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The name EMILY's List is an acronym for "Early Money Is Like Yeast" (i.e., it raises dough). The saying is a reference to a convention of political fundraising: that receiving lots of donations early in a race is helpful in attracting other, later donors.
EMILY's List is the nation’s largest resource for women in politics. With more than 3 million members, it is one of the largest political action committees (PAC) in the United States.
EMILY’s List political staff helps candidates build campaigns by providing technical support, raising money for and making financial contributions to the campaigns of pro-choice Democratic women running in targeted races.
Since its founding in 1985, EMILY's List has worked to elect 100 pro-choice Democratic women to the House, 19 to the Senate, 10 governors, and over five hundred women to state and local office.
EMILY's List was founded in 1985, when 25 women met in the home of Ellen Malcolm. Their goal was to form a network to raise money for pro-choice female candidates. The network was designed to provide its members with information about candidates and encourage them to write checks directly to the candidates. In 1986, EMILY's List was instrumental in electing Barbara Mikulski of Maryland, the first woman Democrat elected to the U.S. Senate in her own right.
In 2005, EMILY's List celebrated its 20th Anniversary at a gala in Washington, D.C. Speakers included then-newly elected Congresswoman Gwen Moore (WI), Senator Barbara Mikulski (MD), and Governor Jennifer Granholm (MI). Also in 2005, Ellen Moran took office as executive director for the second time to head the nation's largest political action committee, before becoming Barack Obama's communications director in November 2008.
In 2006, the group helped elect eight new pro-choice Democratic women to the U.S. House, aiding in the second largest increase in history at that time. The re-election of all female Senate incumbents and the addition of Sen. Claire McCaskill and Sen Amy Klobuchar brought the number of women in the Senate to a new high of 16. For the 2006 election, EMILY's List raised about $46 million for candidates in the 2006 contests and it is listed as the biggest PAC in the nation by Political Money Line, an independent source of information about campaign fund-raising.
On January 20, 2007, EMILY's List endorsed Hillary Clinton for president. The endorsement came within hours of Senator Clinton's announcement that she was forming an exploratory committee to run for president.
During the Democratic presidential primaries, when pro-choice organization NARAL endorsed Barack Obama over Hillary Clinton, EMILY's List was strongly critical. President Ellen R. Malcolm said, “I think it is tremendously disrespectful to Sen. Clinton - who held up the nomination of a FDA commissioner in order to force approval of Plan B and who spoke so eloquently during the Supreme Court nomination about the importance of protecting Roe vs. Wade - to not give her the courtesy to finish the final three weeks of the primary process. It certainly must be disconcerting for elected leaders who stand up for reproductive rights and expect the choice community will stand with them.”
After the conclusion of the democratic Presidential primary, EMILY's List moved their support to Barack Obama and was vocal in their protest of the McCain/Palin ticket.
The 2008 cycle was the second most successful cycle in EMILY's List history, second only to 1992's "The year of the woman". The PAC helped elect two new female senators, Sen. Kay Hagan of North Carolina and Sen. Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, and supported the election of Gov. Bev Perdue of North Carolina, the re-election of Gov. Christine Gregoire of Washington, and the successful elections of twelve new women to the United States House of Representatives.
Stephanie Schriock took over as President of EMILY’s List in 2010. Schriock previously managed the races of Sen. Al Franken in 2008 and Sen. Jon Tester in 2006.She was also Finance Director for Howard Dean’s 2004 Presidential campaign. Amy Dacey became the executive director of Emily's List in 2010, increasing membership in the organization by 500 percent.
During the 2012 election cycle, EMILY’s List raised $52 million – the most in the organization’s history. It also helped elect a record number of candidates – helping bring the number of women in the Senate to an all-time high of 20 (16D, 4R).
During the 2012 election cycle, EMILY’s List helped elect Maggie Hassan (D-NH) the only pro-choice Democratic woman governor in the country, 19 new women to the House, six Senate incumbents, and three new Senators – Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.), and Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii). All three are the first women to represent their states in the Senate. Baldwin is the first openly gay Senator in American history.
Since 2012, EMILY's List has received increasing criticism from progressives, who say that the group is on the "wrong side of the political divide" by supporting ostensibly pro-choice female candidates, regardless of how conservative they are on economic issues, and sometimes endorsing female candidates who are less supportive of reproductive rights than a male opponent. They would like to see EMILY's List expand its definition of "women's issues" to include economic issues like a higher minimum wage and expanded Social Security. Others have said that the group simply needs to focus its resources better, staying out of races where there is already an incumbent progressive Democrat and focus on other races instead.
Current endorsements, of pro-choice Democratic women, made by EMILY's List.
Successful EMILY’s List federal and statewide candidates include:
* currently serving in higher office ** no longer in office *** deceased
Over its 28-year history, EMILY’s List has expanded its scope to anticipate shifts in the way campaigns are run and to meet the needs of a changing political landscape — developing new programs to help women win.
The Political Opportunity Program (POP) was established in 2001 to develop the next generation of pro-choice Democratic women political leaders by investing in candidates at the state and local levels. POP targets its resources toward pro-choice Democratic women running for state legislatures, state constitutional offices, and key local offices. POP provides training for candidates, and technical assistance and financial support to campaigns.
WOMEN VOTE! is EMILY’s List’s independent expenditure arm which works to educate and mobilize women voters on behalf of pro-choice Democratic women candidates and Democrats up and down the ballot. The EMILY's List WOMEN VOTE! project combines polling and research, sophisticated message testing, the latest innovations in data and technology as well as good old-fashioned voter contact to mobilize millions of women voters across the country.
In 2012, EMILY’s List had the largest, most successful WOMEN VOTE! program in the organization’s history. WOMEN VOTE! mobilized women voters in 22 races and 17 states with 4.7 million mail pieces, 20 unique TV ads, over 148 million online impressions to targeted women voters. WOMEN VOTE! had a near-perfect success rate during our primary season and won 17 of the 19 races decided on November 6.
Similar groups have formed along the same lines as EMILY's List, with some slight variations. The Wish List supports pro-choice Republican women. In 1994, Joan Kirner created a similar organization in Australia by the name EMILY's List Australia.