Yesterday there was a very puffy piece in USA Today about Paul Singer, the Republican hedge-fund billionaire who supports same-sex marriage (his son is gay) and founded a super PAC that has financially backed GOP politicians who voted for gay marriage in several states that passed marriage equality. The headline: "GOP Super PAC Plans Gay-Rights Push This Fall."
Now, judging from that headline, if it were earlier in the primary season, I would have thought this super PAC is working to defeat anti-gay Republicans -- of which, by their voting records and rhetoric, there are well over 200 in the House and nearly 40 in the Senate. Wouldn't you?
But actually, no, the super PAC in question is putting money behind mostly incumbent GOPers running this fall who happen to vote pro-gay, of which there are... well, hold out your hands and count and you won't use up all your fingers. From the article:
A Republican group tied to hedge fund billionaire Paul Singer plans to spend at least $2 million up to Election Day to boost congressional candidates who share its views in favor of gay rights. ...
The group has drawn up plans to back seven congressional candidates ahead of November's elections and could add more to the roster, said Jeff Cook-McCormac, a senior adviser to American Unity PAC and its policy arm, American Unity Fund. They include incumbents such as Pennsylvania Rep. Charlie Dent, a moderate Republican who announced his support for gay marriage in May and Richard Tisei, an openly gay Republican making his second bid for a U.S. House seat in Massachusetts.
And what is the number of incumbent GOPers who are ardently against marriage equality whom Singer has helped defeat?
Singer has financially backed Sen. Marco Rubio, a possible presidential contender who is very clear in his opposition to marriage equality, and, of course, in 2012 Singer backed Mitt Romney, who supported a federal constitutional amendment banning marriage equality nationwide. And New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie -- who is telling Republicans they should still oppose same-sex marriage nationwide even though it is "settled" in New Jersey -- is still among Singer's favorite candidates for 2016, even after Bridgegate.
Singer has given lots of money to the Republican Governors Association (RGA), which Christie heads, including the largest contribution the group received in 2013. From Lee Fang in The Nation:
In his second year in office, Christie's administration proposed giving Singer's hedge fund, Elliott Associates, a contract to manage $200 million in state public pension funds. Elliott Associates won the contract in 2012. Singer again demonstrated his political loyalty to Christie in December 2013, shortly after Christie became chair of the RGA, a coveted post for GOP presidential aspirants. This time, Singer gave the group $1.25 million, making him the largest contributor that year and significantly enlarging the RGA's war chest under Christie.
But is there even one GOP governor who supports same-sex marriage? Nope.
I don't expect Singer, a Republican, to back a Democrat just because of this one issue. But why hasn't he funded pro-gay Republicans in primaries to beat Republican officeholders who are anti-gay, or why hasn't he at least promoted the idea? The only non-incumbent of the seven slated to get money from Singer's group in the fall is Tisei, the gay Massachusetts GOPer trying again to unseat a loyal, pro-gay Democrat, John Tierney. But electing Tisei only helps the hostile, anti-gay Republican leadership maintain control of the House and get yet another seat. Tisei's first vote, if he wins, will be to elect John Boehner (or perhaps someone more extreme) as Speaker of the House, which would effectively ensure that no pro-LGBT legislation gets voted on.
Singer has funded anti-gay Senate candidates in contested races this year, donated to the National Republican Senatorial Committee and given $1.25 million to Karl Rove's American Crossroads. He's also putting his efforts toward getting women elected to the GOP -- anti-gay women, to be precise. He's headlining a fundraiser next month to back women running in the House and Senate, including Joni Ernst, running for a Senate seat in Iowa, who supports a federal marriage amendment, and Shelly Moore Capito, a West Virginia House member who has voted anti-gay every chance she's had.
Singer was heralded in a press release from the largest gay group, the Human Rights Campaign, when his foundation and the Daniel S. Loeb Family Foundation committed to more than $3 million in grants curiously targeted solely to efforts to fight homophobia and transphobia internationally. "Some of the worst offenders in this area also happen to be the same regimes that have dedicated themselves to harming the United States and its democratic allies across the globe," Singer said in a statement that sounded like he was talking about Iran and other places that are the focus of right-wing foreign policy. (Something tells me he wasn't discussing Saudi Arabia, our oil-rich ally, which is just as brutally anti-gay but helps American oil companies make lots of money for Singer and his investors.)
Sure, it's great that Singer has helped pass marriage equality in states and raised money for four Republicans who voted for equality with the vast majority of Democrats in New York at the time that anti-gay groups were targeting them. But when you read big, puffy pieces like the USA Today piece, or this one in the Washington Post about how he's "quietly shaping" the GOP on gay marriage, and read the HRC's accolades, you can't help but think they're meant to play to GOP moderates who might feel icky voting for the GOP now because of its homophobia and who want to feel better about doing it.
Meanwhile, Singer is undermining LGBT rights -- and all progressive causes -- by helping opponents of equality win more House races and helping Republicans win control of the Senate. And if that happens we're all screwed.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this post erroneously stated that Joni Ernst is running for the U.S. House of Representatives. In fact she's running for the U.S. Senate. The post has been updated accordingly.