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Who Does The HRC Represent Anyway?

Jim Burroway

October 10th, 2010

HRC?After the White House has failed to lobby the Senate for “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’s” repeal while vigorously defending DADT and the Defense of Marriage Act in federal court, guess how the Human Rights Campaign made their displeasure with the White House’s lack of leadership known.

That’s right. They invited White House Senior Adviser Valerie Jarrett to be their featured speaker at their gala fundraiser Saturday night. Not only that, but HRC lauded both Jarret and the White House, saying “She and President Obama both care deeply about equality and are strong supporters of those of us fighting for LGBT rights.”

If the White House’s inaction represents “strong support,” I can’t even begin to imagine what weak support would look like.

Servicemembers United, who has actually been lobbying very strongly for DADT’s repeal and whose representatives on Capital Hill alerted everyone to the sham vote that took place in the Senate last month, fired off a statement asking that Jarrett meet with LGBT veterans before attending the swank black-tie dinner:

“We certainly do not feel like the White House is a ‘strong supporter’ of gay and lesbian troops and veterans right now,” said Alexander Nicholson, Executive Director of Servicemembers United and a former U.S. Army human intelligence collector who was also discharged under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” “Before she appears at a black-tie fundraiser to tout the administration’s ‘strong support,’ Jarrett should meet and talk with those who have actually been impacted by this discriminatory law and who continue to fight this uphill battle for the lives and livelihoods of gay and lesbian troops. To ignore the reality of the administration’s choices, a reality manifested in our daily lives, while appearing at a party hosted by an organization that has given cover to this administration would be incredibly insulting.”

Nicholson really nails it when he accuses HRC of giving the administration cover. In May of 2009 — seventeen months ago! — HRC had already given Obama a blank check to maybe repeal DADT whenever, after emerging from a meeting with the White House over impatience with the administration’s foot-dragging clear back then. “They have a vision,” Joe Solmonese, HRC’s head honcho said. “They have a plan.”Later in October, Solmonese grew a tiny piece of a vertebra when he finally gave the White House a strict deadline for DADT’s repeal: January 19, 2017, the last day of Obama’s presumed second term in office.

HRC’s “fierce advocacy” on behalf of the Obama administration when into overdrive again yesterday in response to Servicemembers United’s criticism, with this statement from Fred Sainz, HRC’s vice president of communications:

“These latest hijinks by Nicholson are part of a troubling pattern of irrational, unprofessional, and unproductive behavior,” Sainz said. “[Nicholson's] rant is also without substance. The Administration helped to craft the legislation that was successfully voted on by the House and the Senate Armed Services Committee. Never before has a Defense Secretary or a Joint Chiefs chairman publicly supported repeal. This president got them there, and for that, he deserves our gratitude.”

Gratitude people, please!

Nicholson wasn’t having any part of that:

Nicholson responded to HRC’s statement on Saturday: “When the spokesperson for the largest gay organization stoops to vicious personal attacks against committed, unpaid staff of the smallest gay organization, you know there’s a problem with the former,” he said. “While I have more professionalism, rationality, and class than to return the favor and attack Sainz personally, I think this official ‘response’ from the Human Rights Campaign speaks volumes as to who is truly holding the administration’s feet to the fire on ‘don’t ask, don’t tell.’”

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Lindoro Almaviva
October 10th, 2010 | LINK


Who Does The HRC Represent Anyway?

Duh! They represent themselves. HRC is nothing more than a launchpad for the self proclaimed “A-listers” in the gay community to compete and secure those precious few appointments the administration feels is safe to give to gay people; at least openly ones.

The fact that they have been painfully ineffective, compounded with the fact that they behave more like they are part of the establishment than an advocacy group, made me reevaluate my giving decisions.

My dollars are too precious at this point to give to anyone who is just looking to dine and whine his or her way to a cabinet appointment. Actually, I do not make enough money to support Salmonese’s, his BF and their staff’s private lifestyle.

If anyone is still giving money to them I strongly urge you to reconsider. They do not deserve our money for as long as they do not represent us in Washington; period.

Panthera
October 10th, 2010 | LINK

When I said “my GayATM is closed”, I didn’t just mean those Democrats who don’t support us – I meant, especially, and loudly, the HRC.

Once upon a time, they fought for our rights.
It took courage and decency and honor and strength of will back when being gay was still considered a mental illness to stand up and demand our rights.
It took stamina to demand that those of us who believed in monogamous marriage for gays also be heard.
It meant one had truly understood “nobody is free until we all are” to stand up for the transgender.

