Saturday, July 21, 2007

(Image courtesy of and Bay Windows.)

Gay City News: HRC Troops MIA, HRC PAC Files Scrutinized

One thing that has long bothered me about the Human Rights Campaign, and other mainstream advocacy groups, is their sheer disinterest in all forms of activism and unwillingness to hit the streets more often, or engage their members and donors in visible actions that other gays and lesbian organize.

I think HRC, which claims more than half a million members, many of whom live in American urban areas, should be able to turn out a few bodies for public displays of advocacy such as picket lines, candle light vigils, and even occasionally street marches to demand equality. But HRC leaders and the alleged hundreds of thousands of members never seem to be out for equality unless they're attending rubber-chicken dinner or attending a scripted news conference, and their whole approach to winning equality seems to be waged only through a Democratic Party insider approach.

An excellent example of how HRC members and all the folks on staff or the assorted boards and bodies don't deliver on their rhetoric of leading is contained in a story this week from Gay City News, written by Andy Humm, about a black lesbian's mistreatment at a restaurant in Manhattan:
The Caliente Cab Company in Greenwich Village is allegedly stonewalling negotiations in the case of Khadijah Farmer, 27, a lesbian who was thrown out of the restaurant on LGBT Pride Day. Farmer, who was dining with friends, was using the women's room when a bouncer mistook her for a male, charged into the restroom, and refused to let her show identification before making her pay her full tab and leave without being served all of her meal.
On Sunday, July 15, members of the new Queer Justice League picketed the restaurant at Seventh Avenue South and Bleecker, urging a boycott of Caliente there and at its other two Manhattan locations until the owners apologize to Farmer, compensate her for the mistreatment and humiliation she suffered, adopt a policy of non-discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity and expression in line with New York City law . . .

Joey Nelson, also of the League, said that they reached out to established LGBT civil rights groups including the Empire State Pride Agenda, the Human Rights Campaign, and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and got encouragement but no troops for their picket.

This action was in the center of New York City's historic gay enclave, a neighborhood stuffed with HRC members and no one from America's allegedly largest gay political organization bothered to attend, leading me to wonder again, exactly where are HRC's half million donors when needed, in places like gay ghettos?
Some HRC defenders will say the group's role is not to pound the pavements, but instead to work the halls of Congress and enact federal protections for us. Well, on that front HRC and its Democratic Party friends suffered a setback this week, with a delay in voting on hate crimes enhancement legislation, which was attached to and entangled with a Defense Department bill that is now on the farthest back burner.
From Chris Crain's blog report on the disappointing developments for us in the U.S. Senate:
There's disappointing (if not surprising) news on the fate of a gay-inclusive hate crimes bill in the U.S. Senate. According to HRC's Back Story blog, the debate on Iraq has dragged down with it the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention/Local Law Enforcement Act, the bill's official title . . .
All this still begs the question of why in the first place HRC and its Democratic allies in the Senate chose to burden the hate crimes bill by linking it to easily the most controversial piece of legislation in Congress . . .
And yet once again, like so many times before, through years when Democrats controlled one or both houses of Congress and even the White House, gay rights bills wallow as low priority items. There's no talk of votes in the House and Senate for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act either, even though it has majority support in both chambers. We shouldn't be surprised. Democrats and their lackies at HRC have been hinting privately since January that "the deal" with the party's leadership is that only hate crimes would get a vote this year, so this "frustrating delay" fits the pattern.
Speaking of HRC and the Democrats, no one should be surprised to learn that HRC's political director further solidified her allegiance to the Donkey Party with yet another donation to the DNC in the current election cycle. If you look over her thirty or so federal donations, only one was to a GOP politician, former Rep. Jim Kolbe from Arizona who is gay, while the bulk of her political giving, like so many HRC executives, went to just one party.
From Federal Election Commission files for the HRC political director:
Stachelberg, Cynthia
Washington, DC 20016

