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A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

EMILY’s List/Women Vote!


Political leanings: Liberal

2020 total spending: $126.5 million

EMILY’s List is a political nonprofit that primarily backs Democratic women candidates who support a legal right to abortion. Women Vote!, its affiliated super PAC, uses media campaigns to encourage women to vote for EMILY’s List candidates.

EMILY’s List was organized in 1985 under the IRS tax code as a 527 political committee. Since then, EMILY’s List claims to have aided in the election of 26 senators, 150 representatives, 16 governors and nearly 1,100 state and local officials. In addition, it has raised over $600 million in donations since its founding, it says.

Ellen Malcolm is the founder, former president and current board of directors chair emerita for EMILY’s List. Alongside House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and 2016 Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, Malcolm is a recipient of Planned Parenthood Federation of America’s Margaret Sanger Award. Before creating EMILY’s List, Malcolm served as the press secretary for the National Women’s Political Caucus

In 2021, Laphonza Butler succeeded Stephanie Schriock as president of EMILY’s List. Before joining the committee, Butler was a partner at the political consulting firm SCRB Strategies, where she served as a senior adviser to Vice President Kamala Harris’ presidential campaign. She also previously worked as a senior adviser to Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign in California.

The Women Vote! super PAC was established in 2010. It boasts distributing over 10 million mail pieces, airing 49 TV ads and publishing “hundreds” of digital ads during the 2020 election cycle.

As a super PAC, Women Vote! can raise and spend money in unlimited amounts. However, it cannot directly donate to any political candidates, and must disclose its donors. Emily’s List also can raise and spend unlimited amounts, but it can donate directly to candidates and bundle contributions by passing on checks from individuals who earmark their gifts for candidates the PAC endorses. 

Women Vote! raised and spent around $47 million during the 2020 election cycle; over $23 million was spent on independent expenditures against Republicans, and another $11 million supported Democrats. Independent expenditures are political communications advocating for or against specific candidates.

Women Vote! spent almost $5.4 million to support the candidacy of President Joe Biden, the largest amount the super PAC spent to help elect a candidate. The largest amount the group spent opposing a Republican was over $4.3 million against incumbent Sen. Susan Collins, who faced Democratic challenger Sara Gideon in the Maine Senate race. Collins won the race.

In addition, it spent $3.9 million and $2.7 million to oppose Republican Sens. Joni Ernst of Iowa and Roger Marshall of Kansas, respectively. Both Republicans won their races.

In the same election cycle, EMILY’s List raised and spent around $80 million. It gave about $21.3 million to Women Vote! in 2020.

The super PAC’s top individual donor was Donald Sussman, chief investment officer and founder of hedge fund Paloma Partners Management Company, who gave $4.1 million in 2020. Michael Bloomberg and Thomas Secunda, co-founders of Bloomberg LP, gave $1 million and $500,000, respectively.

Sussman and Bloomberg have donated $105,000 and $600,000, respectively, to Women Vote! for the 2022 cycle. In total, the super PAC has raised $3.5 million and spent $2.7 million, as of Jan. 31.

Last year, Women Vote! spent almost $2 million on independent expenditures to support Karen Carter Peterson, a Democratic state senator from Louisiana, to the U.S. House seat vacated by former Rep. Cedric Richmond. Democrat Troy Carter defeated Peterson in a special runoff election on April 24, 2021.

As of Jan. 31, EMILY’s List has already spent $33 million in the 2022 election cycle, including contributions of more than $2 million to state and local candidates and about $2.8 million to federal candidates. 

In January, EMILY’s List announced that it would withdraw support from Democratic Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema if she continued to block Senate Democrats’ attempts to change filibuster rules that would allow for the passage of pending voting rights legislation. The group is Sinema’s largest overall contributor, having spent nearly a half million dollars supporting her campaigns throughout her congressional career.

In an attempt to identify flippable districts and grow the Democratic majority in the House, EMILY’s List published its targets for the 2022 election in May 2021. The initial list included 27 incumbent House Republicans that EMILY’s List plans to target. 

FactCheck.org Undergraduate Fellow Cecelia Vieira contributed to this article.