Today? In 2010? Puhlease, Mary.

The HRC exists only for the HRC. They could not care less about actually helping the gay, lesbian and transsexual community.

It’s bad enough that we have to vote for the Democrats in a few weeks – this abusive relationship is sickening. Their one comment to our community is: Vote for us, ’cause the Republicans will give you twice the kicking around we do.

I have to – the alternative is genuinely insane. That said, this dysfunctional, abusive marriage has reached the end of the road.

Two things have changed recently. One, the lie that we are less than 2% of the population has been exposed. Not that civil rights depend on our numbers, but when 7% of your potential voters have only one reason to stand with your party – their civil rights – you seriously need to stop and think that through. Elections these next years will be won by small majorities.
We aren’t weak – without us, the Democrats will lose the South. Without our volunteer time and our money, they can’t wage nearly the battle they need to.
Second, the Republicans and teaparty (same thing, really) have toned down their rhetoric. No, their goal of establishing a theocracy has not changed. But they have learned to keep their mouths shut. An awful lot of low-information members of our community have no idea why they must not ever vote Republican.

Amicus
October 10th, 2010 | LINK

I continue to be somewhat baffled by SLDN’s or other’s deep sense of betrayal on the last vote.

They do know that there is no honor in politics, right, that people will tell you privately to your face that they support your cause and your bill and then turn around and vote against you, yes? (Senator Shaheen was just on the horn a few weeks ago talking about the same on some other issue.)

Now, it’s true that the Admin hasn’t got this done, on an issue that has public support. But that’s a political failure, not a “betrayal”.

Other Fred in the UK
October 10th, 2010 | LINK

@ Amicus,

I doubt that SDLN are actually surprised by the the relative inaction of Obama’s administration (if they are I would agree they shouldn’t be). However I think it is entirely legitimate for them to draw attention to the contrast between rhetoric and actual political action.

tim
October 10th, 2010 | LINK

The HRC is just another chapter in the extreme left of the democratic party. And considering their membership numbers have been falling year after year – you would think someone on the board would of figured that out by now. But having met most of the board – its no surprise to me that they haven’t.

Regardless of what you think of their agenda here is where we can learn something from the NRA. Doesn’t matter if you are a Democrat, Republican, or Box Turtle – if your voting record is in support of their agenda – they will endorse or support you. If your voting record isn’t in support of their agenda – they won’t. That’s non-partisanship. And that’s the way to win.

Tom in Lazybrook
October 10th, 2010 | LINK

My question is this…

The Human Rights Campaign has raised at least 500,000,000 dollars over the last 10 years (source – estimate based upon HRC’s operating budget). What have they done with the HALF A BILLION DOLLARS they’ve raised in the last 10 years?

Panthera
October 10th, 2010 | LINK

Tom,
The answer to that question is, at the same time, a description of the problem: They have sent it on themselves.

The entire reason for being of the HRC is to continue to be the HRC.

Were we to actually achieve our civil and human rights in the US, there would be no further need for the HRC.

They have to walk a tightline – convince us that we need to continue giving them money and that they are making ‘progress’. At the same time, they must not, under any circumstances actually DO anything.

This gay man’s ATM is closed to the HRC foooor evah, and evah and eveh mo’.

Amicus
October 10th, 2010 | LINK

It’s easy to find out where the money goes. They publish each year.

I always complain they don’t do enough locally to achieve critical mass or strategic focus, but they do pass out money to local groups and let them take the lead.

Iowa:
http://www.hrc.org/your_community/12431.htm

Maine:
http://www.hrc.org/13720.htm

Amicus
October 10th, 2010 | LINK

As for Obama, it would be a strange thing even for a two-face politician to use the SOTU, if there were a hidden intention to ‘do nothing’. Only Nixon could do such a thing, in modern memory.

Now, things could right themselves quickly in the lame duck, so that still needs our immediate focus.

Nevertheless, it’s fairly plain that the politics of this has gotten pretty screwed up by them. The question is why and how.

At a minimum, it does look like they underestimated the resistance; deferred too much to the military, in hopes of ‘leading change the right way’, a laudable goal; failed to reckon their political timeline adequately; and did a abysmal job of getting advance, decision-quality input from the gay community and handling communications.

Tom in Lazybrook
October 10th, 2010 | LINK

Amicus. So they spent 110k in Iowa. How was that 110k spent? To hire HRC insiders as ‘consultants’?

