The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) is an inside the Beltway advocacy group for gay people. I was very proud in 1997 when they gave me a leadership equality award for my work at fostering equality in the workplace at Warner Brothers. I even wrote them into my will.
But what opened my eyes to what HRC has become -- an insider establishment bunch of kiss-asses -- was their endorsement of Holy Joe Lieberman over Ned Lamont in 2006. After I learned more about them, I smashed my award and removed them from my will. HRC is one of those inside the Beltway organizations that has long ago lost sight of its original idealistic mandate. Instead of fighting for gay equality, they fight to win DC status games and to enhance the future career prospects of the top staffers. When it comes to electoral politics, you can almost always expect the worst from them.
This past February their in-house magazine, Equality, prominently featured Republican rubber stamp and fake moderate Susan Collins (R-ME), in a 2 page spread giving the false impression that Collins is a friend of the gay community. One of the more outrageous parts of their interview with Collins is a bit about the Gang of 14. They make it sound like her membership in it should be praised, but that's pretty naive considering that one of the only accomplishments of the gang was to ensure the confirmation of viciously homophobic, right-wing crazies on the federal bench like Janice Rogers Brown, Priscilla Owen, and Bill Pryor. But that's exactly what HRC has turned into -- an organization so concerned with looking "mainstream" and "adult" inside the Beltway, that they will give aid and comfort to people who work against the gay community.
Today HRC announced its endorsements for Senate races around the country. They are asking the gay community to donate money to 10 cash-rich incumbents and four Democratic challengers, Jeanne Shaheen (DLC-NH), Mark Udall (D-CO), Tom Udall (D-NM), and Al Franken (D-MN). Among the incumbents is Collins, of course, who is running against a Democratic congressman, Tom Allen, who's voting record on gay issues is excellent and who is a true friend of the gay community and someone who, again, unlike Collins, will never, ever vote to confirm rabid homophobic judges. Among the other incumbents they endorsed are some outstanding senators like Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), John Kerry (D-MA), Tom Harkin (D-IA), and Jack Reed (D-RI) and at least one with a spotty voting record, Louisiana's conservative Democrat, Mary Landrieu, who, like Collins, routinely rubber stamps homophobic judges the Bush regime pushes for lifetime appointments.
This morning I called Tom Allen and asked if I missing something about why HRC has endorsed Collins. Tom, the most positive campaigner I've ever met, never wants to say a negative word about anyone. Instead he wanted to talk about his own record of support for gay people. "My record of fighting discrimination on all levels and for standing up for equality is consistent. When I was on the Portland City Council in Maine, we led the state in nondiscrimination practices by banning bias based on sexual orientation for housing, credit and employment. As a member of Congress, I have consistently supported fairness and equality measures while opposing discrimination. As a member of the Senate, I will continue to do what is right for all people. Specifically, I will not support judicial nominees who don't understand fairness and equal rights." It would have been nice if HRC could have at least wrung something like that out of Collins before sending a confusing signal to gays and lesbians in Maine.
HRC's own scorecard for the 109th Congress -- the 110th isn't out yet -- gave Tom Allen a 100% rating and gave Collins a 78% although that rating doesn't reflect her votes and maneuvering for anti-gay judges. (She voted for both Alito and Roberts). None the less, aside from fundraising against Tom on her behalf, they claim they are also doing "on-the-ground organizing [and] GOTV efforts" and pushing her at gay pride events.
But it was a Senate race they chose to ignore that is the most shocking and disappointing element of their announcement today. North Carolina has two extreme right wing senators, Elizabeth Dole and Richard Burr, each of whom can always be counted on to do whatever they can to make the lives of gay men and women less palatable and less safe. One, Elizabeth Dole, is up for re-election in November. There are two Democrats in a neck and neck primary battle to take her on, Republican-lite establishment-backed Kay Hagan and grassroots progressive Jim Neal. Frankly, I don't know where Hagan stands on gay issues (although North Carolina blogger Pam Spaudling sure does). I do know where Neal stands-- 100% with the gay community, of which he is an upfront member. Yes, one of the first times that an uncloseted gay man is running for the U.S. Senate -- in a race he can win -- and HRC is... abstaining. When we reached Jim this morning, he seemed disappointed. "There's no question their endorsement would have helped in fundraising and I certainly would have liked to have had it. People look to the HRC to encourage participation and promote change in the political system. Is it doing that? That's a valid question, and after this election is over, I think we need to look at groups like HRC and their endorsement process." Amen!
Tom Allen and Jim Neal have both been endorsed by Blue America. If you're a member of HRC how about skipping your HRC dues this year and sending the money to where it will do some good instead? Like here, for Tom and Jim. By the way, the first five donations today of at least $30 get, as a thank you, an autographed copy of Al Franken's book The Truth.