Meet the 2 Women Giving Big Money to Hillary Clinton

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Credit: Karen Murphy on Flickr, under Creative Commons

(WOMENSENEWS)–Since 1998, female contributors have tended to support Democrats who have championed legislation to ensure equal pay, reproductive health and other issues, notes the Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks campaign finance.

But female mega-donors–those who contribute at least $1 million–lean right.

Two key exceptions are philanthropists Barbara F. Lee of Cambridge, Mass., and Cheryl Saban of Los Angeles, each of whom has donated $1 million to Hillary Clinton‘s campaign.

They could also provide plenty of campaign advice as well as funding.

In addition to their support of initiatives to end gender disparities in politics, health care and other fields, their life experiences make them good sources for strategies on how to attract female voters who are divorced, single parents or workers trying to climb the career ladder.

Both women, along with Saban’s husband Haim, who also contributed $1 million, are members of Hillblazers, a group of 159 key supporters who have each promised to raise $100,000 or more from their friends and business colleagues in the coming months to support Clinton.

If they succeed and help Clinton win in Iowa and New Hampshire in February, the former secretary of state might become regarded as the inevitable candidate and avoid other primaries this spring.

Barbara F. Lee, $1.1 million

The former wife of Thomas H. Lee, a private equity investor, and a mother of two sons, Lee is one of the country’s foremost experts on women and politics. Since 1998, the Barbara Lee Family Foundation and political office has helped elect 132 women in 30 states by providing training, advice and campaign funds.

In 2005 Lee was named a Women’s eNews 21 Leader for the 21st Century and she also provided seed money to launch Women’s eNews as an independent organization in 2002.

In 1998, Lee, a former teacher and social worker, co-founded the White House Project. To highlight the qualifications of women for the highest political office, the group ran ads in women’s magazines promoting 20 female candidates for president, including Clinton and Republican Elizabeth Dole.

After eight of the 10 female candidates running for governor lost that year, the foundation conducted a pioneering study to help women identify the personal traits and actions that convey qualifications and tips to bounce back from mistakes, which would convince voters that they had the administrative capabilities necessary to run a state.

For more than 15 years, the foundation has studied every woman’s campaign for governor on both sides of the aisle. The result is "Keys to Elected Office: the Essential Guide for Women," which has become the bible of female candidates such as New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan, a Democrat now running for the U.S. Senate.

Lee has also endowed the Barbara Lee Women in U.S. Training Program and Lecture Series, a nonprofit at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government, and a fellowship at the Massachusetts State House for students of Boston’s Simmons College, her alma mater. She has also sponsored "Power in Place," photos of female political leaders in settings selected by them.

The foundation is co-sponsoring Presidential Gender Watch 2016, a nonpartisan project with the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, N.J. , which is looking at how gender influences campaign strategy, voter engagement and expectations, media coverage and election outcomes

Lee has also been a fundraising powerhouse. Unlike the men who dominate the Washington-based Center of Responsive Politics’ list of contributors to super PACs and other outside groups, Lee favors female candidates and liberal causes, including Planned Parenthood Votes and Women’s Voices Women Vote Action Fund, a nonprofit group that encourages unmarried women to cast ballots and participate in government.

This year, the center noted that Lee was the third-most generous female donor with $1,144,678; behind Virginia James, a retired New Jersey investor who donated $1.8 million to conservative groups, and Anne Earhart, the Getty Oil heiress from California who gave $1.6 million to Democrats.

The center’s analysis of the Federal Election Commission report of Aug. 17 found that Lee had donated $716,919 to Priorities USA Action, Clinton’s main super PAC, and $189,000 to Ready for Hillary, a super PAC that was designed to encourage Clinton’s candidacy.

She also donated $100,000 to American Bridge 21st Century, a liberal super PAC founded by David Brock, the conservative journalist turned liberal activist, and $178,000 to Correct the Record, another group founded by Brock to conduct opposition research for Democratic candidates that has focused on defending Clinton since May.

"I’m a big fan of Hillary," Lee told Boston Magazine in May. "I have known her both personally and professionally for a long time and I think she would make an amazing president."

In 2008, Lee hosted fundraisers for Clinton at her summer home on Martha’s Vineyard, which helped Clinton defeat Obama in the Massachusetts primary.

Other fundraising efforts such as Lee’s support for Women’s Senate, a biennial fundraiser that provides critical support for progressive female senators, are also expected to benefit Clinton.

Lee also served on the finance committee of Elizabeth Warren, who was elected to represent Massachusetts in the U.S. Senate in 2012. Warren is popular with liberal Democrats because she helped design the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau as part of the Dodd-Frank financial reform legislation.

Cheryl Saban, $1 million

The former Cheryl Lynn Flor is the wife of Haim Saban, owner of Univision, the largest Spanish-language TV network in the U.S., and CEO of Saban Capital group, a private media and communications investment firm in Los Angeles. They are old hands in Democratic campaign circles, donating more than $12 million since 2002.

The Sabans have spearheaded contributions from the entertainment industry, which Clinton can use to offset contributions by Texas billionaires in the oil industry. Donors in the entertainment industry poured $5 million into the 2016 presidential race for the period ending Sept. 30, found an analysis by the Los Angeles Times. Nine of 10 dollars went to Clinton.

They are also the largest contributors to the William J. Clinton Foundation, donating more than $10 million, reports the Center for Responsive Politics.

The Sabans have been active in all the campaigns of both Bill and Hillary Clinton. In May, the couple hosted a fundraiser in their Beverly Park home in California that raised more than $3 million for Hillary Clinton.

An Egyptian-born Jew who emigrated to Israel, Haim told the New Yorker in 2010 that he became active in American politics in the 1990s because his greatest concern was protecting Israel by strengthening the U.S.-Israel relationship.

Haim, a fierce opponent of the Obama administration’s nuclear agreement with Iran, co-hosted a July gathering in Las Vegas with Sheldon Adelson, a leading contributor to the former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney’s GOP presidential bid in 2012, to discuss strategies to combat the BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) movement on college campuses. BDS protestors object to what they see as Israel’s continued denial of Palestinians’ right to freedom, equality and self-determination.

Politico reported that Clinton responded to that with a letter to Haim and the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations in which she wrote: "I know you agree that we have to make combating BDS a priority and asking for and working across party lines to fight against further attempts to isolate and delegitimize Israel."

Cheryl Saban, who is president of the Saban Family Foundation, has concentrated on women’s issues. She supported two children from her first marriage by working as a singer before landing a job as an assistant to Haim in 1998. Because of a hysterectomy, her two children with Haim were surrogate births.

She went on to earn a doctorate in psychology in 2005 and write "What is Your Self Worth? A Woman’s Guide to Validation." She established the Cheryl Saban Foundation for Women and Girls in 2008 with initial funding of $10 million and added $2 million later to give women and girls a chance to further their education, provide access to affordable health care, support new businesses and protect against violence.

She also donated $250,000 to support a program for transitioning women working in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) into second careers as teachers in high-needs California public schools. In 2012, she served as a public delegate to the 67th General Assembly of the United Nations and later donated $500,000 to the organization to end child marriage and violence against women.

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