Money in Politics

The Fundraising Gender Gap

April 01, 2020 Season 1 Episode 3
Money in Politics
The Fundraising Gender Gap
Money in Politics
The Fundraising Gender Gap
Apr 01, 2020 Season 1 Episode 3

Is there a gender gap in political fundraising? Amanda Renteria is a Senior Advisor and former Interim President of Emerge America, a national organization that recruits, trains, and provides a powerful network to Democratic women who want to run for office. She is also a former candidate for congress and governor in California. Amanda joins the Money in Politics Podcast to discuss the unique challenges and opportunities that women face when it comes to raising and spending money in politics. 

Show Notes Transcript

Is there a gender gap in political fundraising? Amanda Renteria is a Senior Advisor and former Interim President of Emerge America, a national organization that recruits, trains, and provides a powerful network to Democratic women who want to run for office. She is also a former candidate for congress and governor in California. Amanda joins the Money in Politics Podcast to discuss the unique challenges and opportunities that women face when it comes to raising and spending money in politics. 

Andrew Blumenfeld:   0:05
I'm Andrew Blumenfeld, and this is money and politics. You know, when we first developed CallTime.AI, we did so in large part because we felt there were just too many barriers to this crucial threshold issue of fundraising. I had seen firsthand how critical it was to have dollars in the door of your campaign and to have those dollars in as early as possible. It was used as a tool to evaluate the seriousness and viability of the campaign, and that is a critical tool and a critical way that campaigns communicate to the outside world, how they're doing, the progress that they're making and how seriously you should take them. But unfortunately, I also know, and I have seen that if you're running as a nontraditional candidate, if you don't fit what has historically been the traditional profile of a candidate, which, by the way, has largely been an older, straight white male, you face challenges in quickly tapping into your network financially and then also growing that a network rapidly enough to be taken seriously by all of the different institutions and power centers that often campaigns rely upon to eventually get the resources they need and communicate widely enough to get the vote out. So that's one of the reasons why I'm fascinated by and really love the work of organizations like Emerge America. They are doing such phenomenal work and have been for some time to really change the landscape, the political landscape to make it so that this issue of fundraising, but beyond fundraising, the barriers that stand in the way of nontraditional candidates, are broken down. And in particular, Emerge America is focused on women candidates. This is right from their website, "Emerge is changing the face of politics to create an inclusive democracy. We are the nation's premier organization that recruits, trains, and provides a powerful network to Democratic women who want to run for office. We inspire women to run. We hone their skills to win." So that is why I was so excited to be able to sit down and speak with Amanda Renteria. I could hardly ask for someone who knows this topic better. Amanda has spent a life in public service, and that includes making two runs for public office of her own, and she now serves as a senior adviser to Emerge America. Money in Politics is brought to you by CallTime.AI.  

Sponsor:   2:33
You're listening to money in politics, brought to you by CallTime.AI. Campaigning is hard. Why not make fundraising easy? Using automation and artificial intelligence,  CallTime.AI. let's you fundraise five times faster with easy to use tools like instant donor research, automated voice mail drop, and donor scoring. So you're always calling the right person at the right time with the right ask. Go online to CallTime.AI. to schedule a demo and start your free trial today.  

Andrew Blumenfeld:   3:03
Well, thank you so much for joining us today, Amanda. It's really great to be chatting with you. If maybe as just a starting point, it would be great if you could introduce yourself. You have a pretty phenomenal background, and I would love for people to know about it if you just kind of wanna walk us through some of the highlights there that have led you to the work that you do today.

Amanda Renteria:   3:21
So I like to call myself a career public servant. I've been in it for about 20 plus years and just have had some incredible opportunities as a senior adviser of Emerge America that trains Democratic women to run for office. The chief of operations for California's Department of Justice under Attorney General Becerra. A national political director for the 2016 presidential campaign for Hillary Clinton. And then a chief of staff in the United States Senate, where I worked for about almost a decade there. But I do like to say I started off as a public school teacher back in my hometown, where I really fell in love with public service, with government, and what it's supposed to do for all its people.

