Monday, January 20, 2014

HRC + Arcus Money, Gay Russians & Putin's Foreign Agents Law

[Correction: Smirnova is not representing the Russian LGBT Network. I regret this error.]

[Explanation: Smirnova emailed me to say she had not received the emails because I used an old addy for her. She now has read the letter and I've requested answers from her, pointing out there is no deadline on more details being shared about the HRC and Arcus donation. When she replies, there will be a new post.] 

During the last week of December, I emailed several leaders of HRC and the Arcus Foundation, including their respective leaders Chad Griffin and Kevin Jennings, and Anastasia Smirnova of the Russian LGBT Network, after reading about the $100,000 donation from the US groups to the Russians. Curious as to how the three organizations were meeting or challenging Vladimir Putin's Foreign Agents Law targeting hundreds of human rights advocacy groups including LGBT ones, a law created to clamp down on and legally hassle the groups, I wrote to HRC, Arcus and Anastasia Smirnova of the Russian LGBT Network since she was quoted in the HRC release.

None of the people I wrote to responded. Oh, well. Such is is how accountability and transparency are handled by the three groups for this project. Actually, it's long been the policy of HRC to ignore questions about their agenda, their use of funds and failure to be fully transparent.

This is the note sent to Smirnova, and copied to Griffin and Jennings:

I am reaching out to you for a blog post I'm writing about the Human Rights Campaign and Arcus Foundation making donations to LGBT Russian groups. Given that you have stringent laws barring Russians from accepting donations from abroad, because "foreign agents" are not allowed to interfere with local society, how is it possible for the American gay groups to make donations to your network and the network not be charged for breaking the law? 

If I'm not mistaken, groups in St Petersburg have had major hassles putting on culture and political events since the summer because Putin's government has alleged funding was received by LGBT group from Western Europeans. Americans giving Russians money is no simple matter. 

How are HRC and Arcus Foundation able to make the donations and not create legal problems for you? I imagine the Russian media is reporting on these groups making big PR moves about their new-found interest in gay Russians and that the government is aware of the donations. Is the American money going directly to your network of groups? Are the proper papers being filed with the Russian authorities? 

Those issues aside, I'm also curious to learn what exactly the agreement is between HRC and Arcus Foundation and your network. Surely there must have been a written document defining to whom the money will go, how it is to be used and what it cannot be used for, and what the Americans expect in return for the donations. 

By the way, be aware that my transparency advocacy is wide reaching and earlier this year I called for full transparency from nutty Nikolai Alexeyev when he announced a Swiss bank account to accept funds for his group. Here's my post about that development. As far as I know, he's not said anything since August about any donations to the account nor has he shared any documents about what he did with any money received.

If my concerns have already been addressed by another blogger or you or another LGBT group in Russia, let me know where to find that info and I'll pick up details from them and give them full credit, of course. My gut feeling is that my questions have already been raised by others and dealt with. 

Please assist me in bringing much-needed transparency and accountability to this HRC and Arcus Foundation effort, and share your answers and feedback with me.

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