LPAC, the first super PAC dedicated to increasing lesbian participation in politics, announced the first round of its 2012 political slate on Thursday, with a mix of pro-LGBT and pro-women candidates and ballot initiative campaigns around the country joining Tammy Baldwin as recipients of support.
“We’re looking for places where our dollars can have maximum impact,” said LPAC treasurer Sarah Schmidt in a telephone interview with The Advocate. “We aren’t a multi-million dollar PAC yet, and so we want to be really strategic about how we invest those dollars and make those contributions,” she said.
Where ballot measures are concerned, the group has decided to direct money to Mainers United for Marriage and Florida’s No On Amendment 6. The campaign to reinstate the Maine law repealed in 2009 could mark the first time voters pass a ballot initiative brought by marriage equality supporters. The Florida amendment aims to restrict women’s reproductive freedoms, an issue front and center this week following Missouri Senate candidate Rep. Todd Akin’s comments that victims of “legitimate rape” don’t get pregnant because “the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”
Schmidt could not attribute any fundraising to Akin’s specific remarks. She said the board’s overriding concern was the general climate of hostility toward women's rights, which is why LPAClaunched this summer.
“I don’t know that that’s actually drawn people to support us, but it’s sort of a mixed blessing if that’s the case,” she said. “I don’t think he’s hurt our fundraising, but I couldn’t say it’s really helped.”
On the candidate side, in addition to Baldwin, LPAC will support Elizabeth Warren in her bid to become the first woman to represent Massachusetts in the Senate; U.S Rep. Donna Edwards of Maryland, a women’s and marriage equality advocate; Vermont governor Peter Shumlin, who spearheaded the first successful effort to enact marriage equality legislatively; and three candidates for Michigan’s Supreme Court, which is expected to hear cases of importance for LGBT and women’s rights soon. Those candidates are Bridget Mary McCormack, Judge Connie Marie Kelley, and Judge Shelia Johnson.
Schmidt said in making its selections, the all-women board was guided by the “principles and values of the PAC” and the wide-ranging geographic spread of its donors. LPAC is dedicated to “ending discriminatory treatment of LGBT individuals and their families; protecting access to reproductive freedom and quality healthcare; and furthering social, racial, and economic justice for all Americans,” according to its website. As a hybrid PAC, it is allowed to support independent expenditures and candidates directly.
The advisory board of about 10 members holds periodic conference calls and makes the decisions on where to invest. In addition to Schmidt, some of the other board members include Chicago Cubs co-owner Laura Ricketts, longtime LGBT leader Urvashi Vaid, and a handful of key players from the successful marriage equality campaign in New York.
While exact figures were not available, Schmidt said the PAC has raised at least $300,000 so far, putting it nearly one-third of the way to its $1 million goal for the 2012 cycle. By comparison, the leading Republican and Democratic super PACs plan to raise hundreds of millions of dollars, if not more, this year.
LPAC’s fundraising to date includes $112,000 for Baldwin, the result of a matching campaign the board launched last week. Donors responded with $62,000 and the board kicked in its promised $50,000, with the money being directed to EMILY’s List WOMEN VOTE for TV ads in Wisconsin.
Baldwin could use the reinforcements right now. Two new polls indicate that Tommy Thompson, a former four-term governor, has consolidated support since upsetting tea party rivals in the Republican primary last week, and in one survey from Marquette University, he enjoys a nine-point lead over the seven-term Democratic congresswoman from Madison.
“I still feel really, really optimistic about that race,” said Schmidt. “I think she is the superior candidate. She’s got a ton of support at the grassroots level. I think her get-out-the-vote effort is substantial. She’s been working hard for months and months, and I know it’s going to be a tight race, but I feel optimistic.”
Baldwin would be the first openly gay person elected to the U.S. Senate and the first woman to represent her state in the chamber, which makes her race critically important to LPAC. The group is working with women’s and LGBT political organizations to ensure the most effective deployment of resources this election cycle.
Schmidt declined to say how much LPAC plans to dedicate to each of its chosen contests, but she said that more endorsements could be forthcoming. The PAC is bipartisan, although for the time being, only Democratic candidates have received backing.
“We had hoped to find a Republican or two that we could endorse, but that didn’t happen in this slate,” she said. “It might. It’s slim pickings right now.”