When the Women's Political Committee celebrated its anniversary Saturday night--and marked 10 years of Los Angeles fund-raising by women for Democratic women candidates--those celebrating were clear that the $1 million raised so far was only a beginning.
As Maryland Sen. Barbara Mikulski, the first Democratic woman elected to the U.S. Senate, said: "If you have done this in 10 years, I can't wait until 1997." In the crowd at Ira and Adele Yellin's in Santa Monica: Dorothy Jonas, now government affairs specialist Fran Savitch, back-from-New-York attorney Kathy Brown, Allison Thomas, Marcia Herman, Morgan Fairchild, publicist Linda Hunt, TV's Heidi Shulman and Mickey Kantor, and elected officials like Los Angeles school board member Jackie Goldberg, Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco), Councilwoman Joy Picus, Rep. Mel Levine (D-Santa Monica) and Sen. Alan Cranston.
A heavyweight turnout, and indicative of how far women have come in political circles.
"In the last 10 years, two things have happened: Women candidates are now considered to be viable. And, secondly, women have learned how to ask for money--for both men and women candidates," said attorney Lisa Specht, named by many political women as L.A.'s top woman fund-raiser for Democratic candidates.
But women in both parties sound a recurring theme: It's real tough out there raising money for women and from women.
"The difficulty is partly because of the perception of many men that they will give just to men," explained Mimi West, a WPC board member. "Women have not been trained to give. They will buy expensive clothes, but when it comes to a political contribution, they will ask their husbands . . . they won't reach into their pockets."
The Biggest Problem
On the GOP side, Maureen Frisch, an executive involved with the bipartisan L.A. Women's Campaign Fund, said in a phone interview that the problem of raising money for women is "a question we've been dealing with for years. It's difficult . . . and encouraging women to support women is the biggest problem. Some women seem reluctant to come up with significant dollars."
But it's not just women's responsibility to raise money for women--and the traditional sources for candidates don't come through for women, Frisch said: "It's really been a battle to go to traditional funding organizations, like companies, political action committees, and it's an ongoing problem convincing them to get behind women candidates and really support them. . . . It's a constant problem of establishing our credibility and being aggressive."
Donna Bojarsky, a former aide to Mayor Tom Bradley, said fund-raising has gotten easier "since the perception now is that women can win. There are many more visible examples."
But, she quickly added a caveat: "Women still need to be educated in the habit of giving. . . . Some are working on careers and they don't want to jeopardize them by being involved in political causes. Women are just not familiar with the business aspects of political giving."
Professional fund-raising whiz Joyce Valdez, who has raised well over $100 million for GOP candidates in the last 24 years, said in a phone interview that fund-raising for women was "tough. The time has arrived that women candidates are really and truly accepted. But they are still not on a parity with men. . . . I've never known a woman candidate who could have a dinner and raise $500,000. Those days haven't arrived."
As Valdez explained it, three-fourths of a dinner's money comes from table sponsors--"and it's difficult to get table sponsors in great numbers to agree to fill those tables."
In California, Valdez pointed out, "We've never had the real test of having a woman run for U.S. Senate, or governor, or lieutenant governor and those top positions are the real tests."
YET ANOTHER FESTIVAL--This one is vital to Los Angeles, faced with federal cutbacks in funding for the Community Development Department. So when a crowd of stars gets together to celebrate the U.S. Constitution at the Hollywood Bowl on Oct. 17, the money raised will help the CDD and its work with a network of more than 100 nonprofit human service agencies. The more than 2,500 performers at the festival--the first in what sponsors say will be a yearly tribute to the American family--include Shirly Jones, Art Linkletter, astronaut Gordon Cooper and the UCLA and USC Marching Bands. The City of Los Angeles Foundation, just set up to handle such funds, will be the actual benefitee.
WHOOPS--There were no programs at the tables, but we were told by a staffer that the closing act for the United Cerebral Palsy benefit Friday night was the Gay Men's Chorus. It was not. They performed the night before at the dinner benefiting the American Civil Liberties Union. The performers at the UCP dinner were from the UCLA Men's Glee Club directed by Don Weiss and the USC University Men's Chorale, directed by Craig Fenter.