McCutcheon Hurts the 99% - and Women, Too

By Padmini Parthasarathy 

We all know that money talks.  If money = speech now, where does that leave women? SCOTUS just handed down the "McCutcheon vs. FEC" ruling, which lets money talk even louder than it did before. Though the $5,200 cap on contributions to individual candidates still stands, donors with deep pockets can give to as many politicians as they want without bumping against an upper  limit.

Unfortunately, most "donors with deep pockets" are men. Viveca Novak, Editorial and Communications Director at the Center for Responsive Politics, says that fewer women give money to political campaigns, and they give less when they do contribute. This is especially true when you take big donors into account.

According to the CRP, of the 644 individual donors who hit the aggregate limit in 2012, only 143 of them were women. This figure shrinks to 84 of 526 if you combine all the wealthy couples who hit the max. And of the 100 most generous campaign contributors in 2012, only 11 were women.

Now, this is a big problem for many women candidates who rely on women donors. By allowing the richest people (see: wealthy white men) in America to give as much as they want without limit, the voices of people who don’t fall into this little bracket (see: everyone but wealthy white men) are diluted.

"If you are a female donor, you are more likely to give to a female candidate than if you are a male donor," says Novak.

Doug Weber from the CRP crunched the numbers and found that female donors who bumped against the upper limit gave 31 percent of their total donations to female candidates, whereas the men only gave 19 percent of their total donations.  When you combine the donors at the upper limit, 21 percent of their money went to women--which is very close to the percentage of women in Congress. 

Studies also show that women are better represented in the donor pool when contributions are limited by law. According to CRP, in the 2004, 2006, and 2008 cycles—the only three elections that happened after the ban on unlimited "soft money" contributions to political parties and before the creation of the SuperPAC loophole—the percentage of money coming from women in the donor pool increased.  

Female Democrats rely most heavily on campaign donations from women, which means the ladies might well be outspent. 

Cathy Allen, co-founder of the Center for Women and Democracy at the University of Washington, says, "You have to wonder why a woman would give $2,500 if she knew that someone else contributing to her opponent will now be able to give a bottomless pit of cash. This is another case of the rich being able to give whatever it takes, and the rest of us wondering why we should bother giving at all. No good for either women or democracy will come from this."

Center for Responsive Politics

Female Democrats rely most heavily on campaign donations from women. 

Center for Responsive Politics

Male Republicans rely the least heavily on campaign donations from women. 

Center for Responsive Politics


Padmini Parthasarathy is a journalist based in New York, NY. She has been published in "The Times of India," Huffington Post, Tehelka THINKblog, Washington Square News, and on 

(title image via flickr)