article

08.09.10

Tea Partier's Gay Cash Hypocrisy

The Tea Party favorite against Harry Reid pledged to reject donations "tainted" by companies that support gays. But her campaign disclosures shows she is taking their money anyway.

Republican Senate candidate Sharron Angle of Nevada has pledged not to take campaign contributions from PACs that include donations from companies that provide health benefits to the partners of gay employees. But a Daily Beast analysis shows she’s already taken at least $37,000 from such political action committees.

It was unclear whether Angle would return the money as an email statement from spokesman Jerry Stacy didn't address that question.

"Companies and employees should be allowed to decide which coverage plans work best for them, not the government," Stacy wrote to The Daily Beast. "The important goal of stopping Senator Harry Reid's failed policies is drawing support from many organizations even if they don’t agree with Sharron on every single issue, because the main issue is that Americans are out of work and businesses are struggling to survive and the country can't afford another six years of Harry Reid."

“Her strident position here paints her into an ideological corner because she’s fighting something that has already  been established across of much of corporate America,” says Professor Herzik.

Stacy also did not address the conflict that response presents with Angle's response on a questionnaire.

The Tea Party favorite, facing off against Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, checked “yes” on a questionnaire from the Government is NOT God PAC on a question asking: “Intel Corporation supports ‘equal rights for gays’ and offers benefits to ‘partners’ of homosexual employees. Would you refuse funds from this corporate PAC?”

Las Vegas Sun columnist Jon Ralston, who first noticed and reported the response after it was overlooked in an Associated Press exclusive on the questionnaire itself, also noted on Friday that Angle had already received $5,000 from the Senate Majority Fund PAC that included funds from Intel.

In addition to that, however, Angle has accepted $5,000 from the Alamo PAC, Bluegrass Committee, Free & Strong America PAC, Rock City PAC, Tenn PAC and Senate Victory Fund PAC as well as $2,000 from the Hawkeye PAC. All of these, according to the Federal Election Commission’s website, received money from companies that include 3M, Abbott Laboratories, Amazon.Com, UPS and others. Some companies that gave to those PACs, such as Anheuser Busch and Pepsico, have created gay-specific advertising that has been placed in gay-targeted media as well.

More than half of Fortune 500 companies and 83 percent of Fortune 100 companies provided domestic-partner benefits as of last year, according to the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest gay-rights group. Eight-five percent barred employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, too.

Several of Angle’s individual donations also might not pass the standard set by her questionnaire response. She got $250 from Julie Kameda, a manager with Intel; $1,050 from Carol Buck, president of the Buck Foundation which specifically states it won’t discriminate based on sexual orientation in awarding its scholarships; $1,000 from Norman Harbert, CEO of Hawk Corp., which also includes sexual orientation in the Cleveland-based company’s nondiscrimination clause.

Closer to home, Angle received $250 from Jerry Byrd, general manager of Penske-Wynn Ferrari, a car dealership co-owned by Wynn Las Vegas, the Vegas resort that houses it. Wynn Resorts, the parent company, not only provides domestic partner benefits and aggressively markets its hotel-casinos to gay customers but also encourages same-sex couples to celebrate their unions in their wedding chapels. Nevada has a constitutional ban on gay marriage but also has a domestic partnership registry that provides same-sex couples the same state rights accorded to heterosexual couples.

Angle also indicated in the questionnaire that she’s opposed to gays being allowed to adopt;  opposed to abortion under any circumstance; and supports clergy endorsing candidates from the pulpit. “Her strident position here paints her into an ideological corner because she’s fighting something that has already been established across of much of corporate America,” University of Nevada at Reno political science professor Eric Herzik said. “You can be opposed to gay marriage and what-not as a government-policy issue, but to take it to the next step and say, ‘I won’t take money from or do business with anybody who provides such benefits,’ violates her own anti-government-intrusion stance. Wait a minute, you don’t want government doing this but you’re willing to say that if private companies do it, they’re evil, too?”

Furthermore, when Angle lost a 2006 GOP primary race for a U.S. House seat, she received $2,750 from top executives of TD Ameritrade. That company, too, provides domestic partnership benefits to its employees.

Angle’s position raises other questions as well. Would Angle attend a fundraiser or event at Las Vegas resorts that provide domestic-partner benefits and permits same-sex unions in their chapels, which includes almost every one? Would she refuse to return to Ralston’s TV program, Face To Face, because both the TV station that owns it and Ralston’s newspaper employer provide domestic-partnership benefits?

“These are not unreasonable questions,” Herzik said. “By taking an extreme position, you end up in an untenable position in dealing with a large part of the American public. For the majority of Nevadans, even though they voted to oppose gay marriage in overwhelming numbers, they aren’t saying they don’t think gays should employed.”

Steve Friess is a veteran Las Vegas-based freelancer whose work appears in The New York Times, Newsweek, USA Today, the Los Angeles Times and many others. He's a contributing writer for AOLNews, a columnist for the Las Vegas Weekly, blogs at VegasHappensHere.Com and is host of two podcasts, the celebrity-interview show The Strip and the animal-affairs program The Petcast. He tweets at @TheStripPodcast.