2020 Presidential Profiles

Published — March 27, 2019

9 things to know about Marianne Williamson

(Photo by Amy Harris/Invision/AP)

Self-help guru brings spirit to long-shot Democratic presidential campaign

Introduction

Author, lecturer and spirituality guru Marianne Williamson would like you to read any and all of her dozen published books, including four New York Times No. 1 bestsellers.  

She wants you to watch her many conversations with pal Oprah Winfrey and, perhaps, pay $249 to take her four-part online course on “aging miraculously.”

Now, Williamson is asking you to help elect her president of the United States of America.

“We need a new burst of freedom, we need a whole uprising of consciousness among the American people,” she declared Jan. 28 when she announced her candidacy in Los Angeles. “New paradigm leadership is not about saying, ‘I’ll do it, send me to Washington.’ New paradigm leadership is where the leader is holding the space for the brilliance of others, and that is what I have done throughout my entire career.”

While her business career is defined by repeated success, the Houston native’s electoral resume is decidedly thin: Williamson’s only campaign for federal office came in 2014, when running as an independent, she finished fourth in an 18-way open primary for California’s 33rd District congressional seat, earning 13.2 percent of the vote. (Rep. Ted Lieu, D-Calif., ultimately won.)

But Williamson has legions of acolytes and is drawing crowds in New Hampshire, the nation’s first presidential primary state. Reversing climate change, improving health care and reforming government ethics are among her platform priorities.

And she’s well on her way to surpassing the Democratic Party’s new funding threshold for qualifying for this year’s intra-party presidential debates — securing donations from at least 65,000 people from across at least 20 states.  

Here’s more to know about Williamson’s personal and political finances:

  • Williamson is a prolific political contributor, having spread nearly $100,000 among various federal political campaigns and committees since the early 1990s, according to Federal Election Commission records. Williamson gave $250 each last year to the U.S. Senate campaigns of two current presidential campaign competitors: Sen. Bernie Sanders and former Rep. Beto O’Rourke. She also contributed $300 to Sanders’ 2016 presidential campaign. Other Democratic presidential candidates to whom Williams has contributed over the years: Barack Obama, John Edwards, John Kerry and Dennis Kucinich. While she mostly gives to Democrats, Williamson also gave $300 in 1999 to the now largely defunct Natural Law Party of the United States of America.
  • Williamson previously helped fund her own political ambitions. During her 2014 congressional run, Williamson pumped more than $581,000 into her campaign in the form of direct contributions and loans, according to a Center for Responsive Politics analysis of FEC filings. The campaign raised about $2 million overall. As of now, Williamson “does not have plans to invest her own money into the campaign,” campaign spokeswoman Patricia Ewing told the Center for Public Integrity. Williamson told supporters in January that she needs “millions and millions and millions of dollars” to fund her campaign. Relatedly, her campaign platform calls for a constitutional amendment to establish public financing for federal campaigns.
In a campaign video, Democratic presidential candidate Marianne Williamson decries the role of big money in national politics. (Screenshot / YouTube)
  • Actress Roma Downey, who also gave Williamson $2,600, is one of only 45 people of about 7.6 billion worldwide whom President Donald Trump follows on Twitter. But federal records indicate Downey has never contributed to Trump’s campaign, and her husband, “The Apprentice” creator Mark Burnett, indicated in 2016 that he and Downey reject “hatred, division and misogyny that has been a very unfortunate part of his campaign.” (Downey did contribute to Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential bid.) Relatedly, one of Williamson’s prominent donors from earlier this decade appears unlikely to re-up. Ben Cohen, co-founder of ice cream company Ben & Jerry’s, gave Williamson’s 2014 campaign $2,600 — but Cohen is already a major supporter of Sen. Bernie Sanders’ 2020 presidential bid.
  • Grammy-winning musician Alanis Morissette released a song, “Today,” in support of Williamson’s congressional campaign. While the lyrics are generally uplifting — “I’m reaching higher and higher and higher / I’m moving up and up and up” — they also frown upon a society in constant pursuit of money: “Smile upside down, rupture is rising / Families are scrambling for custody / Faithlessly drowned / The chase of this dollar is tilting my altar toward apathy.”
  • In 2013, Williamson reported having assets valued somewhere between $957,000 and $4.48 million (not including personal residences), according to a personal financial disclosure filed with the U.S. House of Representatives. At the time, Williamson reported individual stock holdings in Apple Inc., BlackRock Inc., Google Inc., Home Depot Inc., McDonald’s Corp., Praxair Inc. and Whole Foods Market Inc.
  • Williamson disclosed earning about $957,200 in 2013 from nearly three-dozen book advances, royalty advances, honoraria, product sales and affiliate commissions. The majority of this income — $557,151 — came from “self-produced events,” with another $61,698 from HarperCollins Publishers. All presidential candidates are required to eventually file personal financial disclosures, and Ewing said that because Williamson “believes in transparency as a presidential candidate” she will go one step further and “disclose her taxes at the appropriate time.”
  • Until 2017, Williamson served on the board of directors for Washington, D.C.-based Results Educational Fund, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit charity dedicated to “generating the will to end hunger and the worst aspects of poverty,” and its 501(c)(4) “social welfare” sister organization, Results Inc., which encourages “grassroots advocates to lobby their elected officials” and works “directly with Congress and other U.S. policymakers to shape and advance” anti-poverty policies. Williamson continues to serve on a “council of advisors” that “provides informal advice” to leaders of the two Results groups, Results spokesman Colin Smith said in an email. Williamson also continues to serve as a trustee for Project Angel Food, a California-based nonprofit she founded in 1989.
  • Williamson likely won’t raise as much campaign money as some of her Democratic presidential counterparts, such as Sanders and O’Rourke, who obliterated fundraising records during his unsuccessful bid in 2018 to unseat Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas. If so, Williamson could follow the financial advice she prescribed in her 2012 book, “The Law of Divine Compensation: On Work, Money and Miracles”: “[O]ne kind of material abundance derives from an almost otherworldly charisma, a sense of magic some people carry around with them like an aura of destiny. … Regardless of what limits exist in your material world, your immutable truth is that you are an unlimited spiritual being.” If nothing else, more than a few people in New Hampshire, which conducts the nation’s first presidential primary, are buying into Williamson and her campaign. “Just look at the overflow crowds of people who adore her and probably won’t even consider voting for anyone else,” Boston Globe political reporter James Pindell observed.  

Sources: Center for Public Integrity reporting, Federal Election Commission, Internal Revenue Service, Our Revolution, Center for Responsive Politics, Boston Globe, U.S. House of Representatives, YouTube and The New York Times 

Ashley Balcerzak contributed to this report.

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Richard Evans
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Richard Evans

I’ve been a fan of hers for years, read most of her books (checked out from the public library) and have watched dozens of her lectures (free online). If I had more disposable income might own the books or pay for her courses, but to imply she’s some sort of charlatan (as I interpreted the intro) reveals another agenda.

Linda Williams
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Linda Williams

I agree, the media will tear her down instead of lifting her up as the person who can speak to the soul of America. Still, I am lifted by her willingness to fulfill her life’s purpose and she will have my support and my vote. And we are not alone!