Monday, August 30, 2010

AFER Supporter Gave Thousands to Anti-Gay Virginia Candidates

Paul Singer

The wealthy hedge fund manager who will host a September 22 fundraiser in his Manhattan home for the pro-gay marriage American Foundation for Equal Rights gave $125,000 to the 2009 campaigns of Bob McDonnell and Ken Cuccinelli, two Virginia social conservatives who have made controversial anti-gay moves in their first few months in office.

Paul Singer, the chief of Elliott Management, a multi-billion hedge fund, gave $100,000 to McDonnell, currently Virginia’s governor, between April of 2009 and September of that year and $25,000 to Cuccinelli, Virginia’s attorney general, in August of 2009. McDonnell and Cuccinelli are Republicans and Singer has a long history of making substantial donations to that party’s state and federal organizations and candidates as well as to right wing think tanks and policy groups.

After saying during his 2009 campaign that he was “completely supportive of policies of non-discrimination,” McDonnell issued a 2010 executive order banning discrimination in state government jobs that omitted sexual orientation as a protected class.

McDonnell’s predecessor, Democrat Tim Kaine, included that class in a 2006 executive order that banned such discrimination. Following a national outcry, McDonnell issued an executive directive, which does not carry the force of law, that said it was the policy of his administration to “prohibit discrimination for any reason.”

In March of this year, McDonnell told WRVA, a Richmond radio station, that laws banning discrimination based on sexual orientation may be unnecessary.

“I don't know that we need it based on the numbers that I’ve seen,” he said. “There really isn’t any rampant discrimination on any basis in Virginia. If you're going to have a law, it needs to actually address a real problem.”

When in Virginia’s legislature, McDonnell voted to exclude sexual orientation from a state hate crimes law, opposed same sex marriages, and backed an amendment to Virginia’s state constitution that barred any state recognition of same sex partnerships, either marriages or civil unions. The amendment’s language was so sweeping that some Virginia legislators thought it might bar unmarried couples, straight or gay, from entering into any type of contract. In 2006, when he was Virginia’s attorney general, McDonnell issued an opinion saying that the amendment “will not affect current legal rights and obligations of unmarried persons.”

McDonnell’s anti-gay views are longstanding. During the 2009 campaign, the Washington Post reported on August 30 that McDonnell’s master’s thesis from Regent University included harsh, anti-gay language.

“However, man’s basic nature is inclined towards evil, and when the exercise of liberty takes the shape of pornography, drug abuse, or homosexuality, the government must restrain, punish, and deter,” McDonnell wrote in the 1989 document.

Later in the thesis, McDonnell wrote “[E]very level of government should statutorily and procedurally prefer married couples over cohabitators, homosexuals, and fornicators. The cost of sin should fall on the sinner not the taxpayer.”

Cuccinelli sparked controversy early in his tenure when he wrote to Virginia’s state colleges telling them that since the state legislature had not barred discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity their policies should not ban such discrimination.

“It is my advice that the law and public policy of the Commonwealth of Virginia prohibit a college or university from including ‘sexual orientation,’ ‘gender identity,’ ‘gender expression,’ or like classification as a protected class within its non-discrimination policy absent specific authorization from the General Assembly,’’ Cuccinelli wrote in the March 2010 letter.

Like McDonnell, Cuccinelli has long opposed gay, transgender, lesbian, and bisexual community goals. In 2009, Singer also gave $10,000 to Jill Holtzman Vogel and $25,000 to Barbara Comstock, both are Republicans and social conservatives who won seats in Virginia’s legislature last year.

Singer has supported gay causes giving $100,000 to the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network in 2003 and at least $100,000 to the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, also in 2003. Singer gave $200,000 to oppose a 2009 Maine ballot initiative that successfully overturned a legislative enactment of same sex marriages there.

The New York Times reported on August 27 that Singer has given “$4.2 million to groups supporting gay rights and same-sex marriage.” Singer did not respond to an email seeking comment and further details on his pro-gay philanthropy.

The foundation hired lawyers David Boies and Ted Olson to sue to overturn Prop. 8, the 2008 ballot initiative that banned same sex marriage in California.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

AFER Fundraiser: Check Your History at the Door

The invitation to the Sept. 22 fundraiser via

The gay and lesbian community awoke on August 27 to read an odd assertion in a New York Times story. Paul Singer, who runs a multi-billion dollar hedge fund, has secretly donated to gay causes.

“With no public disclosure, Mr. Singer has given more than $4.2 million to groups supporting gay rights and same-sex marriage, like the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Action Fund, associates said,” Eric Lichtblau, the Times reporter, wrote in the story that presented Singer as a defender of Wall Street and representing a trend of finance industry campaign donations flowing to Republicans and away from Democrats.

