AMERICAN women are realizing they have financial power to support female political candidates and are doing so in greater numbers than ever before, said Ellen Malcolm, founder and president of EMILY's List, a Washington-based fund-raising group for Democratic women who are pro-choice.
Ms. Malcolm, in Cambridge, Mass., for a panel discussion at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government, said 1992 was a historic election year for female candidates, as 24 were elected to the House of Representatives and four to the Senate.
``A lot of women around this country are taking out their checkbooks and writing checks and making history,'' she said.
Each election year, EMILY's List endorses candidates in national races and urges its members to contribute to their campaigns. In the last election cycle, the organization raised more than $6.2 million for 55 female House and Senate candidates.
This year, the group will be watching key contests featuring women candidates. About 10 Democratic women who are pro-choice will run in gubernatorial races next year, while about six states will see women run for the Senate, Malcolm says.
Presently, Malcolm is interested in two candidates who face gubernatorial challenges in California and Texas. Golden State Treasurer Kathleen Brown, who may run in the June Democratic primary, could eventually face off against Gov. Pete Wilson (R), Malcolm says. And in the Lone Star State, Gov. Ann Richards (D) faces a feisty reelection contest against George Bush, son of President Bush. ``It is going to be a no-holds-barred Texas-style campaign,'' Malcolm says.
EMILY's List, which was founded in 1985, stands for Early Money Is Like Yeast, Malcolm says, because ``it makes the dough rise.'' She says she founded the grass-roots group out of ``complete frustration'' over what she describes as the male-dominated scene of political fund-raising.
And the group has grown dramatically. Membership in 1992 swelled from 3,500 to 24,000. Membership is now 25,000, but Malcolm expects it to climb to 35,000 by the 1994 elections.
The group has been criticized, however, for the way it raises campaign money through ``bundling,'' that is, taking a large number of single campaign contributions and mailing them to a candidate. Though federal law limits individual and political-action-committee contributions, there is no limit on the number of separate checks that can be bundled.
``What we are doing is finding a way to raise money in small contributions for the women that offsets that special-interest money,'' Malcolm says. ``The results of what we have accomplished clearly show that this is campaign-finance reform.''