Clinton has reportedly asked her top supporters to raise $1 million each — or 10 times the amount that George W. Bush’s Pioneers were asked to raise in 2000. Tenley Carp, a 44-year-old Washington, D.C., lawyer, is not at that level (yet, she says), but she has already helped to bring in nearly $100,000. Carp got involved with the Clinton campaign in 2004 and has substantially changed her views on money in politics since. "I’d never had $1,000 to go to an event before," she says. "But once I did, I came away so impressed." With the help of three friends, Carp raised $25,000 at her first event, a breakfast where Hillary spoke and posed for pictures. Carp doubled the take to $50,000 at her second party, which was held at the senator’s home. Asked whether she has a personal fund-raising goal, Carp just laughs. "When I was selling Girl Scout cookies, I sold 55 boxes and everybody else sold 10," she says. "But I was going to keep knocking on doors until they said, ‘Okay, girls, turn in the forms.’ I didn’t put a number on it. I just kept knocking."
Carp calls herself a novice "bundler." Pooling donations is a legal but controversial way to get around the limits on individual contributions to presidential candidates. "Women in the corporate world have understood how important bundling is and joined men in doing it," says Cynthia Darrison, New York Governor Eliot Spitzer’s former finance director. "But we need to see more women involved at that level if they want to be at the table with the big boys." For years, Darrison has been encouraging women to get past their distaste for money in politics. "It’s easy to opt out of the system by saying it’s tainted, but that doesn’t get you anywhere," she says. "When women don’t get involved, they create a vacuum into which others will step, and those others are men."
The Tipping Point
Christine Olson, 50, CEO of Pennsylvania-based S.W. Jack Drilling, is one of the top Republican women donors, giving upward of $100,000 every year to Republican candidates and PACs. She had no idea how different her whole attitude toward political giving really was, she says, until she was asked to become Pennsylvania’s committee woman for the Republican National Committee. Olson assumed the women whom she approached for donations would give the way the men always had: freely and repeatedly, as an acknowledged cost of doing business. That’s not how it worked. "Either they’d hide behind their partner — ‘Oh, I don’t make those decisions’ — or they’d say, ‘What will I get out of it?’" she remembers. "Getting women to give was like pulling teeth."
Olson got so tired of being, as she puts it, "an anomaly because I write big checks and I’m not afraid to ask someone for a seven-figure gift" that she started a training program for other women in her party, a program that emphasizes the importance of money, money, and more money. One of the women trained through Olson’s program is Ann Wilson, a 41-year-old marketing executive who decided to run for city council in Johnstown, Pennsylvania. What Olson calls the old-boy Republicans did not include Wilson on their slate or in their mailings and, in fact, endorsed her Democratic opponent, a man. As Wilson remembers it, "The minute Christine heard what was going on, she asked me what I needed so I could win. I said $5,000 for TV ads. So she wrote the check, and we were on the air within the week." The spots were a turning point for Wilson’s campaign. "Those ads pushed me over the top," Wilson says, "because then I could raise more money" — about $20,000 in all, four times more than the competition — "and then I was able to do a mailing. When I beat the mayor, believe me, there was stunned silence in this town for 48 hours." Now the party is talking to her about running for state office.