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Helen Muir Milby '87 throws the kind of party people will pay thousands of dollars to attend. And as the director of development for the Democratic Leadership Council, she has a whopping $7-million party budget.
Well, sort of.
Milby's job is to raise money for the nonprofit organization charged with rebuilding the Democratic Party. She's responsible for the Democratic Leadership Council's seven-figure bottom line and while it isn't all fun and games, she says if you want to change the world, you've got to know how to party. And she does.
When the country's Democrats descended upon Los Angeles last summer, Milby was there with a week's worth of events. Cocktails to coattails, lunches to brunches. All this for the low, low price of $20,000 per ticket. "It's obscene how much money is in politics," she says. "Unfortunately, not enough of it goes to the good guys."
It's easy to be typecast, and political fund raising can be a dirty word. But, Milby says, enough people in the Washington, D.C., area know her group isn't funding negative political ads or gobbling up special-interest money. It is fighting for tax creditsnot wage hikesfor working families and trying to make Democratic policies more business-friendly, she maintains. The group has a popular moderate platform, Milby says, which sometimes puts the DLC at odds with labor organizations and other traditionally pro-Democratic special interest groups.
But she leaves that to the policy people. She's too busy financing it all. "I was never really that political, but I decided since I was going to be in D.C., I might as well get involved," she said. "It felt weird being here and not being a part of the political process."
Milby, 35, moved to the nation's capital in 1993 after raising money for five years for the Colorado Endowment for the Humanitiesa job that fit with her art history and French majors. She married Josephs Milby that year and soon found herself working on Oklahoma Democrat David McCurdy's failed U.S. Senate campaign. "It was a very bad year for Democrats," Milby says.
But her campaign work took her to the DLC, a group she says was "trying to figure out why all the Democrats were losing at the national level." Five years later and with two children3-year-old Sarah and 4-month-old KateMilby says she still loves her work.
It can be tiring at times, she says, and she still gets nervous before big events. But she believes in the group's ideals and feels passionate about her work. Event planning tip from the pro: The President is always late, sometimes up to two hours, but don't sweat it. People will wait for him.
Milby might not stay at the DLC forever (she thinks raising money for a philanthropic organization would be nice), but her career path gives her unique job security: groups always need money. "You know you're going to be the last person fired and the first person hired," she said.
Matt Apuzzo '99
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