Money in politics with a gender lens

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Kelly Dittmar, Sarah Bryner, Gail Cooper

The role of money in political campaigns has grown significantly in the last 20 years and has drastically altered the landscape for campaigns, elections, and political participation. The cost of winning a congressional election has nearly doubled in 2012 dollars, with the average cost of winning a U.S. House seat at $1.6 million, while a successful U.S. Senate bid averages $10.35 million. The Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (FEC) decision, which allowed for unlimited spending by outside groups on election campaigns, has led to the proliferation of groups such as “Super PACs” and a significant rise in overall campaign spending. Each election cycle offers opportunities to analyze and better understand the potential short- and long-term effects of this decision. This report focuses on one dimension of the new monetary environment: gender.

“Money in Politics with a Gender Lens” is the first attempt to explore the effects of the Citizens United decision by looking specifically at how women fared as candidates and acted as donors in elections held after the U.S. Supreme Court decision in 2010. The report compares data from the 2008, 2010, and 2012 federal election campaigns; not only does this approach offer a “before and after” snapshot of the monetary environment of campaigns for men and women, but it also establishes a strong baseline of analysis for future explorations.