Note: This article was removed from this website a few weeks ago. The reason that this article was removed was because the head of Ruth’s List, Ellis Robinson, contacted a candidate I was working for at the time complaining about the article. I was pressured to remove the article per request of the candidate, which I did. Now that I no longer work for that candidate, I feel it is my obligation to post this article again and explain why it was removed from the site previously.
A few weeks ago, I went with a candidate that I worked for to a “candidate training” event held by Ruth’s List. Coming back to Florida for the first time in eight years, I was wondering what Ruth’s List was all about. At first, I just thought someone accidently told me Ruth’s List instead of Emily’s List. But when I got an email a few days later, yep, it was an organization called Ruth’s List.
At first I was really excited to attend their event. They wanted to train both candidates and their staff about campaigning. As someone that didn’t need the training, I thought I would go anyway as I knew it would be good for my candidate. It would give her a one-day crash course on what is involved with a campaign so that she can understand what is going on.
But the second the meeting started, I knew it was going to go downhill.
Ruth’s List, like Emily’s List, is a group to support pro-choice women. Of course, there are a number of pro-choice women running for State House and Senate, many of them without a primary opponent. Therefore, if a woman is pro-choice and running as a Democrat, I would assume that they would get Ruth’s List support by default. Boy was I wrong.
In the first part of the meeting everything was about fundraising and nothing more. The fact that it was about fundraising was absolutely fine to me. But once they were equating actual dollar amounts to Ruth’s List endorsements, then it started to look a little fishy. In order to get the support of Ruth’s List, candidates had to raise $20,000 in addition to having a district that is competitive for a Democrat. It wasn’t enough that these women were pro-choice Democrats. They wanted to tie a money amount to it.
Now other organizations do the same thing, which I know. Theses other organizations want to see if you are a serious candidate and could win the election. And personally, i’m fine with that. But when it came to Ruth’s List, there were two fundamental problems. First, all the other organizations that are looking for financial stability in a campaign are non-partisan groups that, from time to time, even endorse Republicans. They want to make sure their ducks are in a row, and that is understandable. These organizations rarely, if ever, give specific dollar amounts to gain their support. But with Ruth’s List, which is specifically a Democratic women’s organization, they should automatically help any candidate that fits their criteria. Yet, they don’t.
The second issue regarding these requirements was that many of the candidates at this event didn’t fit the criteria. Ruth’s List said that the candidates had to have a district with at least 45% DPI (Democratic Performance Index). All but two of the candidates at this training did not fit this criteria. One candidate, who traveled a few hundred miles and is against a powerful incumbent, was even told that her district had a 51% DPI, when in reality it had a 41% DPI. Yes, the Ruth’s List people were actually giving candidates the DPI of the districts drawn in 2002, not 2012. Honestly, this is Poly Sci 101 stuff!
Continuing with the training, the Ruth’s List people continued to talk about money. They stated that a state house candidate running for the first time had to raise $250,000. My co-editor Kartik Krishnaiyer and I figured out that if we raised that amount, with the money that we had left over, we could buy a Ferrari. The amounts that they were telling these ladies running for office (especially their first time around) was astronomical. When I mentioned that we can do everything we wanted to in our campaign for $50,000, the other ladies asked “how come you can do it for so cheap”. My answer….”because people are going to try to sell you stuff that is expensive that you don’t need.” Of course, the conversation quickly changed…Ruth’s List was trying to sell something as well.
While having $250,000 and a competitive district is nice, the reality is that none of them are going to meet that goal. Instead of encouraging female Democratic candidates to run, when Ruth’s List tells these candidates that they need to raise this amount to win, they become discouraged immediately and throw in the towel. Instead of motivating women, they are depressing them.
So the meeting went on and on, and the conversation moved on to about messaging which was followed by the end of the training. Two other things struck me with this. First, there was not a single minute of this meeting devoted to precinct walking, phone banking or anything “grassroots” in general. How could there be any type of candidate or campaign training that doesn’t even discuss this issue for two minutes? Yeah, I wonder as well.
The second thing that struck me was about messaging. The Ruth’s List person kept on talking about how people in the middle decided the vote. Of course, this is a topic of debate, and two of the last three governors as well as the last two presidents won Florida because they rallied the base and didn’t care about capturing the middle. Alex Sink, on the other hand, captured the middle by 20%, and it didn’t help her. So, basically, the Ruth’s List people where telling the candidates to be moderate. I guess this means that a person can be pro-choice and still support parental consent, right?
But what was most interesting was the discussions about Alex Sink. At the start of the event, the person conducting this so-called “training” talked about her experience on the Sink campaign and how great Sink’s campaign was. Whenever a question came up about either Sink or the campaign, the Ruth’s List person defended Sink 100%. When asked why Sink lost, she turned the answer around by saying “we did better than others”, and didn’t really answer the questions. When confronted by other person saying that nobody was going to vote for a banker during a housing crisis, the Ruth’s List person didn’t respond to her question. Instead, everything was “Alex is great, yada, yada, yada”.
Of course, she also said that the leadership in the state party was great as well.
After attending the meeting, I came to realize not only that what this lady was telling people was absolutely discouraging, misleading as well as flat our wrong in some cases, but that her defense of Alex Sink was over the top. This made me wonder “is this just an Alex Sink organization”? It almost seemed that way. If Sink decided to run for anything in the future, having the support of women, even if they do or don’t qualify for Ruth’s List support under their current oddly-defined rules, she could get their mailing lists as well as any grassroots support that they gathered up in 2012.
So people either seeking Ruth’s List support or are going to give money to Ruth’s List, be aware. While they say that they are there to “support pro-choice Democratic women”, most of the candidates that they say they will help will never, ever qualify for support under their rules. Therefore, it is just an organization that is sucking in cash, and making people rich. If anyone is looking to invest money, I highly recommend that they do it elsewhere.