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.

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