The Maine Archive on the Queer Resources Directory

Sunday, March 17, 1996

Women, gays give McCormick funding edge

Staff Writer
©Copyright 1996 Guy Gannett Communications

WASHINGTON - State Sen. Dale McCormick of Hallowell has emerged as one of the best-funded candidates for Congress in the country, thanks to the national support she has received from women and gay-rights activists.

According to records released last week by the Federal Election Commission, McCormick has raised more money than most of the 250 other candidates who are running for the House this year.

McCormick is challenging Tom Allen, a former Portland city councilor, in the Democratic primary in June. The winner will take on Rep. James Longley Jr. in November.

As of Jan. 1, McCormick had raised more than $246,000, making her the 10th best-funded House challenger in the country. Allen had raised one-fourth that amount, about $63,000.

McCormick's successful fund-raising efforts could pose a serious threat to Allen, who had been viewed as the early front-runner to challenge Longley.

McCormick said she will spend about half of her money on television advertising.

McCormick's success in fund-raising is unusual, because most first-time candidates for Congress struggle to raise money. And first-time candidates usually raise most of their money in-state from friends, neighbors and party regulars.

But McCormick has raised most of her money from hundreds of people in 48 states, plus the District of Columbia and the United Arab Emirates.

An examination of a 300-page list of donors filed by McCormick shows that:

As of Friday, McCormick maintained a formidable financial edge over Allen. According to officials from the two campaigns, McCormick has $180,000 in cash on hand; Allen has $30,000.

Allen says he is confident that his fund raising will pick up over the next month. McCormick said her financial strength shows that her campaign is on the move.

"We've gotten a lot of momentum from our good fund raising," McCormick said.

However, McCormick could face a backlash from voters concerned with the amount of money she has raised and her dependence on out-of-state donations.

McCormick received nearly $200,000 in out-of-state donations, including $40,000 from the Washington region, $38,000 from the New York area and $24,000 from California.

In fact, Allen raised more money in Maine than McCormick.

Not aggressive in Maine

McCormick said she did not aggressively raise money in Maine last year because she did not want to compete against the people who were raising money to defeat Question 1, the anti-gay rights initiative that voters rejected in November.

She also notes that, even though a vast amount of her money comes from out of state, she had more individual contributors from Maine than Allen.

McCormick has encouraged some Maine Democrats to give a few dollars to her campaign so she can say that she has more financial supporters in Maine than Allen. It's an old tactic that several Maine politicians have used in recent years, including Sen. William Cohen and former Sen. George Mitchell.

Allen, who has been struggling to raise cash, has been talking more and more about the need to reform the way political campaigns are financed. Even though he doesn't attack McCormick directly, the implication is clear.

Allen argues that it's wrong for politicians to rely too heavily on out-of-state donations. He supports legislation that would require candi- dates to raise 60 percent of their money in-state.

"The potential problem is that a candidate would pay more attention to their out-of-state financial contributors than their in-state constituents," said Allen.

Jacqueline Potter, Allen's campaign manager, said she was "really struck" when she examined McCormick's report and "saw page after page of names from people from Idaho, Florida and California."

"They have no connection to Maine," said Potter. "I have a feeling that if these people drove into the state and stopped to get a burger on the turnpike and they were sitting in a booth next to Dale McCormick, they wouldn't know who she was."

Trying to elect women

That would be true of Billie Bobbitt, a 72-year-old retired Air Force colonel who lives in Ohio.

Bobbitt has never met McCormick, and doesn't know much about her. But last fall, Bobbitt sent a $500 check to McCormick's campaign for one reason: She wants to elect more women to Congress.

"It's about time that more women get involved in the United States Congress," said Bobbitt. "(Women) look at issues differently. They're a lot more concerned with the environment, education. It's important to focus on those gut-type issues."

Bobbitt is part of huge network of women that McCormick has tapped into thanks to a group called EMILY's List. The name is an acronym that stands for Early Money Is Like Yeast.

