Early Money Is Like Yeast – E.M.I.L.Y.: The Effects of Formal and Informal Party Institutions on Gender and Campaign Finance in the Dominican Republic 

Background &Research Puzzle: This dissertation has been designed to gain insight concerning the research puzzle that political parties continue to serve as a barrier to women’s participation in politics even after they allow the passage of affirmative actions like quotas and actively promote gender equity in party documents. This question stems from the trajectory of women in electoral politics in Latin America in the last twenty-five to thirty years. In the 1990s, especially influenced by the Beijing and Beijing +5 Women’s Conferences, a wave of gender quota legislation swept Latin America. These laws have helped increase the number of women in politics in the region. In the last decade five women have been elected president in the region. However, outside of the executive, after twenty-five to thirty years only two Latin American countries have a percentage of women in parliament that matches or exceeds the percentage mandated in their quota laws - Argentina and Costa Rica. Scholars and practitioners have looked in to various causes and reasons for the successful in part and unsuccessful in part quotas from the structure of the laws to the importance of having women in political party leadership. However, what is the process that political party elites use to decide if, when, and which female candidates to support? What is the role that campaign support and contributions by parties and economic elites/businesses have? This dissertation works to understand these questions through the analysis of where and when female candidates receive campaign materials and support?

Goals of the Project: This project, as currently conceived, will assist in filling a void concerning the intersection of factors contributing to hindrance of the increase of female political representation in Latin America. This project also focuses on the day to day processes surrounding quotas, gender, and political institutions. Taking a feminist institutionalist approach that will analyze the function of the informal and formal institutional norms of campaign finance, the goal is to show how parties and economic and political elites in power work to maintain the status quo. Additionally, the focus is to show how women candidates can win elections based on these political and social institutional factors and norms. In academia, this dissertation aims to add to conversations about the gendered nature of institutions and the importance of mixed and interpretive methods. In practical politics, this dissertation aims to provide tangible steps and tips that women political elites and practitioners can use to help women win elections in Latin America. This project also seeks to highlight the importance of going beyond counting the numbers of women in politics moving beyond showing by how much women still reflect limited percentages in politics. Finally, this project focuses on why the number of women in electoral offices appear as they are appearing as it offers tips and antidotes that can serve as tangible information for political actors in Latin America.

Argument: Puzzled by the continued low numbers of women in Latin American parliaments after fifteen years of quota laws, this dissertation argues using the logic of E.M.I.L.Y’s List, one of the most successful political action committees in the United States, that early campaign money is key for electing more women in politics. Additionally, I argue that looking at campaign finance from a gendered lens i.e., the economic-political-sociological factor effects on the experiences of men and women, can help political scientists understand the gap between the number of female candidates and the number of women elected. Finally, I study these puzzles in the Dominican Republic, based on the argument that looking at institutions and campaign finance only through successful cases e.g., Argentina, Costa Rica, and Mexico is not enough. Understanding and researching in the field semi- successful cases is also crucial for drawing inferences about barriers to women’s representation and the development of strategies for to overcome them. 

Literature & Theoretical Framework: This dissertation has been designed to contribute to three comparative politics literature conversations. The first conversation concerns how parties connect to women entering into parties and electoral politics. The second conversation concerns the effectiveness of quota laws around the world in different electoral systems. And, the third conversation argues that institutions are gendered and this “gendering” effects how men and women function within formal and informal political institutions. The theoretical framework is feminist institutionalism which argues that [political] institutions are viewed as spaces belonging to one gender or that spaces can and do perpetuate socialized norms of a particular gender. 

Research Question & Hypotheses: This main research question for this project is, where and when do female candidates receive campaign finance support and materials? To assist in answering this question there are three hypotheses guiding this project: H1 - Where women get campaign finances and resources. Unlike their male counterparts who receive campaign finance support from their networks and businesses, many women candidates run self-funded campaigns. These funds add to resources provided by political parties. But the party decisions around how much support to give women candidates center around three factors: 1- the political or economic career of the candidate; 2 - the strategic interest for the party, like location and historical and social significances of a woman winning a campaign; and 3 - the likelihood the women candidate not shift the status quo of party or economic power norms. H2 - When women get campaign finances and resources. Numerous women receive campaign finances and resources closer to election day or they receive fewer and smaller promotional materials. In some countries women are simply placed on the ballot so parties can comply with electoral and quota laws e.g., Brazil's candidatas laranjas/lemon candidates. In the Dominican Republic there is also a distinction between women’s and men’s campaign propaganda that disadvantages women candidates and assists in maintaining the economical and political status quo of those in power. H3 - What is the role of parties, individuals, & businesses in elections? Those with economic or political power focus their campaign financing on those that will allow them to maintain their power status quo. These actors are less inclined to give women campaign resources based on real or imagined perceptions that women will not participate in their clientelistic/patronage institutional norms used to maintain their political or economic power.

Research Methods: This dissertation is a mixed and interpretive methods project because one, these types of methodologies, is what is currently needed based on the most recent recommendations made by scholars. Two, these methods will also assist in including information and voices that have been missing from the research puzzles discussed in women and comparative politics around power, parties and representation. Finally, interpretive and qualitative methodology is gaining more influence in political science but still currently devalued and under-utilized in answering research questions. Specifically this project will utilize a party activists survey, in-depth interviews, and political ethnography. The survey will focus on filling in the gaps of data collected prior to arrival in the field. Questions will be multiple choice and short answer and question activists’ party involvement, political aspirations, and experiences running for internal or electoral positions. This survey will also include questions asked by other scholars to connect my results to the literature’s history of female political representation research in Latin America. Semi-structured interviews of political party leaders, women party members, and women and men who have run successful and unsuccessful campaigns will give additional insight to insights made to date in the literature as well as to provide evidence to assist in analyzing the hypotheses of this dissertation. Finally, the use of ethnography connects with the dissertation's arguments as well as the literature's arguments concerning the complexities of institutions and the importance of formal and informal institutions. Utilizing ethnography will allow a detailed understanding of the processes occurring within the candidate selection and political campaign processes. Furthermore, this detailed analysis of the campaign/political party nomination process will assist the literature in understanding where formal institutions and informal institutions are interacting and the nature of their entanglement in order to assist the move towards gender parity in politics. 

Conclusion: This dissertation aims to better understand the role that political parties have in hindering women’s participation in electoral politics by building on several political science literatures about political parties; gender quotas; candidate selection; and feminist instituitonalism. This dissertation augments politics and public policy by working in budding areas of political science through under-studied angles; developing new pathways of understanding of politics specifically in the areas of comparative gender and politics research; and through offering tangible suggestions for political elites and practitioners in the field. 

© Danielle Pritchett 2015