Seattle Pride’s Biggest Sponsors Also Give Big to Homophobic Politicians

If you head out to a Pride parade and party in the park this weekend, you’ll see big, cheery banners for major corporate sponsors. But behind the rainbows, those same sponsors also send tens of thousands of dollars to politicians who work to strip queer people of their rights.

Those sponsors include Alaska Air Group, which in 2020 used a political action committee to send at least $30,000 to elected officials who oppose marriage equality, nondiscrimination, and allowing trans people to serve openly in the military. 

Through their PAC, Seattle Pride sponsor Chateau Ste. Michelle sent at least $26,000 to conservative homophobes in Congress over the last two years.

Seattle Pride sponsor T-Mobile was particularly generous, sending around $100,000 to members of Congress who have voted to block The Equality Act, ban adoption by same-sex parents, and amend the U.S. Constitution to ban marriage equality.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Alaska Air, Chateau Ste. Michelle, and T-Mobile are the three largest sponsors of Seattle Pride, which organizes the annual parade, among other year-round projects. None of those companies responded to requests for comment, but their giving speaks for itself.

In 2020, Alaska Air Group gave $10,000 to Alaska Senator Dan Sullivan, who vetoed a nondiscrimination bill, opposed gay marriage, and sponsored a bill to protect anti-gay contractors.

That same year, the company’s PAC gave $9,000 to Alaska House Rep. Don Young, who opposed marriage equality, voted for a constitutional ban on marriage twice, opposed discrimination protections, voted to ban gay adoption, and held a zero rating from the Human Rights Campaign.

Here in Washington, Alaska’s PAC gave Representative Jaime Herrera Beutler $3,000, despite her opposition to marriage equality, a vote against The Equality Act, a vote to protect Trump’s trans military ban, and her opposition to domestic partnerships in 2009 and 2008.

In 2022, Ste. Michelle Wine Estates gave $5,000 to Washington Representative Dan Newhouse, who opposed marriage equality, opposed nondiscrimination protections, opposed domestic partnerships, and holds a score of 7 on HRC’s scorecard. Washington Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers got $2,500 from the company’s PAC; she opposed hate crime protections, opposed marriage equality repeatedly, tried to ban marriage equality repeatedly, opposed open military service repeatedly, and voted against The Equality Act.

Bellevue’s T-Mobile gave $10,000 to Texas Senator Dan Crenshaw in 2022. Crenshaw has spread incendiary rumors about drag shows, opposed health care for trans youth, and opposed health care for trans service members. In 2020, they gave $10,000 to Texas Representative Kevin Brady, who opposed marriage equality, has a zero score from HRC, and voted against nondiscrimination protections.

All those dollar figures are sourced from campaign monitoring organization OpenSecrets, and all represent just a handful of donations from each company’s political wing. The full dollar amounts, going back years, would be many orders of magnitude greater.

Earlier this year, Seattle Pride parted ways with Amazon over the company’s support for homophobic politicians: Amazon gave $450,000 to politicians who voted against The Equality Act in 2020, along with $11,000 to officials in Washington, according to NBC News. Amazon’s Smile program also channeled money to dozens of anti-LGBTQ+ nonprofits.

At the time, Seattle Pride said that they would evaluate all of their sponsors to ensure that Pride was not offering what could be seen as an endorsement of companies that support homophobic politicians. “We are reviewing our corporate partnerships to ensure our partners’ words and actions align with our organization’s values,” a spokesperson for Seattle Pride wrote in a statement. “It is critical they actively support – and do not harm – our community not only on parade day, but throughout the year.”

As of this month, that effort is still underway, according to conversations with staff — and it’s not unreasonable to think that the process would be slow-going. Investigating corporate donations is time-consuming work, especially for large companies with political histories that date back decades. Digging into politicians’ positions, past and present, adds an additional layer of complexity.

And while Seattle Pride has just three major “Presenting Sponsors,” they have over a hundred smaller sponsors at various levels, from Starbucks to Puget Sound Energy to The Stranger. On top of that, Seattle Pride isn’t the only queer game in town. There’s also PrideFest, a separate organization that runs the parties at Seattle Center and on Capitol Hill. Capitol Hill Pride is a smaller, separate local event. And then there’s Alki Beach Pride and White Center Pride. 

To identify each organization’s relationship with corporate sponsors, then each sponsor’s relationship with politicians, and then each politician’s history with LGBTQ+ issues would be a colossal project.

For their part, Seattle Pride is working on finding a way to assure attendees that the sponsors they invite to Prides are not propping up the politicians who oppress us. Until that work is ready, and until every Pride can make a similar assurance, Pride attendees may want to regard any sponsors they see with skepticism.

Article Source: https://www.thestranger.com/pride-2022/2022/06/24/75521403/seattle-prides-biggest-sponsors-also-give-big-to-homophobic-politicians