Monday, December 09, 2013

Why the Victory Fund Urged Gay Pol to Stay Closeted in PA Race

(Courtesy photo.)

On the one hand, I can't believe that in this day and age that any LGBT political organization advises a candidate to hide their sexual orientation or identity. But on the other hand, there's very little to surprise me about our professional advocacy groups and their shadow agendas.

At the Philadelphia Gay News, reporter Jen Colletta has a lengthy piece about Republican state representative Mike Fleck and his wrangling with the Victory Fund about declaring himself gay. Colletta writes that Fleck has deep conservative leanings, attended Jerry Falwell's university and reached out to Ken Mehlman the ex-head of the Republican National Committee for advice. Clearly he's not your typical liberal LGBT politician. PGN reports:

[Fleck in the autumn of 2012] eventually met with officials at Victory Fund, which backs LGBT political candidates.

While Fleck was ready to come out last summer, prior to his November re-election race, the organization advised him to wait.

“I was running unopposed, so I didn’t see what the fallout would be. It’s a simple announcement of, ‘I’m gay,’ and those who didn’t want to vote for me because of that didn’t have to. But Victory Fund frowned upon that and said, ‘No, no, you’ve got a lot of people in tough races, your colleagues, and this isn’t an issue in their race. You can’t come out and put them like a deer in headlights, have them be asked things like, “Your best friend just came out, where are you on equality legislation?” and have them make any bad choices.’”

Well, why not use Fleck's coming out as an opportunity to question other politicians regarding their views on gay rights? The PGN story does not include a response from the Victory Fund for their side of the story. However, reporter Faith Elmes of the Keystone Student Voice provides many answers in this fascinating story:

The Victory Fund had a very strong incentive to keep [Fleck] closeted until 2013, or to delay his coming out as much as possible. One of their campaign board members, Mr. Brian Sims, was running on the explicit platform of being the first openly gay state legislator in Pennsylvania. There is a clear conflict of interest on the Victory Fund’s behalf: If Rep. Fleck, a highly popular third term legislator, were to come out before 2013, he would be “taking away the title” from Mr. Sims. Not only would this hurt his personal ego, but also bruise the fundraising power of the Victory Fund on Mr. Sims’ behalf. [...]

If Mr. Sims secured the full title of “first openly gay legislator in PA,” the organization would have amplified media presence after “their guy” won. The Victory Fund could claim credit for prevailing in what they call on their website, a “Horizon State.” But, if Rep. Fleck came out before the election, they would lose recognition for supporting the first openly gay legislator in Pennsylvania. To this day, Rep. Sims presents a media image as though he were the first openly gay legislator in the state, and is still regularly mischaracterized in the media as such. 

(Courtesy photo.)

FYI, I blogged earlier this year about Sims, pictured, not posting his office expense records on his official site, as many Pennsylvania lawmakers do and after repeated attempts to engage his office about the matter, Sims still omits his expense accounts from his site. To be fair, I must mention neither does Fleck on his official site. Both gay Pennsylvania representatives should get with the transparency agenda.

But back to the Keystone Student Voice article, which takes a much-needed critical look at the Victory Fund and how it operates, bolding in the original text:

The Victory Fund’s base of supporters is largely built from cocktail parties and black-tie events which speak to the non-profit industrial complex. [...] Their matrix for endorsements and providing financial support is not based primarily on the importance of a race, but rather if they are guaranteed or near-guaranteed to win. [...]

Under these parameters, Harvey Milk would not get support from the Victory Fund even if he tried – at least not during his first attempts running for [San Francisco Board of Supervisors].

We need so much more scrutiny of the Victory Fund, the Human Rights Campaign, Freedom to Marry, Immigration Equality, GLAAD, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, Lambda Legal and every Gay Inc nonprofit. For today though, I am so pleased to see what's being reported by the Philadelphia Gay News and the Keystone Student Voice. Give us more such reporting!

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