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HRC Bites Back at Sullivan

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Those of you who tuned in yesterday know that Andrew Sullivan launched a fresh attach against the “largest” gay non-profit in the country, Human Rights Campaign. Like others before him, old Sully wondered whether or not the super sissie group had inflated its numbers to give itself a little more…girth.

In an email sent to Sullivan and forwarded to us, an HRCer gets a little snippy, insisting Sullivan’s getting bogged down by semantics. There is, it seems, a huge difference between “member” and “supporter”. Yeah, one’s attached to your body and the other keeps it up. The HRCer explains:

As HRC does not want to exclude anyone from our membership based on his or her ability to pay, we consider any one a “member” who has contributed $5.00, and we do accept contributions in that amount on our website. We also consider any one who has taken an action as a “supporter.” Combined, those members and supporters comprise our “membership.”

He then goes off into a pretty indepth and, thus, decidedly boring, explanation of their practices – for example, the difference between a 501(c)(3) and 501(c)(4) non-profit (they’re both) and why watchdogs often confuse the two. We’ve included the entire email after the jump.

Allow us, however, to feature the some what cultish closing:

Over the next few months, HRC is going to be engaged in legislative battles the likes of which we have not seen in over a decade. We will always be open to legitimate criticism, and be willing to address and correct any fair and honest problems that our critics and our friends may point out. But this year, our major focus is on securing equal rights for the GLBT community. We still would welcome your joining us in that battle.

But first, we eat your brain!

Related: Andrew Sullivan Launches Fresh Attack Against HRC
Andrew Sullivan Still Waiting

Your “basic math” of our membership rests solely on your analysis of the resources of the Human Rights Campaign Foundation. What you seem not to realize is that HRC is actually two organizations: the Human Rights Campaign, Inc. a 501(c)(4) organization (which has much greater freedom to be politically active) and the Human Rights Campaign Foundation, Inc. (“HRCF”), a 501(c)(3) organization (which is organized primarily for educational purposes and has limited ability to participate in the political process). Of the two organizations, only the Human Rights Campaign is incorporated as a membership organization. HRCF, like most public charities, is a non-member corporation. HRCF comprises only 20% of our total budget. Human Rights Campaign, Inc., the 501(c)(4) non-profit comprises 80% of our budget. And in fact, your error is even greater in that our Foundation does not have a membership at all.

A good primer on the difference between (c)(3) and (c)(4) organizations is on the blog, Where Most Needed, in a post, “Charity Navigator Maligns Human Rights Campaign.”

The author explains why (c)(4)s, like HRC and the National Rifle Association, don’t get great results from watchdogs, like Charity Navigator, that run formulaic analyses of traditional charities which tend to be (c)(3)s. The most important distinction between (c)(3)s and (c)(4)s is that contributions to (c)(4) organizations are not tax-deductible. Those funds are, therefore, inherently harder to raise.

As HRC does not want to exclude anyone from our membership based on his or her ability to pay, we consider any one a “member” who has contributed $5.00, and we do accept contributions in that amount on our website. We also consider any one who has taken an action as a “supporter.” Combined, those members and supporters comprise our “membership.”

This is what our bylaws say about the basic standards for membership, which we also refer to as our grassroots force.

Members
From and after August 1, 2006, until modified by the Board of Directors, General Members shall be defined as those individuals, all individuals within a household or associations who make a contribution of at least $5.00 (five dollars) during a two-year period (twenty-four months). The two-year period of Membership shall commence upon the date of the receipt of the contribution by the Campaign. For purposes hereof, any revenue of $5.00 (five dollars) or more received by the Campaign from an individual, household or association, whether as a gift or as payment for goods and services delivered by the Campaign, shall constitute a membership contribution. General Members shall not be considered Members of the Corporation for purposes of the District of Columbia Nonprofit Corporation Act or the Federal Election Campaign Act.

Supporters
From and after August 1, 2006, until modified by the Board of Directors, HRC Supporters shall be defined as those individuals, all individuals within a household or associations who have either joined the HRC Action Network or taken action on behalf of the Campaign during a two-year period (twenty-four months). The two-year period shall commence upon either the sign-up date or the action date, whichever is more recent. For purposes hereof, no dues are necessary to be considered an HRC Supporter, only a valid email address. HRC Supporters who have also made a financial contribution during the two-year period will be considered Members as these categories are exclusive of one another.

According to the descriptions above, we currently have 379,429 “members” and 353,402 “supporters” of HRC, coming to a grand membership total of over 730,000. (So, in fact, you were right: Our membership is not 650,000, it’s 732,831.) You may have your own notion of what a supporter, or member, or membership is or should be, but we’re very happy to have a grassroots force of over 700,000 people working with us to attain passage of the Hate Crimes bill and ENDA and other priorities as we move ahead. We’ll need every one of them — and more — engaged as we undertake the first serious, pro-active campaign to pass legislation at the federal level in many years. The forces on the other side, Family Research Council), American Family Association and Focus on the Family, would like to undermine and discount our supporters. We won’t let them.

Over the next few months, HRC is going to be engaged in legislative battles the likes of which we have not seen in over a decade. We will always be open to legitimate criticism, and be willing to address and correct any fair and honest problems that our critics and our friends may point out. But this year, our major focus is on securing equal rights for the GLBT community. We still would welcome your joining us in that battle.

By:           Andrew Belonksy
On:           Mar 13, 2007
Tagged: , , ,
  • 3 Comments
    • adamblast
      adamblast

      Explanations are always less sexy than attacks. Sullivan *did* get me wondering if HRC’s priorities were in the right place financially. I’m glad to learn that their finances, while complex, are completely within the normal realm for a national lobbying group, and their salaries modest compared to most in the similar range.

      The ratings at “Charity Navigator” are well-intentioned, but suffer from an incomplete nature–lobbying groups are not part of the equation, which is 80% of HRC’s organizational structure… Their 20% non-profit foundation is being “quantified” absent its orgainizational context.

      Andrew Sullivan, on the other hand, is just trying to score cheap points, mostly in order to push for a greater Republican voice within the organization’s structure.

      Is the HRC guilty of inflating their numbers? Sure. All lobbying groups try to sound as important as they can–it’s part of being trying to be heard amongst the thousands of clamoring voices trying to influence the political process. I’m sure the NRA inflates their numbers too–pretty much any group trying to wield clout has a vested interest in doing so. It’s an attack one can toss at *any* lobbying organization. My question is: why is Andrew Sullivan more interested letting the steam out of HRC rather than “Focus in the Family” or some other conservative group?

      Mar 13, 2007 at 12:06 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • jack e jett
      jack e jett

      adamblast

      i don’t know andrew sullivan but i may be able to answer your question about why is he letting steam out at hrc rather than focus on the family?

      if hrc is indeed wasting the money that is given them and using to serve their personal agendas, then that is far more important than anything focus of the family might do.

      a fact might be, that if hrc were doing it’s job, we wouldn’t be hearing much from focus on the family, peter pace,
      other homophobes.

      we should make certain our own house is clean before we start trying to clean others.

      jack jett

      Mar 13, 2007 at 12:35 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Steve
      Steve

      Not to gloat, but…

      I TOLD YOU SO, BIZNATCHES!

      Now go beat up on an organization that deserves it.

      Mar 13, 2007 at 2:01 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·

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