Andrew Blumenfeld:   4:07
That's great. And can you talk a little bit about how some of those experiences have informed the role that you have now a senior adviser to Emerge America?

Amanda Renteria:   4:18
Yeah, you know, when you've worked at almost every level of government now, not only in the classroom, which I consider on the very front lines but you know, local and state and federal, you kind of see the ways the system in total is supposed to work and how all the different layers really add to itself. And then why, most importantly, why you need smart, effective, caring and passionate public servants who are leading these institutions not only to build trust but to understand the people it serves.

Andrew Blumenfeld:   4:49
And in addition to that history of public service, in all of those roles, you've also yourself been a candidate, right? So can you tell us a little bit about what were those experiences like? I have to imagine they also informed the way you think about coaching and mentoring and supporting candidates today?

Amanda Renteria:   5:09
Absolutely. I mean, there's nothing like being in the ring yourself and feeling what it's like, whether it's negative attacks or how am I gonna make sure I raise enough money or what is my message and how my responding to the things that are coming at me on a day to day basis. When you're in a campaign, you know, for me, I always feel like anyone running needs to understand at the core of why they're running. What is it that makes them passionate? Why are they stepping forward and putting themselves out there? And, you know, I think, along the way, in running for office, not only have I learned the difficulty of raising money, but really the obstacles that women and women of color, particularly, face at a higher level in order to run for office and win. And so all throughout my career and my process, I've tried to make sure that when the next person does it, it's a little bit easier whether you know, you're one of the few women on the hill or one of the few women to have ever run in a particular district or in a particular school board. And some of those lessons of okay, even from the outset, knowing it's a little bit more difficult going in, eyes wide open, I think prepares anybody better whether you just walked in and I didn't know any better. Yeah,

Andrew Blumenfeld:   6:21
Why is it a little more difficult? I mean, tell us a little bit about from both your perspective as a candidate and also as someone who has worked with people who have run and served. What are the things that make it more difficult for women and women of color to run for office generally, and maybe also specifically fundraise the way they need to run successful, viable campaigns?

Amanda Renteria:   6:44
Yes, some of it is that women are already leaders in their community, but they don't necessarily see themselves ready to run. Even my own story. When I first thought about moving back to my hometown to run for Congress and one of my girlfriends said, "You know, Amanda it is always your quote, 'If not you who? Why are you going out to go find somebody to run instead of you running?'" And so some of this is about how we see ourselves, women and people of color when you don't see your self or you don't see someone like you in these positions of power in politics, you think that's not meant for me and it's quite subtle. It's not something you see yourself in the mirror and say to yourself, But you just don't notice someone like you there. And so the subtle message is it's not supposed to be you. So some of it is overcoming your own perception of what you should and can be doing. And then some of it is educating other folks to say I might not look like the last congressman, but I still can lead, and I've been a leader in this way or I've led this effort or I've been able to manage this project, and I think more and more that's what women are learning. And certainly, 2018 was a real lesson in that. A lot of people stepped up to run for the very first time and won. And now we do have a couple of years seeing those women seeing people of color lied and lied not only in their own authentic way but really pushing policies so that they do affect more people. So they do bring in more voters, more residents to really be a part of our government public service process.

Andrew Blumenfeld:   8:21
The question of viability, electability and money and fundraising can sometimes be a sort of chicken and egg problem. The right you need money in the bank to prove that you're a viable, credible campaign. But being a viable, incredible campaign is also something that really helps you raise money. So how

Amanda Renteria:   8:44
do you

Andrew Blumenfeld:   8:45
help candidates and campaigns get over that initial hump and raise the capital that they need to demonstrate to those that they are soliciting that they are serious and that they should get the investment of their dollars in their candidacy?

