high-end donors in both 10-year periods, and female contributors favored slightly more Democrats and female candidates between 1993 and 2002 than they did between 2003 and 2012.

Between 1993 and 2002 Republican governors led the list among male donors (Table 3) while a Democratic governor led the list among female donors (Table 4) in households that contributed $20,000 or more during the period. Topping the list of candidates who received the most from men were GOP Governors Tommy Thompson and Scott McCallum at $1.41 million and $1.14 million, respectively, followed by Democratic Governor Jim Doyle at $652,742. Among women, Doyle topped the list at $479,062 followed by McCallum at $332,069 and Thompson at $255,899.

A decade later, Republican Governor Scott Walker received the most from men and women in high-end donor households – $8.32 million from men and $2.59 million from women between 2003 and 2012 (Tables 5 & 6). Doyle was next at $2.76 million from men and $1.1 million from women. Democrat Tom Barrett – a candidate for governor in 2010 general and the 2012 recall elections – rounded out the top three recipients getting $1.58 million from men and $674,084 from women.

  • Among donors who contributed $50,000 or more in the two 10-year periods, women were scant. There were nine men and only one woman who contributed $50,000 or more from 1993 through 2002 – a 9 to 1 ratio. That improved only slightly from 2003 through 2012 when there were 81 men and 17 women who contributed $50,000 or more – a 5 to 1 ratio.

The only woman who contributed $50,000 or more from 1993 through 2002 was Mary Kohler, a longtime backer of conservative Republican candidates and causes in Wisconsin and across the country. She gave $51,985 to 67 Republican legislative and statewide candidates and fundraising committees. Kohler and her husband Terry, a past unsuccessful candidate for governor, own Windway Capital in Sheboygan which manufactures commercial cookware and kitchen accessories.

Among the 17 $50,000-plus female donors between 2003 and 2012 were six women who gave $100,000 or more, and one who contributed for than a half a million dollars.

Diane Hendricks of Beloit doled out $556,175. Hendricks owns ABC Supply, one of the nation’s largest wholesale roofing and construction industry companies, which she started with her late husband. Hendricks is one of the richest women in America with an estimated worth of $3.8 billion, according to Forbes Magazine. She backs Republican candidates and most of her total giving between 2003 and 2012 was to Walker – $519,100 – for his 2010 general election and 2012 recall races.

Table 3
Top 10 Recipients Of Contributions* From Men
1993 – 2002

Candidate Party Office** Amount
Thompson, Tommy G R G $1,407,904.00
McCallum, Scott R LG, G $1,139,658.61
Doyle, Jim D AG, G $652,741.61
Barrett, Tom D G $114,200.00
Shibilski, Kevin D S, LG $108,448.00
Jensen, Scott R R A $105,077.00
George, Gary D S, G $97,675.00
Rosenzweig, Peggy R S $71,525.00
Darling, Alberta R S $59,830.00
Burke, Brian D S, AG $58,482.00

Table 4
Top 10 Recipients Of Contributions* From Women
1993 – 2002

Candidate Party Office** Amount
Doyle, Jim D AG,G $479,061.87
McCallum, Scott R LG, G $332,068.88
Thompson, Tommy R G $255,899.00
Barrett, Tom D G $68,500.00
Shibilski, Kevin D S, LG $39,408.00
Falk, Kathleen D G $37,100.00
Farrow, Margaret R S, LG $33,468.88
Rosenzweig, Peggy R S $27,400.00
George, Gary D S, G $24,525.00
Lawton, Barbara D LG $23,750.00

Table 5
Top 10 Recipients Of Contributions* From Men
2003 – 2012

Candidate Party Office** Amount
Walker, Scott R G $8,321,232.32
Doyle, Jim D AG, G $2,763,738.57
Barrett, Tom D G $1,583,744.41
Green, Mark R G $1,079,492.26
Darling, Alberta R S $460,325.00
Assembly Democratic Campaign Committee D A $440,663.74
Van Hollen, JB R AG $423,093.72
Committee to Elect a Republican Senate R S $286,462.04
Kleefisch, Rebecca R LG $268,844.55
State Senate Democratic Committee D S $265,872.39

Table 6
Top 10 Recipients Of Contributions* From Women
2003 – 2012

Candidate Party Office** Amount
Walker, Scott R G $2,587,231.29
Doyle, Jim D AG, G $1,100,457.74
Barrett, Tom D G $674,083.56
Green, Mark R G $538,758.23
Darling, Alberta R S $185,185.00
Falk, Kathleen D AG, G $126,136.60
Van Hollen, JB R AG $116,270.75
Kleefisch, Rebecca R LG $115,660.00
Assembly Democratic Campaign Committee D S $105,469.35
Neumann, Mark R G $61,375.00

*Figures in the tables represent contributions from households that generated $20,000 or more in contributions during a 10-year period.

**G – Governor, LG – Lieutenant Governor, AG – Attorney General, S – Senate, A – Assembly