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GayTM On the Fritz: Gay Political Donations Down

The opinions expressed in this post are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of other authors at Box Turtle Bulletin.

Jim Burroway

September 24th, 2010

The "GayTM" is out of orderPerhaps one measure of the gay community’s scorn for the Democratic Party’s failure to deliver on its promises — as evidenced by this week’s cynical tossing of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” football coupled with the administration’s ridiculous filing in the Log Cabin Republican lawsuit against DADT — the OpenSecretsBlog reports that LGBT groups’ contributions to political campaigns are drastically down when compared the the last mid-term elections in 2006:

[I]n an election cycle full of controversy over hot button issues such as adoption, “don’t ask, don’t tell” and California’s Proposition 8 ban on gay marriage, donations to federal candidates from gay and lesbian interest groups are lagging. So far during the 2010 election cycle, people and political action committees associated with this special interest area have donated $744,040 to federal candidates, with 96 percent of funds going to Democrats. That’s compared to more than $2 million contributed to federal candidates during the 2006 congressional elections and $1.8 million contributed during the 2008 presidential election cycle.

The Human Rights Campaign has donated a huge majority of the industry’s funds going to federal candidates this cycle, contributing $625,272 to primarily Democratic candidates.

"If you want my gay dollar, I want my gay rightThat means that the HRC has contributed almost 85% of all the LGBT dollars to federal campaigns. I don’t know what percentage of the total contribution the HRC contributed in 2006, but I doubt that it amounted to $1.6 million. There has long been a perception that the Democratic party has been eager to take the gay dollar but unwilling to seriously address the gay community’s concerns, whether they be the ongoing firing of qualified personnel from the U.S. military, discrimination against gay and (especially) transgender people in the workplace, or the unwillingness to take a coherent stand on marriage. LGBT people and organizations are, as a result, naturally and justifiably outraged this year, with many demanding that the “GayTM” be shut down.

While undoubtedly the economy has contributed to this falloff in donations, but that’s not the entire story. LGBT donations are down by about half; other sources for donations are off, they haven’t fallen as drastically as this. I’m glad that most of the major LGBT organizations have decided to close the GayTM. Their money wasn’t being well spent, given the pathetic and cynical behavior of the political establishment that so many of us have worked so long and hard to support. For any organization that as to evaluate how effective every dollar they spend is toward accomplishing their goals, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that their dollars can be better spent elsewhere.

I fully support the call to sit on your dollars during this election cycle. If you have money to donate, there are many more worthy causes in your own local community that could use your help in this down economy. At least there, your hard-earned dollars have a better chance of actually doing some good. And if you are interested in contributing to political candidates, there is still the option of donating directly to specific candidates that you know have stood by the LGBT community. (For me locally, for example, I would single out my Congressman, Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ). He was among the extremely few Arizona officeholders who actively and publicly campaigned against Prop 102, the constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, which passed in 2008.)

I also think this report documents how unbelievably out of touch the HRC is with the community it claims to represent. It looks like we don’t just need an overhaul of the political establishment that takes our money without delivering results, but also the advocacy group that takes our dollars and doesn’t hold anyone accountable. To those of us who have donated to the HRC in the past, it’s a good time to ask: have you gotten your money’s worth?



September 24th, 2010 | LINK

Rather than just refusing to donate to the HRC or the Democratic Party as a whole (which I completely agree with) I think people should familiarize themselves with which Democrats actually a pro-gay in more than just lip-service and donate to them directly.

September 24th, 2010 | LINK

Ryan, here is a website that identifies many of the pro LGBT candidates. Worth checking out.

September 24th, 2010 | LINK

Dispiriting for those of us who reckon ourselves to be Democrats to see that the most significant progress has come when Republicans get involved; I’m thinking of the Prop 8 challenge and the DADT challenge. Not that there’s anything wrong with Republican support – good to see them getting involved – but where have the Democrats been all this time? I can understand if they can’t get things done but at least they could try.

