Ellen Malcolm: Filling the Smoke-Filled Vacuum for Women Candidates With AM-Election-WomenJOAN MOWER , Associated Press
Oct. 19, 1988 12:18 PM ET
WASHINGTON (AP) _ Bolstered by a personal fortune worth millions, Ellen Malcolm is on her way to becoming a force in the Democratic Party, a power-broker with the clout to make and break candidates.
Forget the men in smoke-filled rooms. Malcolm is a new breed of wheeler- dealer, driven by a conviction that society will be a better place if more women are elected to high office.
To that end, Malcolm four years ago created Emily's List, a political action committee that funnels money to select women candidates around the country.
Malcolm has three criteria for her list. Candidates must be Democrats, support the Equal Rights Amendment and endorse a pro-choice stand on abortion.
''When you're on Emily's List, that really means something,'' said Malcolm, 41, a tall, straight-talking woman with few pretenses and a relaxed manner.
Usually what it means is enough money, early on, for a candidate to run a viable campaign through the general election.
''Emily's List was absolutely crucial to my campaign,'' said Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., one of the two women in the Senate.
Peggy Connally, spokeswoman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said it is a ''tremendous boost'' to be placed on the list. ''They are willing to come out early and endorse; most national groups are reluctant to make an early endorsement.''
Malcolm came up with the name Emily's List to underscore her commitment to backing candidates early in a race. The name Emily stand for ''Early Money Is Like Yeast'' - it makes the dough rise.
In 1986, Emily's List endorsed only two candidates, Mikulski and Harriet Woods, who lost her bid for the Missouri Senate seat.
This year, nine women - all House candidates running in open seats or trying to oust incumbents - have been recommended as beneficiaries of more than $500,000 collected from list members.
Emily's List differs from many political action committees in the way it distributes money. PACs are restricted from giving more than $5,000 in the primary and $5,000 in the general to any candidate.
Emily's List recommends women and then asks people to write checks to the candidate of choice. Emily's List processes the checks and distributes them.
The practice, called ''bundling,'' allows a candidate to collect unlimited funds from a number of invididuals, each of whom can give no more than $1,000 in the primary and the general election. About 2,000 people contribute to candidates on Emily's List.
A committed Democrat, Malcolm worked in a variety of public interest jobs before she founded Emily's List. She was an organizer for Common Cause, the public interest lobby, and served as press secretary for the National Women's Political Caucus.
Malcolm's wealth springs from her multi-million dollar inheritance from her great-grandfather, a founder of IBM. She serves as a volunteer, giving Emily's List a maximum allowable contribution of $25,000 annually.
A graduate of Hollins College, Malcolm holds a degree in experimental psychology and a business degree from George Washington University.
One political development that disconcerts Malcolm is the failure of Democratic women to move more quickly into high positions. Republican women, many of them moderates, have made faster gains in modern day politics.
''The reason Republican woman are moving up quickly is that the party helps recruit women,'' providing them with needed financial support early in their careers, she said.
Ann Stone, a fund-raiser for Republican candidates, thinks there are other reasons why more GOP women get elected, even though more women run as Democrats.
''Polling data shows that Democrats have a problem being seen as competent and Republicans have a problem being seen as passionate,'' she said. That perception helps Republican women because they are easily able to counter the notion they are unfeeling.