- - Monday, August 11, 2014

The writer, ambassador and congresswoman Clare Booth Luce once told President John F. Kennedy, “A great man is one sentence.”

The same would apply to a woman who aspires to be great, and Hillary Clinton knows what she wants her sentence to be: “She was the first female president.” Unfortunately, her sentence, written truthfully, would end like this: ” … And she was elected with money donated by rich men.”

Women vote in greater numbers than men. They make most of the household financial decisions (and many of the most important other ones). But when it comes to voting with their pocketbooks, or their purses, the rich ones who really can make a difference follow their husband’s lead, if they donate at all.

This is a bipartisan reality. The Center for Responsive Politics lists the nation’s biggest political donors at its website, www.opensecrets.org. At the top is billionaire hedge fund manager Thomas Steyer, who along with his wife, Kathryn, has given more than $20 million to Democrats and liberals this election cycle. Next is former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has donated about $9.5 million, almost all to Democrats and liberals. You have to scroll down to number 13 before you find a woman’s name without a man’s in front of it: investor Virginia James, who has donated about $1.8 million to elect Republicans and conservatives. Two other women, Amy Goldman of Sol Goldman Investments and investor Anne Earhart, both supporters of Democrats, are listed 17th and 18th. No other woman by herself is in the top 30.

To be sure, not all the married women on this list are political Stepford wives. Linda McMahon, who with Vince McMahon owns World Wrestling Entertainment, is listed at number 34 and has run as a Republican for the U.S. Senate twice.

But in most cases, the man is the decision-maker. I know this from personal experience as a professional political fundraiser who works with bundlers – the super-rich donors who donate buckets of money to campaigns and inspire their super-rich friends to do the same. My donor lists consist almost entirely of men. The women on those lists are the wives of those men, and they are listed so their husbands can donate twice as much. I do not meet with those women because I do not need to. If I did, they would tell me to talk to their husbands.

The irony is that Clinton is vying to break through the ultimate glass ceiling to become the first female president, but to do so, she’ll need a golden hammer purchased with the dollars given to her by men. She would be a symbol of feminist equality, but she would be elected thanks in large part to the power of the same rich men who have always controlled everything. By night, she’ll give speeches to starry-eyed women who see in her their own limitless potential. By day, she’ll be on the telephone begging men for money. She’ll be a hypocrite because she has to be.

I often work with folks who have extreme wealth. It is not unusual for wealthy women to pay $20,000 for a Hermes Birkin handbag. But inspiring them to reach into that handbag and donate a couple of thousand dollars to a political candidate is a hard sell.

That’s a shame. Whether the candidate is Hillary Clinton or Sarah Palin, women need to be elected with more dollars donated by women donors. You’ve heard the old joke about the Golden Rule? “He who has the gold makes the rules.” In our democracy, the reality is that he who donates the gold makes many of the rules. To keep female candidates from becoming hypocrites because they have to be, that “he” more often needs to be a “she.”

Noelle Nikpour is a Republican political strategist.

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