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 towleroad.com.
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 Queerty.com 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.