Singer is hosting a September 22 fundraiser in his Manhattan home for the American Foundation for Equal Rights, the California group that hired lawyers David Boies and Ted Olson to sue to overturn Prop. 8, the 2008 voter initiative that banned same sex marriage in that state. A copy of the invitation was posted on

Singer’s co-hosts are Ken Mehlman, the newly out gay man who helped the Bush White House organize anti-gay marriage ballot initiatives in 11 states in 2004 as part of a strategy to turn out conservative voters, and Peter Thiel, the former chief executive officer of PayPal, the web payment service, and now the chairman of Clarium Capital, another hedge fund. Reportedly, Thiel is gay.

When Mehlman came out in an August 25 story in The Atlantic it was clearly timed to coincide with the fundraiser so as an organizer of the 2004 campaigns it would seem that he was doing penance for those earlier anti-gay efforts. Singer and Thiel bring plenty of their own right wing baggage to this fundraiser. Call me cynical, but the same people who helped Mehlman spin his coming out may be helping Singer.

For years, Singer has been a reliable and generous donor to many state and federal Republican political organizations, candidates, and office holders including some of the most anti-gay members of that party, such as Rick Santorum and Bill McCollum, who lost a bid to become the Republican nominee for Florida’s governor’s office on August 24. Singer has also supported moderate Republicans and has donated to Senator Chuck Schumer, a Democrat. In New York, he has donated to Democrats and Republicans, but his largest donations have gone to the state Republican and Conservative parties.

In 2008, the Paul Singer Family Foundation gave $275,000 to the Manhattan Institute, a right wing group that has Singer as the chair of its board. Plenty of the experts at the institute have opposed gay marriage and other gay causes. The foundation gave the institute $30,000 in 2007. Also in 2008, the foundation gave $50,000 to the Witherspoon Institute.

On its web site, Witherspoon describes itself as “an independent research center that works to enhance public understanding of the moral foundations of free and democratic societies.”

Its fellows include Robert George, a Princeton University professor and a leading opponent of same sex marriage, and W. Bradford Wilcox, a professor at the University of Virginia who says he is less opposed to same sex marriage and more of a proponent of traditional marriage. Wilcox’s work is frequently cited by gay marriage opponents. Other Witherspoon fellows have been active in opposing the gay community.

In 2002, George, the chairman of the National Organization for Marriage, co-authored a friend-of-the-court brief for the Family Research Council and Focus on the Family, two conservative groups, in Lawrence v. Texas, a US Supreme Court case, that urged the court to uphold the Texas sodomy law. The court struck down the nation’s remaining sodomy laws in that case. In 2006, George was a co-founder of a religious coalition that supported an amendment to the US Constitution to ban same sex marriage.

George is the director of the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions at Princeton and Singer is one of the program’s advisors. The program is affiliated with the James Madison Society which includes many conservative professors, with some noted opponents of the gay community, among its members. Wilcox is a member of that society.

In 2007, Wilcox received a “multi-year grant” from the Institute for American Values, a New York City group headed by David Blankenhorn who testified for the pro-Prop. 8 side at the trial. While he has been vilified in the gay community and in some of the mainstream press, his testimony was ultimately more helpful in striking down the initiative.

In research that may be aimed at same sex parenting, the Institute for American Values grant to Wilcox will fund research into “the ways in which parenting is gendered -- in both positive and negative ways,” how gender differences in parents are “related to child well-being,” and if gender differences “contribute to conflict between parents.” Blankenhorn’s institute also funded Dr. Kathleen Kovner Kline to do similar research in Denver.

The only donations by Singer to gay groups that I could find came in 2003 when the foundation gave $100,000 to the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network and at least $100,000 to the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. And, no, I am not taking the word of anonymous “associates” or the New York Times that Singer handed out over $4 million to gay causes.

Similarly, Thiel, the other co-host, has supported a mix of Republican candidates, office holders, and organizations with some of his cash going to moderates and other checks paid to anti-gay Republicans.

In 2008, Thiel gave $250,000 Federalist Society, a group of conservative and libertarian lawyers who support a reordering of “priorities within the legal system to place a premium on individual liberty, traditional values, and the rule of law” and $100,000 to the Hoover Institution, a conservative policy group at Stanford University. He have $75,000 to the Institute on Religion and Public Life in 2006. While claiming to be non-partisan, that institute was the creation and primary voice of Richard John Neuhaus, a neoconservative Roman Catholic priest.

