Kiss-Kiss, Bye-Bye: The HWPC Gives Up

Quiz time: This group was small. It was based in southern California. Its beliefs were outside the mainstream. It drew a flurry of news coverage when, recently, it ceased to exist. Can you identify it?

No, it's not Heaven's Gate - but close. The correct answer is the Hollywood Women's Political Committee, the hyperfeminist show-business PAC which doled out almost $6 million to liberal candidates since 1984. The HWPC folded its Armani tent on April 12 with the typically self-righteous huff that it "will no longer collaborate with a system that promotes the buying and selling of political office." True, the organization had long supported campaign finance reform, and, as leftist columnist Robert Scheer pointed out, is the only PAC ever to testify before Congress in favor of outlawing PACs. Nonetheless, it managed to collaborate with the system just fine when the Democrats controlled Congress; had the HWPC bought and sold political office more successfully, it most certainly would have remained in the business.

Members admit that they, in the words of former HWPC executive director Margery Tabankin, had become "increasingly alienated as the political debate in both parties has tilted rightward." Now we're getting closer to the truth. The HWPC's shrill, hardcore brand of liberalism wasn't popular when the group formed, and it's even less popular today. Its 1985 statement of principles condemned "the myth of a balanced budget as an excuse to dismantle the social agenda of this country" and opposed "any attempt... to interfere with a woman's absolute ownership and control of her own body."

The HWPC peaked early, in September 1986, when Barbra Streisand hosted, and performed at, a fundraiser for Democratic Senate candidates which raked in an estimated $1.5 million. Two months later, the Democrats 89 pro-abortion march and rally in Washington. Glenn Close, Susan Sarandon, Cybill Shepherd, and many other big names took part. By contrast, at the last major liberal shindig in Washington, NOW's "Rally for Women's Lives" in April 1995, the stars were Sharon Gless and Tyne Daly, many years past their "Cagney and Lacey" fame.

In Ronald Brownstein's Los Angeles Times article on the HWPC's demise, he quotes a member as saying, "We have always had this set of?principles we were trying to organize around, and what finally became clear to us was that until the [campaign finance] situation was dealt with, we were never going to get anywhere." Success to the Hollywood Women's Political Committee, then, is defined as a government takeover of the political campaign process. Surely that's in keeping with its philosophy; surely that's a reason for the GOP to resist.