McCutcheon and The Gender Divide

McCutcheon and the Gender Divide

miriam&sheldon.ap.jpgWednesday's Supreme Court decision in McCutcheon v. FEC has brought a lot of speculation about the likely growth in the role of big donors now that overall limits on donations to parties, PACs and candidates have been demolished. But what effect will the ruling have on the share of campaign contributions coming from men versus women?

In the 2012 election cycle, 644 individual donors hit the aggregate limit of $117,000. Among them, 501, or 78 percent, were men; women accounted for just 22 percent these contributors. By comparison, among all individual donors of more than $200 in the 2012 cycle, only 66.7 percent were men, and they accounted for 69.7% of campaign contributions.

Women are a majority of the population, but a minority of campaign donors and a smaller minority of maxed-out campaign donors.

And if married couples are excluded, the percentage of women drops even lower. Of the 644 donors who hit the cap, 118 were half of a couple in which both spouses gave to the limit. That leaves a pool of 526 contributors -- of whom 84 percent were men.

That's right in line with the gender division among donors to outside money groups like super PACs, which can accept checks of any size and were not directly affected by McCutcheon. In the 2012 cycle, men made up 87 percent of the top 100 donors, giving 83 percent of the money. The totals are even more skewed than they appear: One woman, Miriam Adelson -- a physician and drug addiction expert who is married to casino magnate Sheldon Adelson -- accounted for more than 70 percent of the money coming from women on the top 100 donors list. Overall, men accounted for 80 percent of outside money contributions coming from men in the 2012 cycle.

The evidence strongly suggests that men make up a bigger share of the donor pool when contribution limits are higher -- or nonexistent. Going forward in the 2014 cycle and beyond, expect a smaller portion of overall candidate, PAC and party cash to come from women.

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