Amanda Renteria:   9:01
That really does begin with doing it right. One of the things that emerge America does in all of our trainings is we actually do have quite a few candidates, even raise money for entering the training program, but also, while in the training program having some cold time there. You know, some of it is getting used to that. You know, women saying, Invested in me, um, invest in my campaign, learning that at the outset and then throughout the process on the phone, particularly in making a connection on the phone and bringing a donor along it is talking about why you can be a good leader, why you can lead and really opening up, why it's important to invest in new perspectives in new leadership and that that part of it has gotten slightly easier. From the first time I've ran to, I think, 2018 2019 where we've seen a lot more women win because now the conversation starts well instead of starting, Are you sure woman can win for school board? It now starts tell me who you are on, and just the fact that you've made we've as a country have made progress helps in those initial calls. But there's nothing like the very first call you make for me, I remember was to my parents is right. They better say Yes, that's right. That's

Andrew Blumenfeld:   10:17
right. I always tell people Start off with one where the stakes are low and they'll give blunt feedback and parents are a great option for

Amanda Renteria:   10:23
that. My second was my sisters, who were much harsher critics with also some advice on how to do it better. That's

Andrew Blumenfeld:   10:31
great. That's great. And actually, it kind of along those lines, What were some of the things in your own campaigns that you experience that kind of suggested to you? Oh, I have to be able to address this problem of people evaluating my candidacy different than they might if I were a man. If I were a more traditional candidate for this region for this area, do you have experiences that kind of come to mind where you said, Okay, that's that's the reality here and then, you know, how did you go about addressing that

Amanda Renteria:   10:59
quickly learned that I better be able to in, you know, less than a minute explained my path to victory. What the overall vision is Woz can be because that was the number one key question. Always. Which is Okay, I hear you. I think you're heard your message or I read your bio. I think that's great. But how you gonna win? And you know, even as we saw the presidential candidates, that key question was always top of mind. It's not always asked of every male candidate every single time, Sure, but you have to be ready for it as a woman. And then the second question is your different. How are you gonna do it being a woman or how you gonna do it? Being a woman of color that's never won there it's so there's almost you have to have an answer on path to victory, and then you have to have a second answer on path of Victory again. That's indicative of what a lot of women face is. You do answer the same question over over again about credibility. Of course, money matters, and being able to show that you can raise money, especially in those early days, is really a telltale sign that you're serious, that you have a network of people who believe in you, and unfortunately, in today's world, we still measure whether people believe in you by what kind of resource is they give you as you move forward? That's an

Andrew Blumenfeld:   12:14
interesting point. Let's spend another minute on that because the question of just what metrics were using to evaluate credibility or viability are themselves making a lot of assumptions. And one of them is what you just said, right, that the people who believe in support you are able and willing and likely to communicate that support with a financial contribution. Are there other ways that we should be thinking about? Like, what are other yardsticks that we should be considering either different ways toe. Think about the money issue in particular, or even just other non financial tools that we should be thinking about when we're trying to say Okay, is this a campaign that has got its act together? That's serious, that has good, strong all things that we should want to ask of a campaign. But right now we've pretty myopically look at financial numbers, and even there we kind of narrowly look at, like cash on hand and dollars in the door. What are other ways that maybe we should be thinking about evaluating campaigns that might be a little more equitable.

Amanda Renteria:   13:08
So I do think attending what's happening on the ground really matters, particularly our state and local races. When you go to, you know, the cook off that the campaign put together, or some of the kick offs in new places there where they've never had a campaign kickoff. And all of a sudden, you know, you see 40 people who have never voted before, you know, packing the offices or a kickoff event. Those kinds of things really give you a Tanja bility of what's happening on the ground. They don't necessarily get reported, and they don't necessarily get looked at. But in these smaller races they end up becoming indicative of the networks you are building. And so I'm always curious when media goes to these events, whether they're asking the questions of, Oh, do you always go to events? Is this new for you, really understanding how the elector is growing, particularly for candidates who are sort of the typical male candidate you're looking for? But when they're different, are they bringing that new body of voters? I mean, how are they doing it? What does the energy and excitement feel like? You know, I think there are other avenues now to take a look at it as well, which is in some polling firms do this where they check what are the most important policies in the area. And then how does each candidate match that You see that happen on the national level, You don't see that happen as much on the local level. And in fact, if we talked about that more than you would see headlines where voters could say, Wait a second. Education is most important thing. This person has a better platform than that person, but often times the first thing that gets reported our numbers. It's not necessarily policy, right. It's not necessarily where do you have your offices or where your precinct captains located? Those are the kinds of things that we can shift. Money's easy because you can see it and you can look it up. But how do we do the kind of research in media to really be able to showcase what's really happening on the ground?

