Many companies waving Rainbow Flags at Pride Marches around the United States are also funding the political campaigns of some of the most homophobic and transphobic politicians in America.
Dozens of corporations with top ratings on the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index donated a combined $5.8 million to anti-LGBTQ politicians in Congress between 2010 and 2018, according to a report by Zero for Zeros, which is a new coalition of LGBTQ advocates and allies dedicated to convincing corporations to move away from funding homophobes.
AT&T, Deloitte, Price Waterhouse Coopers, UPS, and Chevron top the list of 49 companies that nabbed 100 percent ratings from HRC while also steering funds toward members of Congress who have received a “zero” rating from HRC, meaning they’ve have racked up the worst possible record on LGBTQ issues.
HRC bases its Corporate Equality Index criteria on a range of factors including nondiscrimination policies, spousal benefits, health coverage, and efforts to reach out to the broader LGBTQ community. That index does not take into consideration the companies’ political giving, though HRC separately grades lawmakers on their LGBTQ record via its Congressional Scorecard.
“During Pride Month, corporate America was out, loud, and proud in support of its LGBT employees and customers, but on the political side, they are donating to some of the most outspoken opponents of LGBT equality in Congress,” Lane Hudson, Zero for Zeros’ out gay campaign manager, said in a written statement. “As LGBT rights are under perpetual attack from Trump and Republicans, we need our allies to be with us 100 percent of the time.”
Zero for Zeros, an effort that includes out LGBTQ folks such as SiriusXM radio show host Danielle Moodie-Mills, Virginia State Senator Adam Ebbin, and New York-based actor Omar Sharif, Jr., kicked off its campaign by reaching out to CEOs of the companies on their list and running digital ads to ask folks to join the campaign. In a first wave, the campaign is currently shining a spotlight on 12 of the companies on its list: Microsoft, Facebook, AT&T, T-Mobile, Google, Intel, Amazon, Visa, Mastercard, Cisco Systems, Dell Inc., Oracle, SAP America, and American Airlines.
AT&T, the worst offender of them all, has pumped $460,000 to dozens of bigoted politicians across both houses of Congress, while Deloitte gave $310,000 in total. Other companies on the list include Ernst & Young, Microsoft, Northrop Grumman, Pfizer, and Google, among dozens of others.
AT&T has spread its cash around to roughly twice as many members of the Senate — 19 — as the nine House members they’ve funded. But they’ve given more repeated donations to those in the House, including 12 donations between 2010 and 2018 to racist homophobe Steve King of Iowa , who once said he does not “expect to meet” LGBTQ people in Heaven and insists that “what was a sin 2,000 years ago is a sin today.” But they’re not alone in bankrolling the bigot: Bayer AG, Cargill, Cigna Corp, Deloitte, Google, Intel, Microsoft, T-Mobile, UPS, and American Airlines have also enriched King’s campaigns.
According to OpenSecrets.og, AT&T has donated far more to Republican candidates than Democrats in every single election cycle dating back to 1996. The telecommunications giant donated $8.2 million in total during the 2018 midterms and $11.7 million in the 2016 election and gave roughly twice as much money to Republicans ($7.6 million) in 2016 than Democrats ($3.9 million)
AT&T has also donated to some of the most prominent anti-LGBTQ senators such as Ted Cruz of Texas, Tom Cotton of Arkansas, and Marco Rubio of Florida. And like King, Cruz and others have solicited payments from many of the other 49 companies that purport to be friends of the LGBTQ community. Ecolab, Dow Chemical, Ernst & Young, Exelon Corp., Facebook, General Motors, Google, Intel, Johnson & Johnson, JP Morgan Chase, KPMG, Microsoft, Pfizer, and others have helped fund Cruz’s anti-LGBTQ campaigns.
Deloitte, which provides professional services including accounting, auditing, and consulting, reached the second spot on Zero for Zeros’ list by giving financial backing to fringe folks like Senator Mike Lee of Utah, who most recently blocked the re-nomination of out lesbian Chai Feldblum as commissioner at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The corporation pumped cash into his campaigns six times between 2010 and 2016.
Another lawmaker supported by Deloitte and many others is Representative Louie Gohmert of Texas, who once justified his opposition to LGBTQ relationships when he said same-sex couples would not be able to “sustain life” if they are placed on an island. He also spewed transphobia during an April 2 hearing on the LGBTQ nondiscrimination bill known as the Equality Act when he said that the legislation would force the Olympics to change its rules on testosterone.
Deloitte, like AT&T, has given more money to Republicans in every election cycle and has followed that pattern dating back to 1992. Deloitte has already delivered 54 percent of their funds for the 2020 elections to Republicans compared to the 45 percent they’ve given to Democrats. They spent $4.6 million and $4.7 million in total on candidates in 2016 and 2018, respectively, and they were especially generous to Republicans in 2016 when they gave $2.6 million to Republicans compared to $1.9 to Democrats.
Mastercard, also on the list, was recently the subject of some amount of ridicule when the City of New York allowed the corporate giant to sponsor the renaming of a street corner in Manhattan during Pride Month to reflect different sexual orientations and gender identities. That renaming served as part of Mastercard’s effort to market a new initiative allowing people use their own gender identity on their credit, debit, and prepaid cards.
In a written statement HRC conceded that “general PAC giving is outside of the scope” of its Corporate Equality Index, but insisted that it does “monitor employers’ contributions to anti-LGBTQ ballot measures and organizations whose primary mission includes anti-LGBTQ advocacy, as well as provide credit for employers who take public stances for LGBTQ equality in the law.”
HRC also noted that beyond the Corporate Equality Index, folks are able to refer to its Congressional Scorecard to gain an understanding of where candidates stand on LGBTQ issues.
“The Corporate Equality Index and the Congressional Scorecard are critical tools for advancing LGBTQ equality — they are not the only tools,” the HRC statement added.
The Zero for Zeros report also presents other questions about LGBTQ issues in the corporate world. Large city and state retirement funds in New York and elsewhere have kept an eye on shareholders by pushing companies to bolster the climate for queer workers, and now those same shareholders could face pressure to sever financial ties with homophobic politicians. Questions to the Zero for Zeros campaign about whether or not the group has reached out to the retirement funds regarding that issue were not answered by press time.