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Ellen Malcolm, Women Bloggers & Partnering with Women Candidates

Today, I had the privilege of being invited to meet with Ellen Malcolm, Founder & President of EMILY’s List. EMILY’s List, for those who don’t know, is the largest PAC in the U.S. and also a phenomenal training organization for pro-choice Democratic women who want to run for office and work in campaigns. (I have also had the privilege of being through their Political Opportunity Program training in 2005 through Emerge and it is incredible. Highly recommended.) ‘EMILY’ stands for “Early Money Is Like Yeast” because early money in campaigns shows candidate viability and makes the difference between who stays in the race to win.

Thanks to Ramona Oliver, EMILY’s List Communications Director, a small group of us met over lunch in San Francisco and discussed how to utilize the Internet, particularly blogs, to get the message of women candidates out. Others in the group included Elisa Camahort of BlogHer, Gina Cooper of Netroots Nation, Elisa Batista of MotherTalkers, and Page Rockwell of the Salon.com “Broadsheet”. (A couple of others were invited, but being busy women, were already double-booked.) We spoke about our own experiences with online politics, the blogosphere, and how to get more women mobilized online.

Sitting across from Ellen Malcolm, who according to Wikipedia, was “named one of America’s most influential women by Vanity Fair (1998), one of the ‘100 Most Important Women in America’ by Ladies’ Home Journal (1999), one of the ‘Women of the Year’ by Glamour (1992), and ‘Most Valuable Player’ by the American Association of Political Consultants,” gave me a real feeling of empowerment – knowing this woman created an organization that has launched over 11 senators, 55 congresswomen and 7 governors to their seats, not including all of the statewide women she helped attain public office. One woman, harnessing the power of other women, can really do all of that. I’ve heard these statistics before, and I’ve seen her speak at major events before, but somehow sitting at lunch together made me feel like what she does is more real. Hearing her speak on a personal level about her dream of seeing Hillary Clinton sworn in as our first woman president was really inspiring to me.

First, we talked about Hillary’s hair (just kidding – that never even crossed our minds). Seriously though, the topics ran the gamut from utilizing blog advertising to helping women bloggers learn more about working with the ‘mainstream’ media (see yesterday’s post relating to the New York Times article about women in politics online). The one point I wanted to get across to EMILY’s List was the importance of candidate and high-level buy-in about online tools for campaigning; in order to use them effectively, the campaign manager, communications director and state directors (if it’s national) need to totally grok why and how the net can help them win. Or at least they need enough confidence in the explanations given to them by people who do grok it who they feel they can trust. I got the sense that they already knew this, but it never hurts to have another person who’s worked in the field support that notion. I’ve found it’s absolutely essential in conducting a competitive campaign online.

It was a great lunch, and I enjoyed learning more about the other amazing women at the table as well. I hope I have the opportunity to work with all of them in one way or another in the future. I won’t spill the beans on everything else discussed, but let’s just say that I’m looking forward to mobilizing women for women to win in ’08 and beyond.