Andrew Blumenfeld:   14:59
And it's interesting because we've talked to in the past journalists who cover campaigns and put to them also the question of how they cover money. And it does seem as if there is this conflict in the media landscape getting sort of narrower and narrower and more resource limited, and you see fewer and fewer regional and local papers. But nevertheless, I think to your point, if you really want Thio, evaluate those other elements of a campaign. Having have another level of rigor when it comes to analyzing what's happening on the ground in regions in localities is certainly called for

Amanda Renteria:   15:35
sure. And you know, I think the other thing that's happened is what it means without being able to do the research is the reporting that is done is de facto you exist or you don't. And so all of a sudden now you don't have the research to show the full breadth. But because there are fewer papers now reporting the fact that you reported numbers and said this person is viable or not viable, that has an echo sound on echo chamber within the area. So I think it's even more important for media who's out there or for campaigns who are out there to try and find different ways of distributing different good news about one's campaign like office openings or, you know, like policy priorities really working on those kinds of things so that there's a different mechanism to getting people besides the one headline about who raised money and who didn't.

Andrew Blumenfeld:   16:26
Yeah, that's a really good point. Let's go back, actually to the beginning of the process, which is recruitment and the idea of throwing your hat in the ring to begin with. Well, before you have any, you know, office opening to announce or any numbers to announce, just even getting somebody to say Yes, I am going to throw my hat into this ring in general is often a lift. But I've heard it said that you don't have to ask a man that often to run for office. It doesn't take a whole lot of persuasion, and often they'll come to that conclusion all on his own that he to be a congressperson or the president. But that's not always the case for candidates of color and and women. So I guess the first question is, has that been your experience? Both in what it took? You two decide to run. You shared a little bit of that before, and also what it when you think about recruiting a women around the country through emerging and through your travels. You know what kinds of challenges you face and helping women to see themselves in the roles that you see the men.

Amanda Renteria:   17:28
So it really does start off by knowing at the outset you're gonna have to ask nine times or so, Yeah, it's funny because it's not just about asking, but there's something in the conversation that's really interesting it goes from Is this really for me to the conversation when they start, when women start to think of themselves doing it? And they say, Well, hold on. I don't have friends with a lot of resource is I'm not sure I'm gonna be able to do that, or I don't have my life set up so that I can do that. Or it comes where people vote for someone like me. And so you see women. So part of those part of the nine or so times you have to ask, it's not actually the same conversation. It evolves over time. We're at the beginning. It's, you know, the identification that you are a leader and you should step up and here's your opportunity and we need you. We need a voice like yours to moving towards more of the logistics as the decision gets closer. And one of the big decisions, obviously for a lot of people is how do I do this financially? Can I have a job and do this kind of have a family and do this? Those real logistical questions come to mind pretty early in the process for a lot of women who we convince that they should and can run for office. But the logistics become a really big issue right at the very beginning. Let's talk

Andrew Blumenfeld:   18:46
more about that, because when people think about money and politics and when we talk about money and politics are kind of go to is the fundraising we sometimes talk about the spending of money and politics and the regulation of money in politics. I'm

Amanda Renteria:   18:58

Andrew Blumenfeld:   18:58
sure we talk ever certainly not nearly enough about the element of money in politics, which is like personal finance and politics. And can you shed a little bit more light on that? What are the kinds of considerations and how do you kind of coach and mentor candidates to think about them?

