Published July 11, 2012
SAN FRANCISCO – As a co-owner of the Chicago Cubs, her politically active family's sole Democrat, and a sister with three brothers, Laura Ricketts is comfortable being the odd woman out.
But it has not escaped her notice that lesbians such as her are in the minority at political events for gay donors, whether it's a White House reception or a fundraiser for U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin, who hopes to become the first openly lesbian member of the U.S. Senate.
So Ricketts immediately embraced an idea by a fellow Chicago businesswoman who approached her a few months ago about creating a first-of-its kind political action committee to champion candidates and causes that appeal to lesbian voters.
LPAC, as the independent super PAC was christened, will be launched Wednesday with the freedom to spend unrestricted amounts of money for or against candidates.
"Being a woman and being gay is really a unique position in our society," said Ricketts, a co-chair of the Democratic National Committee's LGBT Leadership Council and one of President Barack Obama's fundraising bundlers. "I know in my experience of activism, oftentimes it makes a difference if something is women-focused. It's likely to get the attention of women much more easily."
LPAC's fundraising goal for the 2012 election cycle is $1 million, a modest amount by the standards of many super PACS, including the conservative Ending Spending Action Fund founded by Ricketts' father, TD Ameritrade founder Joe Ricketts,
LPAC beneficiaries have not been finalized, although candidates such as Baldwin and campaigns to defeat ballot measures that would ban same-sex marriages or restrict access to abortions and birth control are likely to be recipients of donations.
However, the group's aim to give lesbians an influential voice in mainstream politics is ground-breaking, said chairwoman Sarah Schmidt, a scion of the family behind Midwest petroleum distributor U.S. Venture Inc.
Unlike the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, which supports gay, lesbian, transgender and bisexual candidates, and Emily's List, which is dedicated to electing Democratic women who support abortion rights, LPAC plans to promote men and women from either major party regardless of their sexual orientations, as well as ballot initiatives.
"In my mind, there really was no downside here," said Schmidt, a management consultant and philanthropist. "If it raises $5 million, amazing. But if it raises $500,000, we have still raised $500,000 for critical races and it's being raised from lesbian leaders whose voices may not have been heard before."
Along with Schmidt and Ricketts, the committee is led by veteran gay rights activist Urvashi Vaid and Alix Ritchie, former publisher of the Provincetown Banner. Jane Lynch and Billie Jean King also have pledged support.
"Members of the LGBT community are inspirational leaders and role models in every aspect of American life," King said. "The formation of LPAC provides lesbians and the entire LGBT community a new, stronger voice and a real and respected seat at the table when politicians make policy that impacts our lives."