Just months before EMILY’s List President Laphonza Butler was appointed by California Governor Gavin Newsom to fill the U.S. Senate seat left vacant by the passing of Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein, the liberal organization, under Butler’s leadership, announced it would spend tens of millions of dollars to help Vice President Kamala Harris get reelected.
The Intercept, citing as a source “a close ally of Butler’s” reports, “A portion of the group’s limited resources will go to boosting Harris as her approval ratings drag below that of her predecessors.”
Butler served as senior adviser to Harris’s 2020 presidential campaign before joining EMILY’s List in September 2021. That year, according to The Intercept, “EMILY’s List spent $10 million backing Harris after her vice presidential nomination.”
— Laphonza Butler (@LaphonzaB) December 13, 2021
On X, EMILY’s List runs a separate account, “Madam Vice President,” that aims to boost Harris’s image.
“While we have more work to do, this is historic progress.”
— Madam Vice President (@MadamVPOTUS) October 6, 2023
Last month, just two months after announcing the organization’s costly plan to back Harris’s reelection campaign and with Butler still at the helm, EMILY’s List pointed to budget deficits ahead of the 2024 elections and laid off eight people.
“The influential Democratic Party-aligned organization cut five staff members from the training and community engagement team, which ran outreach to grassroots candidates and voters; two people from the digital team; and another person on the state and local campaigns team,” The Intercept reports.
“Several staff members who were laid off and not part of the union were asked to sign nondisclosure agreements in order to receive severance,” the outlet continues. “Last week, EMILY’s List shut down Run to Win, its national recruitment and training program.”
“Layoffs in September cut people who weren’t fundraising or working with an endorsed candidate,” it explains.
EMILY’s List spokesperson Christina Reynolds said the organization was forced to make some “tough choices.”
“At this time, we are prioritizing our resources to the efforts most central to the EMILYs List’s mission: electing a diverse group Democratic pro-choice women in targeted seats,” Reynolds said. “This required another look at our budget for the cycle, revisiting our focus and our scope and making some tough choices, including having to cut specific functions and lay off some valued colleagues.”
One of The Intercept’s sources called financial decisions made by EMILY’s List ahead of the layoffs puzzling.
“The source said there were questions about spending on conferences and consultants,” The Intercept reports. “They said Butler and former Executive Director Emily Cain, who left in April, had trouble attracting big donors during a widespread Democratic fundraising slump, but that the organization found success in appealing to older and more moderate voters through Harris.”
In June, Butler vowed that EMILY’s List would focus on telling Harris’s “story.”
“We’re going to tell the story about who she is, what she’s done, support her at every turn and really push back against the massive misinformation and disinformation that’s been directed towards her since she’s been elected,” she told Politico.
BREAKING: Kamala Harris has proven that she’s committed to protecting abortion access and reproductive freedom nationwide. That is why we are proud to formally endorse Kamala Harris for Vice President. pic.twitter.com/tWcL7yetQH
— EMILYs List (@emilyslist) June 23, 2023
While support for a female Vice President from a liberal fundraising organization that is dedicated to getting women elected isn’t surprising, investing so many resources into what many voters consider to be an “afterthought” position struck The Intercept’s source as “weird.”
“EMILY’s List is doing a lot of stuff for the vice president, which I always thought was weird,” the source said. “I know the vice president is an elected position, I just don’t really view it that way.”