A high-ranking lesbian elected official said that she will refuse donations and campaign support from the LGBTQ organization Human Rights Campaign (HRC) until its leader steps down. HRC President Alphonso David allegedly leaked confidential information about a woman who accused the governor of New York of sexual harassment and assault in order to discredit her.
“I will not be accepting any campaign donations or support from @HRC unless and until there is a new president of this organization,” tweeted out Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel earlier today, along with a tweet about the accusations.
— Dana Nessel (@dananessel) August 5, 2021
This past Tuesday, New York State Attorney General Letitia James reported the findings of an independent investigation into the accusations from 11 women that New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) sexually harassed and assaulted them. James found that Cuomo likely violated state and federal law in harassing the women, and major Democrats including President Joe Biden, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) have called on Cuomo to resign.
The report says that HRC’s president played a role in Cuomo’s campaign to discredit the women. David worked as a lawyer for the LGBTQ organization Lambda Legal for several years in the mid-2000’s and then worked for then-Attorney General Andrew Cuomo’s Office on civil rights law, later serving in the governor’s cabinet – where he worked on the state’s marriage equality legislation – before being named president of HRC in 2019.
James’s report says that he kept a personnel file on former Cuomo advisor Lindsey Boylan, who had accused the governor of forcibly kissing her. The report also said that Cuomo commented on her looks, compared her to an ex-girlfriend, touched her in various inappropriate places on her body, and made sexual comments like “let’s play strip poker” when she was on a plane with him.
Cuomo aide Melissa DeRosa allegedly told David to keep a file on her and that he gathered information about her in the file, including confidential documents. He even kept documents related to counseling on workplace conflicts that had nothing to do with Cuomo, as well as a document that said that she voluntarily resigned in 2018 after she first accused Cuomo.
The report says that David helped DeRosa track down part of the file in late 2020, after Boylan had gone public with her accusations against Cuomo. David allegedly sent confidential documents to Cuomo senior adviser Richard Azzopardi. At this time, David was already the president of HRC and no longer worked for Cuomo.
David told the independent investigation that he kept the files since it was the only time he “was actually involved in a counseling of an employee.”
Azzopardi then allegedly sent the confidential files to the AP, the New York Times, and the New York Post, along with a note that “there is simply no truth to these claims,” referring to Boylan’s accusations.
The report also says that David tried to find people to sign a draft op-ed to discredit Boylan. He did not sign the op-ed himself and it was never published.
David says that the report does not show that he engaged in any wrongdoing, saying in an email to HRC’s board that the accusations against Cuomo “are beyond comprehension to me and they break my heart as a former employee.” He wrote in the email that, as former counsel, he had to provide files to his former client, which was the governor’s office.
In fact, David called on Cuomo to resign as governor this week.
“After reading the AG’s devastating report that concluded Gov. Cuomo engaged in a pattern of sexual harassment, in violation of both federal and state law, he should resign,” he wrote.
The boards of directors of HRC and the HRC Foundation released a joint statement saying that they “have full confidence in Alphonso David as president of the organization” and that his contract has been extended for another five years.
“In recognition of his extraordinary leadership during extremely challenging times, we were proud to extend his contract to stay on in his role for five more years,” the statement says. “For the last two years he has been boldly leading the organization as it works to achieve its mission: full equality for all LGBTQ people, in the midst of a global pandemic, a nationwide reckoning on racial justice, and the most important presidential election of our lifetimes.”
David said that he has no intention to resign.
“This is my life’s work,” he told the Washington Blade. “I’ve been a civil rights lawyer for 20 years. This is what I’ve been doing, this is what I did in government. I wrote the marriage equality law. I drafted the Paid Family Leave Law, drafted the minimum wage law, drafted regulations to prohibit discrimination against trans people. This is my life’s work. So, I intend to continue the work that I’ve been doing because the work of marginalized communities, the work to actually represent marginalized communities is too important.”