It’s been a real grief to see that not only does this president not ‘pander’ to his base, he goes out of his way to show how little we mean to him. It began with Rick Warren and has gone steadily downhill.

September 24th, 2010 | LINK

I definitely it would be in the best interests of gay people to stop giving to the Democratic Party as a whole and start giving to specific candidates (Democratic or Republican) who actually walk the walk.

There are a lot of state senators and state representatives who have taken courageous stands and voted for gay marriage in VT, NH, ME, NY, and NJ. Kirsten Gillibrand has actually earned gay support, too, although I think she’s already sitting on a pile of money.

If you are going to give money, far better to give to specific candidates directly than to give to HRC or to the Democratic Party as a whole.

September 24th, 2010 | LINK

Stephen, the Republicans “got involved” in DADT repeal–and killed it. Let’s not forget that. Democrats aren’t blameless, but the GOP gets the lion’s share. And while Ted Olsen is a Republican personally, he’s not a politican and not representing the party.

September 24th, 2010 | LINK

Jim – I wholeheartedly agree with this entire post. I continue to scratch my head at how HRC receives its funding. Who donates to them anymore? Is their main source of funding merchandise at their HRC stores? I just don’t get it.

September 24th, 2010 | LINK

Call me cynical, but let’s step outside the situation and imagine looking at the US political system as an outsider.

Imagine if we got the handful of big things done – ENDA passed, DADT and DOMA repealed, and marriage equality. There’ll be calls to undo the legislative gains for the next few years, but after that, wouldn’t the GayTM be essentially shut down? Or at the very least, be significantly reduced?

The way I see it, the only financially sensible thing for the democratic party to do is to string us along for as long as they can to maximize their financial gains.

William Westwork
September 24th, 2010 | LINK

I regret Jim, that you waited to take this stand. But better late than never.

It’s pathetic that gays and lesbians have allowed themselves to become the poodles of the Democratic party. Prancing around the ring and striking poses whenever the Party needs a late Friday afternoon photo-op.

But Washington knows just how to perfume the air with enough of a whiff of scintillating power to keep uncritical and self-absorbed queer social climbers within their grasp.

And Jim, your stand is still a half-measure that doesn’t really get to the heart of the matter; rather than give ANY self-interested money to self-interested politicians, why not give money to food banks, shelters, or health programs.

Sadly, until homosexuals and their “leaders” are willing to be beaten-up or arrested repeatedly, like Ghandi or King, nothing will change. All laws will remain the same. Equal rights must be taken, because they are never freely given.

Would abandoning the “Leadership Conference/Cocktail Fundraiser as Panacea” mentality of queer culture make a dent in the politicians?

It damn sure would. The last thing the Democratic establishment expects gays and lesbians to do is the one thing it is hardest for any derided minority to do, and that is NOT to vote at all.

Maybe its time for us to do what we’re most afraid to do. Let Chaos reign until the political class realizes that our precious lives are not their political playthings.

Lindoro Almaviva
September 24th, 2010 | LINK

What do you mean the HRC is not part of the establishment. HRC made it perfectly clear they are part of the establishment by the way the behaved about DADT.

I think we should stop being naive about it and call it like it is. They stopped being an advocacy group a long time ago and they are not entrenched in the establishment and their main purpose is as a stepping stone for the precious few “gay appointments” each administration gives away as tokens.

Lindoro Almaviva
September 24th, 2010 | LINK

are not entrenched

Correction (damn it I hate it when I do this):

.. they are now entrenched…

John in the Bay Area
September 24th, 2010 | LINK

I am surprised that they even got the $744,000

September 25th, 2010 | LINK

It seems that just when the Democrats get control of Congress, we (the gay community) get disenchanted, sitting by while the Republicans gain control. Then (too late), we whine about how awful things are, help Dems regain control, get disenchanted, etc., etc., and etc.

When will we learn? Stick with the Dems, just like the wingnuts stick with the GOP.

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