Amanda Renteria:   19:14
so this this is one of the harder conversations that I think is not had enough more broadly, particularly for, well, really any family that goes through this, but particular for anyone. That is the lead in person in the family who's bringing in finances. People don't realize how much it takes to run for office. And so having a full time job and running is incredibly hard. Either You have to be really, really good about figuring out the starting an end points, which a lot of folks can do. And there are a number of jobs that allow you to allow you that kind of flexibility and actually finding one of those places to where you can work. And there are is then time to be able to run, I think, is part of making it possible in your household. The second thing is, if you have kids, how are you gonna manage child care when you have evening events or when you have call time or you know everything you need to do just to get kids ready? Just as of recently, there weren't you couldn't use campaign funds for child care expenses, and so it was really a question of Is my mom nearby? Is my sister nearby? How are we gonna manage that piece? And then there's, you know, for a lot of wealthier people that run, they run and they either don't need to get paid, or they could end their campaign with debt, that concept. And I remember when I ran the first time and we were going through the very end, our structure about what we're gonna put on TV. And, you know, some of the consultants were like, Wow, yeah, but you know, you'll make that up later, and that concept just wasn't possible for me. I just couldn't do that to my family. I didn't have confidence either, that I could just figure out how to pay this off someday. I didn't grow up like that, and it's just wasn't. And for a lot of our candidates, that's just not possible. And so at the outset, I think it is really important. You don't have to run your campaign like that, nor should you be in the process where you're somehow you get into and you're forced to. At the end of the day, you do have to make sure your family's gonna be okay that you're gonna be okay. And so long as you keep that steady from the very start, then when it comes down to it, you could make the right decisions that are right for you and your family. Win or lose. But those things are hard because it is so personal. But there are things that you need a plan for at the very beginning. And that's why organization, like, emerges so valuable in making sure people plan that out from the very beginning.

Andrew Blumenfeld:   21:34
So then along those lines, can you just tell us a little bit more about emerge? For someone who maybe doesn't know, all that emerged does just kind of the big picture. The goals, what? Someone who engages with it. One of your candidates, someone who's thinking about being a candidate. How do they engage with Emerge? What role does emerge play in that process?

Amanda Renteria:   21:54
So number one is we're always looking for fantastic candidates who want to run for office who are already community leaders. One of the things about our program is that we do go through a pretty rigorous application process where we want to see folks who have put in some real effort in the electoral process, whether that's on a campaign, whether it's helping someone else, whether it's being part of commissions. We like to make sure that that there's some understanding of the political sphere as they enter our training program. And the reason is is because we have one of the most comprehensive training programs across the country. So it's a 70 our training program. It's a cohort based model, and people go through it together. Largely what happens in these organizations, Not only do you when these trainings not only do you learn the nuts and bolts off what it takes to run, but you become a sisterhood with everyone else that I was in your coke or and in many times they actually run together and they learn together and they're inspired by each other, and they really become this amazing network. And it's not simply the network that you trained with for those 70 hours, but you quickly learn your part of this broader network that has also come to this realization that we have a responsibility and that your boat voice matters as a part of this and so emerge has about 795 elected women across the country. Five women in the U. S. Congress. Right now. Congresswoman Deb Holland. Lucy McBath. Abigail Spam Burger. So Jamil Tourist, Dr Kim Walsh. Dr. Kim Schreier. So we just have a sub segment. And if you just look at those five women, you know, first that one of the first Native American women you know, the only female doctor, Lucy McBath, who had a hard race her she lost her son to gun violence. Just taking a look at the women that we have in Congress is very similar to the kind of women we've seen across our network were very much about breaking barriers, not because for the sake of just breaking barriers but because women are leaders, no matter where they come from. And all we're doing is making sure that they also have a voice in the political sphere is well, and that's what's been so exciting about Emerges program is because we're taking the leaders who are already there and saying, How about our public service world? How about being a leader in the political sphere and shaping policies that have a scalable effect on the people that you want to serve.

