Gay Political Donations Raise Chicken And Egg Question

PinkdollarsignWe all know the modern gay rights movement is a rather young endeavor. It's only been 43-years since the Stonewall Rebellion. But a key element to the movement's relatively rapid success, the open giving of political donations, is even younger.

It wasn't until 1989 that Human Rights Campaign started distributing the pink dollar, but even then most lawmakers turned them down.

From NPR's Ari Shapiro:

When gays and lesbians started the Human Rights Campaign in the 1980s, they knew that the path to influence in Washington is paved with cash. Write a politician a check, and he's more likely to listen to you. The problem was that back then most politicians didn't want anything to do with gay people or their money.

"It was almost an embarrassment to be supported by the gay community," says Winnie Stachelberg, who used to work for HRC and is now with the liberal Center for American Progress.

Clearly times changed and soon politicians, mostly Democrats, realized the gay dollar was just as good as any other, and the dialogue began. So too did the progress.

Money flow and political action go hand-in-hand. If you need proof, look at President Obama's fundraising haul after announcing his support for marriage equality: "He took in nearly $9 million over three days, compared to $3.4 million in the three previous days, according to an NPR analysis of campaign filings with the Federal Election Commission."

Shapiro notes that the relationship between money and legislation raises that eternal "chicken or egg" scenario: "Does money flow to politicians because the lawmakers take pro-gay positions? Or do the lawmakers take those positions because they hope that will bring a flood of gay donors?"

We may find the answer soon. Christian Berle from the Log Cabin Republicans told Shapiro that a few senior GOP leaders are inching their way toward backing some LGBT rights. "We have been in conversations with a number of members who are looking to move in that direction," he said. "There's one [for whom] it's most likely a matter of months, not years."

If New York State is any indication, that person will reap the rewards: the four Republican lawmakers who voted for marriage equality in the Empire State soon saw a fundraising boom.


  1. belo says

    LCR’s comment is more of a PR move to encourage contributions from the LGBT community who view the LCR with heavy skepticism. The LCR’s contributions come almost entirely from the anti-gay conservative far right whose goal is to co-opt the LGBT message in the Republican arena. Without those contributions, the LCR would go bankrupt. GOProud was founded by a group that broke away from the LCR because they saw the opportunity to compete for the substantial amount of money from conservatives. That should give us some idea of how much conservative money is being put into co-opting the LGBT message among Republicans. In essence, LCR and GOProud are both conservative republican groups with gay front men who are bought and paid for. Neither group truly fights for the interests of the LGBT community. Their mission is to create the illusion that just as many gays agree with far right conservative ideals. At the end of the day, all they’ve done here is use a lot of words to say nothing, and none of their claims can be substantiated.

  2. karl says

    Quid pro quo? The radio story mentioned the blog, the blog mentions the radio story; or is that just professional courtesy? If you’re “in bed” with Shapiro, Lucky You!

  3. Matt says

    So basically, any political support of gays is strictly political, related to money, and not the least bit out of sincerity? Now I see.
    For the love of money, what won’t you do.

  4. says

    With all due respect, you have both misquoted, and misinterpreted the NPR article. The first gay donation to a straight politician it references was to Dukakis in 1988, not 1989 as you wrote. More importantly, they never said that it was the FIRST such donation EVER!

    Despite its having grown into a group that pretends to be THE all-purpose LGBT org, HRC started 8 years before that failed Dukakis donation specifically, and solely, as a Political Action Committee—their original name was the Human Rights Campaign FUND. But the history of gays raising money for candidates goes back near two decades before that to at least 1964 when San Francisco’s Society for Individual Rights [SIR] was holding candidate forums, making endorsements, encouraging donations, etc. In 1969, [now US Senator] Dianne Feinstein credited them with her margin of victory in her first election to The City’s Board of Supervisors.

    By 1972, SIR’s cofounder Jim Foster and lesbian rights pioneers Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon had morphed the group into the Alice B. Toklas Democratic Club, so well organized that their influence extended throughout the state. Credited with delivering one-third of the signatures needed to secure George McGovern the first position on the California Democratic primary ballot, Foster was invited to be the first out gay man to ever speak to a Democratic National Election.

    In 1977, Municipal Elections Committee of Los Angeles [MECLA] formed, the country’s first gay PAC, and immediately began helping elect local politicians. Ten of the 11 candidates they supported that year—with $19,450 in donations—won. Eventually the became involved in elections statewide, and nationally, famously hosting Bill Clinton’s 1992 guest appearance in which he made his memorable pitch for the gay vote by praising gay inclusion that garned unprecedend MSM attention.

    And in 1978, gay donations in Washington DC helped elect Marian Barry mayor the first time. Etc. Etc. Etc.

    For those interested in a detailed history of the direct-political side of our history, I urge them to read “Out for Good: The Struggle to Build a Gay Rights Movement in America” by Dudley Clendinen and Adam Nagourney.

    Thank you.


    THANK YOU, Andrew Belonsky! YOUR STATEMENT, “…look at President Obama’s fundraising haul after announcing his support for marriage equality: “He took in nearly $9 million over three days, compared to $3.4 million in the three previous days…”



  6. EdA says

    There are 242 Republiscum in the House of Representatives, all of whom are sociopaths, psychopaths, fellow travellers, or people afraid to stand up to them. Statistically a noticeable number of these 242 individuals must be gay and also, officially, homophobes.