HRC/Political Director

Yes, I grant you that by any measure the Democrats are miles ahead of the GOP on our issues, but questions must be raised about putting all HRC's gay community dollars into just one party's coffers, and what exactly it's produced of widespread benefit for LGBT nationwide. I believe after so many gay HRC funds have made their way to the Democrats, who now control Congress, the LGBT community should have more to show for it, other than promises from Democrats to vote later this year on bills of importance to us.
Examining the HRC political action committee files for the 2007/08 election cycle, the evidence is there showing yet again the group is bipartisan in name only. Seeing the following donations lead me to plead with HRC leadership to end the charade of being bipartisan and once and for all declaring themselves the gay wing of the DNC.
The current HRC PAC file on giving to individual candidates reveals they donated a total of $124,500, of which $120,500 went to Democrats and only $4,000 to Republicans.
In terms of HRC PAC contributions to other PACs, the amount was $12,500 and all of it went to DNC affiliated PACs.
Lastly, the HRC PAC doled out $40,000 to party PACs and very bit was funneled to the Democratic National Committee.
So adding up the HRC gay dollars given to pols, PACs and party for this cycle so far, the amount is $173,000 to Democrats and $4,000 to the GOP. Let's also bear in mind the latest HRC PAC contributions are not all that different from every other election cycle of HRC's existence.
With generous friends like HRC, no matter how many promises Democrats don't deliver on for us, it's a no-brainer to understand why Democratic Party leaders see gays as both doormats and dependable ATMs blowing cash their way.


Anonymous said...

Great post Mike but what you seemed to have missed is the fact that Khadijah Farmer wasn't being discriminated against due to her sexual orientation, she was being discriminated against based on her perceived gender. HRC has never fought for anything that was exclusively transgender related. They will fight for exclusive gay and lesbian issues and maybe even lobby for legislation that includes transgender people but only if gays and lesbians are part of the equation. We are only along for the ride. How's that for equality?

Anonymous said...

Like we should be surprised at this?!?!

Just as there is "AIDS, Inc.", there is "Equal Rights, Inc." Campaigns for equal rights have become too corporate-ized.

In the case of HRC, you can bet they have a pretty hefty real estate cost being smack-dab in the middle of Washinton, D.C. While the argument could be made they "have to be there" because congress is there, I say, "Phooey!" They could use their contirbutions much better if they were someplace like Hackensack, NJ and commuted to Washington like a regular lobbyist. Oh - did I say lobbyist? Clearly not an effective one (or are they?)

When you think about it, "Equal Rights Inc." has just as much to loose as those folks at AIDS, Inc if there's ever a cure. In other words, if they were truly successful at what they did, they'd be out of a job, wouldn't they? So what's thei motivation?

We, the community, need to take back these corporate-ized entities and engage in grass-roots activissm ourselves. If we leave it up to them, theere wil never be anybody to march in a demonstration.

I would encouage every reader of this blog to boycott HRC and fund local organizations instead.

Anonymous said...

Winnie Stachelberg? She left HRC last year to join the Center for American Progress (current bio). And she hasn't been political director at HRC for more than two years.

Though campaign committees are supposed to collect accurate and up-to-date employer information on donors, sometimes when a check comes in without that information, they'll use the information on file from past donations. Did you call anyone for confirmation?

Come on, how 'bout a little research before you go posting this sort of half-truth about the individuals and organizations working hard for the causes we share in common. I think there's an old saying about pissing out of the tent, not in.

I do agree with you on two points, however.

1. There are other worthwhile organizations working for GLBT rights, equality, or liberation that we can choose to support in lieu of or in addition to supporting the Human Rights Campaign. In addition to the already mentioned National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, a few worth considering are Equality Federation, Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG), Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States, and Victory Fund.

2. We should all be donating at least something to organizations that work locally in our neighborhoods and towns.

Unknown said...

Thanks anonymous for giving me the latest scoop on Stachelberg. Not sure whose responsibility it would be, hers, the FEC, HRC, or the Democrats, but someone should correct the info on that donation.