LGBT groups fund fore­casts on eco­nomic costs of laws

Aim to drive agenda in state leg­is­la­tures

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - BY BRAD­FORD RICHARD­SON

The Texas As­so­ci­a­tion of Busi­ness has been an out­spo­ken op­po­nent of the state’s pro­posed trans­gen­der bath­room bill, pre­dict­ing the leg­is­la­tion will lead to a mas­sive eco­nomic back­lash and cost the state as much as $8.5 bil­lion in lost busi­ness.

The In­di­ana Cham­ber of Com­merce was sim­i­larly alarmed by the 2015 push for the Re­li­gious Free­dom Restora­tion Act, ar­gu­ing that it would neg­a­tively af­fect the state’s “abil­ity to at­tract and re­tain jobs, tal­ent and in­vest­ment.”

Flor­ida Com­petes, a small-busi­nesses ad­vo­cacy group in the Sun­shine State, has tire­lessly cham­pi­oned a bill that would make sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion and gen­der iden­tity pro­tected classes un­der the Flor­ida Civil Rights Act. The amend­ment, the group says, would boost Flor­ida’s eco­nomic out­put by more than $5 bil­lion and cre­ate nearly 36,000 jobs over the next 10 years.

These small-busi­ness coali­tions and oth­ers across the coun­try share a com­mon source of fund­ing: the na­tional LGBT rights move­ment.

Since the le­gal­iza­tion of same-sex mar­riage in all 50 states, the de­bate over gay and trans­gen­der rights has in­creas­ingly been framed in eco­nomic terms.

With prod­ding from the LGBT move­ment,

pow­er­ful cor­po­ra­tions have threat­ened to pull busi­ness out of states if their de­sired pol­icy out­comes are not met.

Prom­i­nent gay rights or­ga­ni­za­tions, in­clud­ing the Human Rights Cam­paign and the Gill Foun­da­tion, have also qui­etly poured hun­dreds of thou­sands of dol­lars into a net­work of small-busi­ness coali­tions that rou­tinely make doomand-gloom eco­nomic prog­nos­ti­ca­tions about so­cially con­ser­va­tive leg­is­la­tion.

Tony McDon­ald, le­gal coun­sel of the con­ser­va­tive non­profit Empower Texans, said the gay rights move­ment has re­lied more on cor­po­rate in­flu­ence to im­ple­ment its agenda since the le­gal­iza­tion of same-sex mar­riage. Forc­ing Chris­tian bak­ers to par­tic­i­pate in same­sex wed­dings and al­low­ing trans­gen­der peo­ple to use re­strooms of the op­po­site bi­o­log­i­cal sex just don’t carry the same emo­tional ap­peal as the fight for mar­riage equal­ity.

“It was a multi­bil­lion-dol­lar ef­fort to le­gal­ize gay mar­riage in the United States, and it’s not as if those peo­ple aren’t go­ing to show up for work the next day,” Mr. McDon­ald said. “If any­thing, they’re go­ing to try to be more ac­tive be­cause they’ve won, and I think that’s what we’ve seen.”

“The bill is about what the proper role of gov­ern­ment is. The bill that the Texas leg­is­la­ture is try­ing to pass says busi­ness should be able to man­age their bath­rooms how­ever they want.”

— Texas state Rep. Matt Sha­heen

Fol­low the money

Empower Texans pub­lished a leaked doc­u­ment on Aug. 1 show­ing that Keep Texas Open for Busi­ness, a coali­tion spear­headed by the Texas As­so­ci­a­tion of Busi­ness, has re­ceived $130,000 in con­tri­bu­tions from na­tional gay rights or­ga­ni­za­tions to op­pose the state’s pro­posed trans­gen­der bath­room bill.

The two-page pa­per is ti­tled “Coali­tion In­vestors” and shows $50,000 in do­na­tions from Gill Ac­tion, $15,000 from the Gill Foun­da­tion, $40,000 from the Human Rights Cam­paign and $25,000 from Free­dom for All Amer­i­cans.

That makes up nearly half of the $300,000 in to­tal cam­paign con­tri­bu­tions listed on the doc­u­ment. Other donors in­clude Ama­zon, Ap­ple and In­tel.

The Texas As­so­ci­a­tion of Busi­ness, which merged with the state cham­ber of com­merce in 1995, said the doc­u­ment rep­re­sents a snap­shot of the move­ment’s do­na­tions at that time and is not rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the coali­tion’s back­ers.

Texas Gov. Greg Ab­bott, a Repub­li­can, called a 30-day spe­cial ses­sion on July 18 to pass the bath­room bill and other leg­isla­tive pri­or­i­ties.

The bath­room bill is op­posed by House Speaker Joe Straus, a Repub­li­can, who says he is con­cerned that the bill would slow down eco­nomic growth and job cre­ation.

In its cam­paign against the bath­room bill, the Texas As­so­ci­a­tion of Busi­ness has com­mis­sioned mul­ti­ple stud­ies pre­dict­ing that the state could lose as much as $8.5 bil­lion in gross do­mes­tic prod­uct and as many as 185,000 jobs.

