States have been dubbed the laboratories of democracy, but right now it would they would be better called the labs of anti-democracy. There’s a multi-prong effort by far-right Republicans to roll back LGBTQ rights, deny the right for women to choose, and take over the machinery of elections to ensure that only Republicans win.
Now there’s a website that allows you to see just who is funding the extremists. Accountable for Equality Action (AFEA) has launched the Real Allies Database, which tracks donations to extremist politicians. As you might imagine, the amount of money behind these efforts is staggering: more than $143 million was given to elect more than 1,000 state legislators who are behind some of the worst policies in the nation.
In fairness to the corporations, the data includes donations as far back as 2016, when the January 6 insurrection seemed just a far-fetched nightmare. While some contributions are ongoing, a lot of them didn’t continue after a few cycles. Moreover, by corporate standards, some of the contributions are pocket money–just a couple of hundred bucks.
Dividing up just who is anti-LGBTQ and who is pro-insurrection, anti-choice or anti-voting rights is a bit of an academic exercise. Certainly, many of the state legislators to whom Comcast/NBC Universal contributed ended up being stalwarts in the insurrectionist camp, for example. However, philosophically there’s virtually little difference between someone who is a Trumpian election denialist and someone who is anti-LGBTQ, even without a long trail of sponsored legislation.
Still, as a stand-alone category, the list of anti-LGBTQ contributions is shocking. Many of them are donations to legislators in Texas. The largest single donor, Texans for Lawsuit Reform, gave a whopping $10.1 million to legislators who were behind the state’s anti-trans measures.
However, the money to extremist politicians often comes from large corporations that purport to be pro-LGBTQ. AT&T has donated more than $1.5 million, including a long list of legislators who sponsored anti-trans bills. Comcast & NBC Universal donated more than $650,000. Also in the database of contributors are Anheuser-Busch, Coca-Cola, CVS, and Farmers Insurance.
Every one of these companies is ranked as a “Best Place to Work for LGBTQ+ Equality” by HRC. The ranking signifies “concrete steps to establish and implement comprehensive policies, benefits and practices that ensure greater equity for LGBTQ+ workers and their families.”
The discrepancy highlights the ongoing disconnect between what businesses’ marketing and HR policies are and where their financial interests lie. It’s not as if the companies are contributing to extremist legislators for the sake of overthrowing democratic elections and LGBTQ rights. It just so happens that the legislators sit on committees where they determine issues that affect the bottom line of the corporations. Showing support for the legislator helps with access and doesn’t hurt in terms of greasing the skids for the outcomes the businesses want.
Activists certainly hope the database puts some pressure on the corporations to stop the hypocrisy.
“Simply put, authentic corporate allies refrain from donating money to those who are working to roll back LGBTQ rights,” said Sarah Kate Ellis, President & CEO of GLAAD. “The Real Allies site provides a critical resource for community members and allies to instantly see if a corporate is funding anti-LGBTQ politicians.”
“We are at a make-or-break moment for our country. Anti-LGBTQ, anti-choice, anti-voting rights, pro-insurrection – these labels can be applied to too many politicians who are being funded by major corporations where we spend money and where we work,” said Tiq Milan, journalist, advocate, and spokesperson for Accountable for Equality Action. “Collectively, we have an obligation to stop the assault on our rights, hold corporate America accountable, and ensure corporations are a force for positive change
The Real Allies site provides details of what is happening at the state level. It’s every bit as important at the federal level. The site Popular Information has been tracking the disconnect between corporate rhetoric and its checkbooks. After the January 6 insurrection, there was a flurry of promises from businesses that they would never, ever support politicians who voted against certifying the 2020 election results.
Or, if corporations are contributing directly to extremist candidates, they are contributing to groups that in turn funnel the money to them. The Republican Governors Association is helping boost the campaign of Doug Mastriano, the Christian nationalist running for governor of Pennsylvania, thanks to contributions it has received from companies like Google and DoorDash.
Unfortunately, corporations’ interest in the bottom line above all else comes at an increasingly high price. It was bad enough when they were willing to throw money at anti-LGBTQ politicians for the sake of friendlier regulations. Now they are throwing money at legislators who would gladly undo free and fair elections. Apparently, that is the price of doing business these days.