Andrew Blumenfeld:   24:16
And so these kinds of questions that we've been talking about today, the questions of personal finance all the way to how you think about spending and fundraising and recruitment. These are these kind of all the kinds of things in the areas that you all as part of those 70 hours or uncovering turning over answering questions. Is that the kind of work that's being done in those 70 hours?

Amanda Renteria:   24:38
Absolutely. One of the things that we know about women is, you know, women like to have a plan on, and we also know that's the key to success. So there's been a couple of research projects done on the 2018 election cycle, and the difference or the step function that was the key to success was candidates who had a plan. And it does. It covers everything from fundraising to communications to telling your story to the big political organizations to how you do data analysis and field. When you're thinking about what door to knock on, or how to make sure you're building out your database of fundraisers or precinct captains, and so because it's a methodical process and you go all the way through it. By the end of it, you really have a robust understanding of what it takes in a campaign, and you have a sense of if you wanted to run for ex office, what is your wind number? Where do you need to bring out the vote and what's missing in that electorate that you really have a unique ability to really bring in for your election? That perhaps maybe no other candidate could or has in the past and those kinds of questions working them early on? Um, with smart people with a great sisterhood network, we have found has been, Why emerges so successful? We have, ah, 46% win rate for first time candidates, which is usually first time candidates usually went about 10% of the time. Emerge wins about 46% of the time. And so we know that that kind of training has made a real difference in over the course of 15 years. You get better and better at it, and you remain flexible because we also know no one campaign is like the other. No, one year is like the other,

Andrew Blumenfeld:   26:15
and so we've talked a lot today about the way in which everything from recruiting to training curriculum cohorts, all of these pieces, even how we maybe cover campaigns can be adjusted, improved, built upon to make the process more equitable, especially the fundraising component of that. Is there anything else that it needs to change to kind of make this landscape a more equitable one for women who want to throw their hat in the ring who want to run financially viable, seriously campaigns there any elements of the process other than those that we've covered, that we all need to find a way to adjust if we really want to continue to see the kinds of breakthroughs we saw in 2018 just continued to persist.

Amanda Renteria:   27:00
Yeah, I can't underscore enough the logistics of voting. So things like vote by mail things like ensuring that it is easy to go boat things like when and how we have elections, you know, across the board. What we're finding is, the more you open it up, the more you insure people. It's easy to vote that we're reaching people. The more you're seeing that, the better government we're gonna have, cause it's truly by the people. And I believe if we're truly by the people, you well, we'll see 50% off elected officials who are women. You will see more people of color represented, particularly in the neighborhoods where the areas or the states, so that it is a more reflective democracy. But in a world where there are these restrictions that just make it hard for working families, we're not gonna quite get there. And so the logistics of voting, the logistics of how our elections work, of how people are in endorsements, all of those processes, the more we can open them up and the fairer those processes are will begin to see a different kind of leadership in this country.

Andrew Blumenfeld:   28:07
Awesome. Well, I really appreciate you taking the time. I think it's probably one of the most important topics when it comes to everything that we try and uncover, You know, with regards to money and politics is how to make it more of an open process howto make it something that is accessible to more people. It seems to me that you know, you don't really have that much of a democracy. If you've got this major bottlenecks starting, you know well before the process even begins at the stage of fundraising. So thank you so much for sharing some insights on it. And then, even more importantly, for all that you do with emerge and elsewhere,

Amanda Renteria:   28:40
thank you. And I have to say, I really appreciate these kinds of podcasts, particularly because in a world where we need to increase trust in public institutions having these kinds of open conversations, what about how the process works really helps educate and connected folks who are out there wondering, How do you run for office and why should I run for office? So thank you for doing that part of it as well.

Andrew Blumenfeld:   29:03
If folks are interested in learning more about emerged, they should check online to see all the wonderful resource is they have available. They're even better. They may have a state affiliate where you live, and if so, you may be able to apply to join one of their cohorts