Quiet Power: Gay Money in the 2012 Election

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money_smBy: Lisa Keen/Keen News Service–

There has been much said and written about right-wing political operative Karl Rove’s spectacular failure to buy a Republican conservative victory in the 2012 elections. The two Crossroads political action committees run by Rove spent more than $200 million on television advertising attacking Democratic candidates in an effort to hoist Republicans into office. That included $6 million against lesbian Senate candidate Tammy Baldwin in Wisconsin and another $1 million for her Republican opponent Tommy Thompson. It also included $263,000 against openly gay Congressional candidate Sean Maloney in New York.

But both Baldwin and Maloney won, despite the millions of right-wing dollars that poured into campaigns seeking a Republican win. That’s because they, like five other openly gay and bisexual Congressional candidates, benefitted from a strong outpouring of funding from many various Democratic PACs and super PACS.

For instance, Tammy Baldwin’s successful campaign for the U.S. Senate spent $15 million, and outside groups spent another $20 million to get her elected. Of that $35 million total, according to Federal Elections Commission reports, the Human Rights Campaign PAC and super PAC spent only $2,826 and the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund chipped in $10,000.

The biggest contributors to Baldwin’s successful bid were the Democratic Senatorial Committee, which spent $5.8 million on Baldwin’s win, the pro-Democratic “Majority PAC” that spent $4.9 million, and the EMILY’s List super PAC “Women Vote” that spent $3.1 million.

Silent “gay money”

But the $12,826 spent by HRC and the Victory Fund did not represent all the “gay money” in Baldwin’s success.

Many individual LGBT people all over the country gave to the effort. For instance, Miami gay philanthropist and Victory Fund board member Joe Falk gave Baldwin $2,500. Dallas attorney Vanessa Benavides gave $4,000, and Texas philanthropist Paul Boskin gave $7,000.

And many gave both to Baldwin and to pro-Democratic PACs that supported Baldwin. According to FEC records, gay Colorado philanthropist Tim Gill gave $5,000 to Baldwin’s campaign directly, and another $250,000 to Fair Share Action. Fair Share Action spent $125,000 on Baldwin’s victory.

Illinois lesbian activist Laura Ricketts gave $2,500 directly to the Baldwin campaign, plus gave $242,500 to the L PAC, and $200,000 to the Women Vote PAC. The lesbian-organized L PAC did not give to the Baldwin effort, but the Women Vote PAC pitched more than $3 million into the Baldwin effort.

Chicago gay political activist Fred Eychaner gave $2,500 to Baldwin’s campaign but also gave $4.3 million to the Majority PAC (which spend $4.9 million on Baldwin) and $750,000 to Women Vote (which spent $3.1. million on Baldwin).

San Francisco gay philanthropist James Hormel did not give any money directly to the Baldwin campaign, but gave the Victory Fund $125,000 and the Victory Fund gave $10,000 to Baldwin. Hormel also gave $100,000 to the House Majority PAC, which helped Democratic candidates, including $1.4 million against Sean Maloney’s Republican opponent in New York and $672,500 against bisexual Kyrsten Sinema’s Republican opponent in Arizona.

Michigan gay philanthropist Jon Stryker chipped in $2,500 directly to Sinema’s successful campaign, but he, too, contributed $250,000 to the House Majority PAC which directed $672,500 in television advertising against Sinema’s opponent.

Sinema, who became the first openly bisexual person to win a seat in Congress, took in $55,528 through the Victory Fund for her campaign and $9,984 from HRC PACs. These were the largest amounts given by each of the groups to openly LGBT candidates in 2012. The Victory Fund gave or “bundled” a total of $114,136 to six out of seven openly LGBT candidates to the U.S. House in the 2012 elections; and HRC’s two PACs gave $36,623 in direct contributions to five out of seven gay House candidates.

Richard Tisei, the only openly gay Republican candidate running for Congress, received no support from the Human Rights Campaign PACs and $18,618 through the Victory Fund. Tisei’s effort to unseat incumbent Democrat John Tierney of Massachusetts fell short. But Log Cabin Republicans’ PAC and GOProud apparently had no money to spend during the past election, according to FEC records.

U.S. Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.), with assets exceeding $65 million, is the sixth richest member of Congress and recorded no contributions from the Victory Fund or HRC for his successful re-election bid.

Victory in small steps

Still, despite the fact that LGBT political funding groups have less money to throw into campaigns than most groups, they make their mark.

The Center for Responsive Politics lists HRC at the top of 50 “single issue” PACs, in terms of money to candidates during the 2012 election cycle. The Victory Fund places seventh on that list, Log Cabin Republicans’ PAC places 14th, the L PAC places 39th.

The L PAC, a lesbian-run super PAC which organized just last April, raised $774,989 during 2012 but contributed only $10,500, according to its latest report to the FEC. Contributions included $5,000 to U.S. Rep. Donna Edwards (D-Md.) re-election, $5,000 to Elizabeth Warren’s successful bid for the Senate, and $500 to Sinema’s win in the House.

And according to the latest data, released by the FEC January 15, the HRC PAC contributed $775,378 to all federal candidates—gay and straight—and campaign committees in 2012 and $267,855 in 2011, for a total of $1,043,233 in the 2011-12 election cycle.

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