One of the re­ports pre­dicted that Texas would lose Su­per Bowl LI, which was played this year in Hous­ton.

Poli­tiFact rated the prog­nos­ti­ca­tion “mostly false.”

Nonethe­less, Mr. McDon­ald said the me­dia rou­tinely re­port those fig­ures as fact in their cov­er­age of the bath­room bill.

“We used to think TAB was just a rank-and-file, pro-busi­ness group,” Mr. McDon­ald said. “Not to say we agreed on ev­ery­thing, but that’s just kind of the way you view a cham­ber of com­merce. But TAB doesn’t seem to be rep­re­sent­ing busi­nesses in an even-handed, probusi­ness way. They’re not deal­ing in good faith.”

‘Pun­ish­ing the wicked’

Tim Gill is the Colorado-based tech mil­lion­aire who has poured an es­ti­mated $422 mil­lion into the LGBT move­ment over the past two decades. In an in­ter­view with Rolling Stone pub­lished June 23, Mr. Gill said he wanted to “pun­ish the wicked” in red states who dis­agree with his views on sex­ual moral­ity.

The Texas As­so­ci­a­tion of Busi­ness is one of Mr. Gill’s grantees.

Its 501(c)(3) arm, the Texas As­so­ci­a­tion of Busi­ness & Cham­ber of Com­merce Foun­da­tion, re­ceived $71,000 from the Gill Foun­da­tion in 2015, ac­cord­ing to the Gill Foun­da­tion’s tax re­turns.

“The Gill Foun­da­tion is one of many con­trib­u­tors to the Texas As­so­ci­a­tion of Busi­ness and Cham­ber of Com­merce Foun­da­tion,” a spokesper­son for the Texas As­so­ci­a­tion of Busi­ness said.

The Texas As­so­ci­a­tion of Busi­ness also re­ceived $25,000 from the Human Rights Cam­paign in 2014, ac­cord­ing to the LGBT group’s an­nual re­port.

Texas state Rep. Matt Sha­heen sent a let­ter to the Texas As­so­ci­a­tion of Busi­ness Aug. 3 ask­ing the group to dis­close its ties to the LGBT move­ment.

“My ques­tion is, who are they rep­re­sent­ing?” Mr. Sha­heen said. “They haven’t re­sponded yet.”

He said the bath­room bill is “def­i­nitely not anti-busi­ness.” He pointed out that the leg­is­la­tion con­cerns only pub­lic fa­cil­i­ties and gives pri­vate en­ti­ties the op­tion to reg­u­late their re­strooms how­ever they choose.

“The bill is about what the proper role of gov­ern­ment is,” Mr. Sha­heen said. “The bill that the Texas Leg­is­la­ture is try­ing to pass says busi­ness should be able to man­age their bath­rooms how­ever they want.”

A na­tional ef­fort

Sim­i­larly dire eco­nomic prog­nos­ti­ca­tions have fol­lowed so­cially con­ser­va­tive leg­is­la­tion in other states.

The In­di­ana Cham­ber of Com­merce re­ceived $100,000 from the Gill Foun­da­tion in 2015, the same year it came out against the state’s Re­li­gious Free­dom Restora­tion Act, which was ul­ti­mately signed by Gov. Mike Pence.

At the time, cham­ber Pres­i­dent Michael Hu­ber said the bill would have a neg­a­tive ef­fect on In­di­ana’s “abil­ity to at­tract and re­tain jobs, tal­ent and in­vest­ment” and would “en­cour­age cur­rent and po­ten­tial res­i­dents and vis­i­tors to take their busi­ness else­where.”

The In­di­ana Cham­ber of Com­merce did not re­spond to a re­quest for com­ment.

In 2014 and 2015, the Human Rights Cam­paign do­nated $165,000 to Com­pet­i­tive Ari­zona, $60,000 to Penn­syl­va­nia Com­petes and $25,000 to Flor­ida Com­petes, formerly called Flor­ida Busi­nesses for a Com­pet­i­tive Work­force.

The Human Rights Cam­paign did not re­spond to a re­quest for com­ment be­fore press time.

Gregory T. An­gelo, pres­i­dent of the Log Cabin Repub­li­cans, said he doesn’t see any­thing wrong with nom­i­nally probusi­ness coali­tions tak­ing up the cause for gay rights.

“Hav­ing an en­tity whose name does not ex­plic­itly ad­dress the is­sues at hand that are be­ing cham­pi­oned by that en­tity is noth­ing new in Washington, D.C., in pol­i­tics in gen­eral or in so­ci­ety,” Mr. An­gelo said. “So I don’t see any­thing un­to­ward about that.”

Zeb Pent, a spokesman for Stand for Fort Worth, said Sil­i­con Val­ley should let the peo­ple of Texas gov­ern them­selves.

“If you know Texans, we don’t take kindly to blue state bul­lies and tech moguls who med­dle in our af­fairs,” Mr. Pent said in a state­ment. “I think in light of Tim Gill’s pub­lished in­ten­tions, this is a telling rev­e­la­tion into how the na­tional LGBT ex­trem­ists are bul­ly­ing their way into the red­dest of states.”

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