But even if that was a ‘good faith’ investment, where are the TV ads defending our community? Where is the action to hold Dems accountable for their inaction or incomepetence? And was HRC’s investment too little or too late?

Was One Iowa created by HRC? HRC has had a habit of waiting on the sidelines until a group or idea gains traction, then trying to take credit for it.

Do you think that HRC has been a good steward for its 500 million bucks?

Amicus
October 10th, 2010 | LINK

Those are a lot of questions, but it is lunch break, so I’ll put in my 2-cents:

All your questions are far more interesting to me than the standard-issue discourse on the HRC.

I don’t know how the $110 was spent. It’s not surprising to me to see them hire their own people, because there is a question of accountability. However, I do believe that they pass money along, sometimes, giving up a fair amount of control. I can’t think of a project off hand, though.

I don’t know the origins of One Iowa, sadly. However, like the FBI, any national organization has the problem of not stepping on toes, if they try to hone in on someone’s “turf” (like SLDN’s?).

I don’t know where the TV ads are. I don’t even know if TV ads are needed/effective and by how much. I wondered aloud whether we ought to dis-intermediate the HRC and get bands of people together to put buy cheap billboard space in key, swing states. I do know that, if you push the electorate even +5 points, Congresscritters will respond, Texas-sized gerrymandering notwithstanding.

We do know that Frank Schubert handed EqualityCalifornia a TKO, in terms of running a strategic ad campaign (read Schubert’s own published account of it in the Prop8 trial exhibits). We also see only some evidence of collective learning but not yet of coordination/cooperation of the level that would leverage scarce resources across state borders.

The troops should all worry more about results and not credit. That will keep the leaders in line. I know, I’m a dreamer, because organizations have to showoff to fund raise and to motivate the kinds of people who go into not-for-profit (at least at he low-end of the pay scale, a-hem). But, seriously, “Cooperation, Coordination, and Collaboration Awards” show be the only “awards ceremony” that anyone wants to go to.

As for ‘good steward’, I have to say “no”, with important qualification. First, they are beholden to their large donors. So, if someone wants to give a lot of money for something, that’s where its going, I *suspect*. It’s not going into the general pot and get prioritized according to the Grand Master Plan.

Second, like any large organization, they probably can’t make hard decisions (I have NO inside info, this is just a statement in general). So, they end up allocating a little bit to everything, not taking big risks.

Last, for whatever reasons, they probably do things that are easy and shun things that are hard. Unions strike. That’s their stick. What do lobbyists do? Well, you know Washington, you tell me. Given that gays as a group do not have political power and their influence lies in the ability to persuade, how best should a gay lobby group use whatever ‘sticks’ it has?

Tone
October 10th, 2010 | LINK

HRC has gone through half a billion? Goodness knows I have no issue with any LBGT advocacy group being well-funded, but it sounds like HRC has succumbed to a degree of bureaucratic bloat. They probably convene and sponsor a lot of conferences to bring together a diversity of ideas, but then never get past the idea stage. And they’re probably beholden to some of the donors of that money. The same thing has happened to the Canadian AIDS Society.

Tom in Lazybrook
October 10th, 2010 | LINK

Well their operating budget is approx 40+ million a year, plus they have their tax deductible foundation.

My estimate is about half a billion dollars over the last 10 years. I’d say its’ ballpark.

Amicus
October 10th, 2010 | LINK

The gay community’s strength has always been direct action, not ‘political organization’.

So, if you had to re-craft an organizational structure to fit our strengths, it would be one that empowers individuals to get involved. That means the organization serves the volunteers, not the other way around.

You set out some really ambitious goals. For example:

1. We intend to move public opinion by +5 in Ohio, over the next three years. Benchmark: here are the current numbers, here is the projection, based on demographics, and we’re targeting +5 on that.

2. We intend to show that we can be competitive in rural areas, where Republicans poll +15 or better. We have a program tailored that we hope can shape the discussion, even in areas the Democrats often do not contest well. We have carefully chosen districts in VA, WV, and IN in which we believe a combination of media and direct action can make a difference in the perception of everyday gays and lesbians.

Then, sorta like the netroots, you empower people to get involved. Rather than say, “give us money, we’ll make ads for you”. You say, here are five ads. We need $100K, $200K, and $1M to run these. Pick the ones you like and send us $5+. This money will be used only for this purpose, not champagne. Also, we need people who are willing to ‘press the flesh’. We have various print advertising to do. Here are three themes. Post/share your ideas with everyone on the various themes. The list can go on. High profile people, town halls when you think you can get participation, etc.