Founded in 1985, the group is designed to provide early money to campaigns of pro-choice Democratic women candidates. The group works like this:

EMILY's List has about 34,000 members around the country, who pledge to contribute $100 or more to at least two women candidates during each election cycle. The members are sent profiles of the candidates who have been endorsed by the leaders of EMILY's List. The members write checks directly to the candidates they choose, but send the checks back to EMILY's List headquarters in Washington. The checks are "bundled" and sent along to the candidates.

Group raised $8.2 million

EMILY's List claims to have helped elect 38 women to Congress since 1985. During the 1994 elections alone, the group raised $8.2 million.

More than half the money McCormick has raised was funneled through EMILY's List. It came from women like Stephanie Thomas of New Hampshire, a retired registrar at the University of New Hampshire.

Thomas wants to elect more women to Congress because she thinks women are more independent than men, "less apt to be influenced and more likely to be compassionate." Last September, Thomas sent McCormick a $100 check.

EMILY's List has also provided McCormick and her campaign manager with campaign training seminars.

In November, McCormick traveled to Florida to raise money for her campaign from female activists. She was the keynote speaker at the convention held by the National Organization for Women and attended a fund-raising reception held in her honor in Boca Raton. She received $1,600 in donations from the event.

In addition, McCormick received $5,500 from political action committees that represent women.

Gay activists help out

As one of the few openly gay candidates for Congress, McCormick has also received a significant amount of money from gay and lesbian activists.

Members of a Washington-based group called the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund donated $3,300 to the McCormick campaign.

McCormick also received a $5,000 check from the Human Rights Campaign Fund, the nation's largest group that promotes the rights of lesbians and gay men.

In December, McCormick was the guest of honor at a party in Washington at the home of Elizabeth Birch and Hilary Rosen, who are partners. Rosen is president of the Recording Industry Association of America and Birch is the executive director of the Human Rights Campaign Fund.

"The place was packed. It was a mob scene," said Michael Bento of Washington, who contributed $100 to McCormick at the fund raiser.

McCormick received nearly $7,300 in contributions from the Washington region during the week of the party.

And she has received a lot of individual support from homosexual activists.

Timothy McFeeley, the former executive director of the Human Rights Campaign Fund, sent her $150.

Candace Gingrich, the openly gay sister of House Speaker Newt Gingrich, gave her $100.

Herbert King, an openly gay man who lives in California, also sent McCormick a $100 check. King met McCormick 10 years ago at a Democratic National Convention.

"I support her because she would become the first openly gay or lesbian person ever elected," said King. "I think it's important that a person achieve such an office because the public has the wrong impression of gays."

Family, friends contribute

McCormick has also boosted her fund-raising efforts with the help of her family, friends and political supporters.

Friends of her father, a retired book publisher in New York, hosted one fund-raising event in late November at an apartment at Central Park West. The event attracted the editors of Glamour and Cosmopolitan magazines, and several other editors, writers and literary agents. She netted more than $4,000.

"Dale spoke, and she was very good," said Mary Yost Crowley, a New York literary agent. "She seemed to stand for all of the things I stand for - women's rights, the environment."

Though McCormick says her successful fund-raising efforts have given her campaign credibility and momentum, she seems uneasy at times talking about the money she has raised.

When asked if her father helped her raise money in the New York area, she said "ask Ethan," referring to her campaign manager, Ethan Strimling. When asked whether her father held a fund raiser for her, she again referred the question to Strimling.

She also didn't want to talk about how much money she planned to raise in the primary. "Talk to Ethan about that," she said. (He later said the goal is $500,000.)

McCormick may recognize that money, while an important ingredient in a campaign, can also have negative effects. Some voters are skeptical about the way political campaigns are financed, including the influence of out-of-state money and groups that bundle money such as EMILY's List.

It's an issue that Allen will emphasize.

Allen has outlined a plan to reform the way political campaigns are financed. It would ban political action committee contributions, place limits on out-of-state funds, and impose voluntary spending limits in exchange for subsidized postage and radio and television time for candidates.

"Campaigns are too costly," Allen said. "They require candidates to spend too much time raising money and not enough (time) raising issues."

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