Some newspapers might be siding with Equality California over its call to wait till 2012 for a Prop 8 repeal (and urging the Courage Campaign to also heed the advice), some nagging questions remain over Geoff Kors’ non-profit. Namely: Was EQCA collecting more than a million dollars from supporters by telling them they were going to push for a 2010 repeal?
That’s the charge made by Yes! on Equality, the group led by Chaz Lowe that, like the Courage Campaign and David Comfort’s Equality Network, isn’t holding off until 2012 to get marriage rights back for California’s gays. Lowe’s group already filed paperwork to put the issue up to voters on the 2010 ballot — and they plan on continuing the fight with the shorter timeline.
Yes! claims EQCA snapped up more than $1 million in donations through telephone calls telling donors their money would go to a 2010 fight, not 2012.
Officially, it wasn’t EQCA making the phone calls, but the fundraising firm Grassroots Campaigns Inc., which was contracted to raise funds. (Outsourcing the phone calling is standard operating procedure.) Except to plump EQCA’s coffers, the dialers working for Grassroots were reading from a script about 2010, claims Yes!.
Denying the charges, EQCA says Grassroots’ staffers were “specifically and repeatedly told not to mention a particular year for a ballot initiative,” according to marriage director Marc Solomon. “We have heard of about a dozen cases where canvassers have not followed this directive, and we have immediately gotten in touch with GCI to correct the error. GCI has repeatedly told its canvassers to focus on the issue and not discuss the year in which we would return to the ballot box. If anyone on this list has been asked to donate for 2010, we are very sorry. These canvassers were not following the explicit instructions they were given.”
Not good enough, says Lowe, which wants EQCA to at least offer to refund the cash those callers donated. And as Patrick McDonald points out, Lowe has reason to be suspicious about EQCA’s fiscal activists: Kors and Solomon offered paying jobs to Lowe and other Yes! staffers, which Lowe interpreted as the org’s attempt to buy Yes!’s claim on the ballot measure it already filed with the attorney general for a 2010 repeal. Not to mention this pair is on record just months ago supporting a 2010 effort.
Oh, and then there’s this bit of undeniable evidence: “We contacted a few directors/workers with Grassroots Campaigns and were informed that the money was being raised for 2010,” Lowe tells McDonald. “There were several people on the call when we dialed CGI about the money being raised. Not to mention, what are the odds that dozens of CGI workers would make the same ‘mistake?'”
And that’s the sad part: It’s looking pretty obvious that EQCA benefited, whether on purpose or otherwise, by telling marriage equality supporters they would fight for 2010. They collected cash from Californians — our allies — under a falsehood. And with all the existing in-fighting between California’s gay rights groups, the last thing we need are accusations of fraud aimed at our own groups.
And the last things Mr. Kors needs? More criticism. He’s already the face of bungling the failed No On 8 effort — in part because he relied on outside professionals. His reputation as a civil rights leader is already damaged goods, and while he’s given himself the three years until 2012 to repair it, he’s off to a sorry start.
(Photo: Rex Wocker)