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In Campaign for U.S. Senate, E-M-I-L-Y Spells MONEY for Feminist Candidates

July 13, 1986|RITA BEAMISH | Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Barbara A. Mikulski of Maryland and Harriett Woods of Missouri, both in tough races for the U.S. Senate, have discovered that one of their best campaign friends is named EMILY.

Woods received $54,517 and Mikulski $63,670 through mid-June from EMILY's List, a fund-raising organization that collects contributions to help elect feminists to the Senate. There are only two women in the Senate now, both Republicans.

First Political Effort

EMILY, an acronym for "Early Money Is Like Yeast," is on its first political outing since its founding last year. Its name reflects a conviction that early contributions are the key to proving a candidate's credibility and ability to attract more money.

EMILY's efforts could be significant in Missouri and Maryland, where fund raising will be critical for hotly contested Senate races.

Mark Ulven, press secretary for Woods, said, "There has been a sort of mythology that women have a tougher time raising money, and it sort of feeds on itself," making potential givers shy away.

Woods' narrow loss to Sen. John C. Danforth in 1982, blamed in large part on a lack of money in the crucial closing weeks of the campaign, was a big impetus toward starting EMILY's List. Founder Ellen Malcolm of Washington, an IBM heiress, and other activists were convinced that more money could have turned the election around.

Even in Fund Raising

This time, Woods has almost matched former Gov. Christopher S. Bond in raising funds, taking in nearly $1.3 million through the end of March, compared to his $1.4 million, according to the Federal Election Commission.

Mikulski and Woods are the only two Senate candidates this year who meet the criteria for EMILY's support--they are Democrats with credible campaigns, favor the equal rights amendment and support a woman's right to abortion.

"We think EMILY's List is wonderful, absolutely wonderful," said Jim Abbott, press secretary for Mikulski. "EMILY's List has helped us tap into women throughout the country."

EMILY contributions of more than $50,000 were a significant part of the Maryland congresswoman's total receipts of just over $300,000 during the first three months of this year. By comparison, Democratic Rep. Michael D. Barnes, one of Mikulski's Sept. 9 primary opponents, raised $186,206 in that period, although he has led Mikulski in overall fund raising for the last 15 months.

Donor Network

EMILY operates as a "donor network," with 1,100 members who paid $100 to join and pledged to give up to $1,000 to candidates that EMILY targets for support.

The members, virtually all women, include former vice presidential candidate Geraldine A. Ferraro and actress Joanne Woodward.

They receive the EMILY political newsletter and biographical data on its favored candidates. The group collects and forwards contributions to the candidates in what is known as "bundling" of campaign donations. By acting as a conduit for individual contributions earmarked for certain candidates, the organization skirts the $5,000 federal limit of how much a political action committee may give to any one campaign.

"The real challenge is to become power brokers in terms of contributions," spokeswoman Kathleen Currie said. "Because we're a network, we're able to make sure they get more than we would if we were just a PAC," which takes non-earmarked donations and distributes them to candidates in amounts of $5,000.

"It's been spectacular," Malcolm said. "What we've identified is a way to raise a lot of money for a few races."

Aids Local Candidates

To meet federal rules requiring such organizations to give money to at least five candidates, EMILY has given small contributions to a handful of candidates in local races.

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