And you don’t shy away from showing failure or “lessons learned”.

In other words, you complement the greasing of Washington with direct action, long-term/strategic, issue advocacy.

Mike
October 10th, 2010 | LINK

Next time they call for money, or rather next time the inept call center they use rings me (They don’t even bother changing the caller ID – the number came up as The Hertitage Foundation. Ha!) I’ll ask if they can redirect me to The Log Cabin Republicans.

Tom in Lazybrook
October 10th, 2010 | LINK

Mike,

That’s your call. But I don’t think we do ourselves any favors by supporting the Republicans without a game changing event. Some Log Cabiners belong to HRC as well.

Here’s the dilemma. The GOP is awful, but the Dems ignoring our concerns is catastrophic. And HRC has been ineffective at best, incompetent at worst.

I think we need to change the dynamic. Here’s how. We should figure out a way to third party the Dems where they deserve it. For example, run a candidate for President as a 3rd party. It would not be that expensive as we would only get on the ballot in swing states. Let Obama and co. figure out how to convince Gay voters to vote for him or he can continue to ignore us and watch 3-4% of his vote go somewhere else. And if the GOP wins as a result. So be it. Make him fight for our votes. It would also be an end run around HRC who would not be able to stop or preempt it. They would be seen as not in control of the Gay community.

That’s my idea. I’m not voting for the Republicans. They are worse. But I’m willing to vote for someone who does fight for my values and if a republican wins as a result, I’m good with that.

The Democrats will only fight for us when they think that we actually will let the GOP win if they ignore us.

Theo
October 10th, 2010 | LINK

@ Amicus/Tom:

Thought I would share my 2 cents:

- I don’t think HRC has ever broken $50 million for an annual budget. Last reported budget was for $37 million and the year before that was $41.4 million. So I think the 10 year estimate of $500 million above is off by $100-150 million. Even so, it is an enormous amount of money. HRC is not only the largest national org; it beats everyone else by a 10:1 margin, except for Lambda and NGLTF, which it beats by a 2:1 and 4:1 margin respectively.

- 90% of that money was wasted. Despite a huge budget and a large staff, HRC has accomplished virtually nothing on the federal level.

-There is nothing wrong with having a lobbying strategy, but these people don’t really do that. If they did, they would hire former staffers of senior Senators and House committee chairman. Under Bush, they would get a well-liked moderate GOP lobbyist to run the show; under Obama, they would hire a connected Democrat. Instead, they hire a former NARAL guy with little clout at a time when the GOP controlled the capital, and they make no changes after the 2006 and 2008 elections. They plod along ineffectually without any regard for the environment in which they work.

-It is true that they dole out some money locally. Whenever I see that happen, I think that it is good that at least some resources are deployed where they should be. But it is a small amount, and it pales in comparison to the funds that are soaked up and used for things like the mortgage on HRC’s building or Solomonese’s 300K salary and a host of meaningless initiatives.

Here’s a good example: HRC shelled out a few hundred grand to help last year’s fight in Maine. That is where the money was needed. But in contrast to NOM, which sent Yes on 1 huge donations throughout the campaign and ultimately supplied Yes on 1 with over 2/3 of its funds, HRC’s contributions accounted for less than 10% of No on 1′s funds. Similar story in WA. Now some HRC money is better than none, but what would be even better is if we didn’t have this black hole sucking up $37 million every year to begin with.

Matt
October 10th, 2010 | LINK

I’ve wasted enough brain cells and time venting about HRC in the past on BTB and other venues. Every since the Millennium March on Washington and the D’Amato endorsement, HRC has been dead to me. They are a joke and everyone knows they are a joke except for the poor fools who think that buying their “=” logo wear helps the cause for LGBT rights.

The rich folk will continue to attend the black-tie affairs because to them, “effectiveness” is synonymous with seeing their names in the programs and getting their pictures taken with celebs and politicians. That’s all they care about.

Even before that $500M estimate, I have been stunned at their wasteful ways. I can answer where a good chunk of it went (besides salaries)–take a look at their shiny HQ at 1640 Rhode Island Avenue. That place was a money pit from the start (take it from a long-time B;nai B’rith member–that was our former HQ) and I am guessing that it’s costing them serious coin just to keep it open.

Earlier posts have put it well. They are a PERFECT fit for Obama–stick a finger in the (air) and see which way the wind is blowing before doing squat.

Damn, I hope that Reid loses in NV but the Dems can hold on to at least the Senate. Losses like that lead to necessary re-assessments.

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