This fundraiser for the American Foundation for Equal Rights looks increasingly bizarre. When donors to a gay group must hire publicists to plant stories about the alleged secret philanthropy of one to gay causes or another’s struggle with his gay feelings as he attacked the gay and lesbian community it seems to me that the message is that they have doubts about their commitment. Or they think the rest of us will question their motives. The solution would have been to approach Mehlman’s coming out with some humility, but I doubt he knows what that is.

UPDATE: A poster on noted that Singer donated to the campaign to defeat Question 1, a 2009 ballot initiative that overturned Maine's legislative enactment of same sex marriage. He did indeed give $200,000 to that effort in three separate donations. I will say this. What Singer gives with one check he takes away with many others. A Republican majority in Congress or any state legislature is a near guarantee that the bisexual, transgender, lesbian, and gay community will see no progress on our issues. It is clear to me that he wants Republicans in office. Additionally, he is supporting the think tanks and academics that vigorously oppose our community.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Target's Politics: The Exception or the Rule?

Appearing on Michelangelo Signorile’s radio show, Fred Sainz, a spokesman for the Human Rights Campaign, defended the group’s Corporate Equality Index saying that it gave bisexual, transgender, gay, and lesbian job seekers a way to assess a prospective employer’s policies.

The index asks, among several items, if employers have anti-discrimination policies that include protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity or do they grant employee benefits to the unmarried partners of their employees. With a possible maximum score of 100, employers can lose 15 points if they engage in “activity that would undermine LGBT equality.”

Sainz told Signorile on August 18 that the index helps people in “understanding the difference between a company being a very solid employer for LGBT people and, in fact, having progressive policies that all Americans don’t enjoy under federal law and understanding perhaps their more holistic persona when factoring in political contributions.”

Doubts about the index arose after Target, the Minneapolis-based retailer, gave $150,000 to MN Forward, a right wing 527 group, that used the cash to pay for television ads supporting Tom Emmer, a candidate for governor in Minnesota and a conservative who holds anti-gay positions. The Human Rights Campaign gave Target perfect 100s in the 2009 and 2010 indexes.

Signorile raised a question about the index -- how could a company that supports political views that are fundamentally at odds with the central goals of the transgender, lesbian, bisexual, and gay community score a perfect 100 on the index and why was it still listed after the disclosure of the MN Forward donation? The Human Rights Campaign ultimately delisted Target, but the gay rights lobbying group is missing a larger point.

Some quick and admittedly cursory searching at, the web site operated by the Committee for Responsive Politics, shows that corporations that scored a 100 on the 2010 index have employees and directors who donated to pro-gay senators and representatives as well as the most anti-gay members of Congress. Companies with a perfect score that have their own political action committees were just as likely to have supported our friends as our opponents.

Notwithstanding their willingness to put in place a few pro-gay policies, corporations are generally agnostic or oppose the community on our political issues. This was evident in 2007 during lobbying for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, a federal law that then barred discrimination in employment based on sexual orientation.

Back then, only nine companies and the University of Michigan lobbied in favor of the act. Some major business lobbies -- the American Benefits Council, the US Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers, and the Retail Industry Leaders Association -- were neutral on the bill. The Business Roundtable, an association of chief executives of U.S. companies, never disclosed its position. That neutrality should not be dismissed because it contributed to the employment act passing the House. It came at a very high price.

Using the definition of married in the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, which says marriage is only between a man and a woman, the employment act said an employer cannot be required “to treat a couple who are not married in the same manner as the covered entity treats a married couple for purposes of employee benefits.”

In other words, a gay or lesbian couple who married in the six jurisdictions where such unions are legal are not recognized as legal spouses under the employment act and employers need not give the same employee benefits or any benefits at all to the spouses of their married gay and lesbian employees.

What makes this concession to these business interests particularly noxious is that back in the 80s and 90s, when the gay and lesbian community sought domestic partner benefits from employers, we demonstrated definitively that the cost of such benefits to employers was minimal. There is no reason to believe that the cost would differ when they are paid to the legal spouse of a gay or lesbian employee.

What we saw in 2007 was corporate America’s real view of the lesbian, transgender, bisexual, and gay community. Companies want our money and they will make pitches for it. They will give a few benefits, but when it comes to the important matters, health insurance for instance, companies are unwilling to spend serious cash though obviously there are exceptions to this.

The larger problem with the Corporate Equality Index is that it gives the impression that corporate America has our back. It does not. As we saw in 2007, when the interests of the transgender, lesbian, gay, and bisexual community are in conflict with what business wants, we lose.