Tuesday, March 15, 2011

What was the Cost of Haas Fund's
Junket for Equality Bloggers?

(Bil Browning, left, and Matt Foreman at their confab on Saturday. Credit: Karen Ocamb's LGBT POV blog.)

The San Francisco-based Haas Jr Fund, sponsor and underwriter of the past weekend's junket for select bloggers from around the country, provides some minimal fiscal transparency about where they direct their gay dollars. Click here to read up on which gay groups over the past five-years received Haas money. Kudos to the fund for the transparency.

Yesterday I sent off these basic questions to Matt Foreman of the fund, and the convener of the junket Bil Browning, hoping to dialogue with them about the price-tag of their event:

1. what was the total cost for the weekend?

2. can you break down the cost info by travel, hotels, meals?

3. were any folks compensated for organizing the summit, such as bil or mike rogers?

4. was anyone who presented info to the bloggers compensated?

5. if anyone was compensated, please share the info on how much they were paid.

6. will you soon present the community with a fiscal accounting of the weekend on your respective web sites?

7. any chance the haas jr fund will put on a town hall meeting in SF for anyone to attend, so we can all engage in constructive dialog about the fund and its gay programs?

8. what future gay summits are planned by you all and will they be open to all?

Bil sent this terse reply:

These questions are aimed at Haas. I'll let them answer if they choose. I have no idea about the costs or if they plan to hold a San Fran townhall.

Sounds like Bil is passing the buck and it strikes me as odd, since he boasted on his site that he was the convener of the junket, that he is ignorant of the price-tag, but at least he responded. Matt has not.

Also raising questions is San Francisco-based transparency-promoter Patrick Connors, who was not at the junket. He shared some concerns at Karen Ocamb's post full of photos from the event. Patrick said:

How much money did Haas spend to get y'all here and why was it important for writers/bloggers to get the information they were feeding?

I'm cautious about appearing envious of not being on the guest list. ... The event was announced on Friday as an exclusive "invite only" event with no details about where, when, what, who, how, and when some people raised issues with the appearance of this secrecy they have been shamed, ridiculed and dismissed.

I'm no seminar denialist for anyone interested in such things - but why was this one handled so oddly and defensively? ...

[I'm] extremely frustrated by being a part of the largest LGBT community in the country and we can't get out Congressional Rep (Pelosi) to hold a town hall meeting to hear from us, nor do we ever get access to EQCA, or any other organization that represents us...unless we pay at the door. And now last weekend dozens of out of towners were shipped in to receive a message that many in SF would like to hear...or could use...and might even (god forbid) have input to share. ...

To his credit, Matt answered many of Patrick's questions, excluding the one about the cost. Matt wrote:

There was no hidden "agenda" behind this convening. It's simply an opportunity to be able to present in-depth information about issues of the day to LGBT editors/bloggers. ...

There's simply no way to have a convening of this sort without some people feeling excluded. That goes with the territory and I am sorry that anyone feels left out.

A 4-hour town meetings for subjects like suicide prevention and homelessness? Maybe, but then what about the people who can't come because they work evenings or weekends, or live too far, or can't afford to get there? And why San Francisco and not Oakland, San Jose or Topeka, for that matter?  

Allow me to disagree. I believe part of the agenda of the junket was to develop and maintain group-think among the invitees, and to subtly discourage hard, necessary criticism of Gay Inc and their foundation partners including the Haas Fund. Further, Matt should recognize that it's not just "feelings" of being excluded from the cool kids' table in the junior high school cafeteria. It is actual exclusion.

Patrick wrote back to Matt:

I don't think that a 4 hour town hall meeting is necessary and having to choose SF over a neighboring locale sounds like you are using excuses to avoid the difficult task of being open to the public. ...

Instead of there being any attempt at openness there are excuses offered like the ones you list above. That is why there is ongoing suspicion and cynicism.

The "left out feeling" could have been avoided by announcing the event in advance. Were attendees asked to not discuss the event - it's agenda or locale - until immediately prior to the event? How much money was spent educating visitors to SF about homelessness while there are an abundance of LGBT youth in SF that could use support?

Did anyone in attendance ask questions like the ones I pose above or would they be too beholden to the largess of their host to want to appear ungrateful? ...

Unfortunately, Matt has not responded to Patrick. I've known Patrick since we met up last spring and I am impressed with how he gets it regarding the damnable lack of transparency and openness for ordinary queers in San Francisco.

We have no town halls with Rep. Nancy Pelosi or her gay district manager Dan BernalEQCA, who failed to hold public forums during their disastrous No on Prop 8 campaign, can't be bothered with public summits.

It is easier to find snow flakes in San Francisco than a genuine commitment and actual continuing practice of public forums from Gay Inc. How many more junkets like the Haas Fund's, and the resulting resentments and divisions, must we endure before the likes of Bil and Matt and their cohorts at the junket understand that inclusion and openness will go a long way toward strengthening the movement?


Stephen Zollman said...

thank you, Michael for continuing to raise awareness of the need for greater accountability and transparency..

Anonymous said...

It sure looks like it sucks not being invited into the sandbox to play.

Patrick Connors said...

Anonymous' comment gave me the perfect opening to share this article from the Washington Blade from today:


"The decision to cancel a March 11 vote on a same-sex marriage bill in the Maryland House of Delegates was a mistake that could hurt rather than help the chances for passing the bill within the next several years, according to Maryland-based advocates who lobbied for the bill."

Who pushed for the cancellation of the vote? LGBT advocacy groups including a foundation like Haas that decided pulling the bill would be less of an embarrassment to the Democrats that were waffling and would be targeted if it failed.

Those Democrats own the sandbox that the monied gay organizations play in so those organizations are going to do exactly what will benefit the party - and maybe even benefit themselves because as matters are resolved for LGBT Americans the need for these non-profit "advocates" will fade and there will be lots of 6 figure queers looking for a gig.

There is no one reason or explanation for anything that happens and there are no coincidences either.

Those advocacy groups and Big $ foundations heard up the bloggers/journalists/writers for a seminar - for example the one that happened in SF. They put them up in a hotel, feed them, give them a free trip to a swank town, boost their egos ("You are here because you are popular and important!") and then those supposedly independent minded junior journalists are less likely to question, talk back or resist any bullshit that comes down the pike from the Big $ gays or the political party they are partnered with.

The horseshit that just happened in Maryland is not isolated from the circle of handjobs that went on all day online over the bill to repeal DOMA that is ONLY being done to make the gays happy for 2012 because the bill will not pass.

What do the popular bloggers in the sandbox report on - the failure and shenanigans in Maryland or the false bravado and scheming of the Democrats?

That's no sandbox you are sitting in, oh brave anonymous person, that's a litter box. And it needs to be cleaned.