What on earth is Sean Parker thinking? Despite a history of benevolent charitable giving and Democratic fundraising, the multi-billionaire founding Facebook president has suddenly reversed course. Now his attention seems to be on propping up virulently antigay politicians.
If you’re not familiar with Parker, all you really need to know is that he basically got rich by telling Mark Zuckerberg so stop calling it “The Facebook” and leave it at “Facebook.” He’s the party boy-entrepreneur with too much money and too much time on his hands, best known outside of the tech bubble for throwing a lavish Game Of Thrones inspired wedding in a Redwood forest.
In other words, he has money and he’s going to waste it however he likes. And these days, that happens to be shoring up the power bases of antigay zealots.
But let’s give Parker the benefit of the doubt and assume that he isn’t intentionally hurting LGBT causes. He did attend fellow-bazillionaire Chris Hughes’ same-sex wedding, after all.
According to reports, his major issues are immigration reform, urban development, and medical research, so it’s possible that it hasn’t even occurred to him that his cash has been feeding bigots. But the politicians he’s drowning in cash don’t even agree with him on his pet causes, so WTF?
Of course Parker hails from the pro-business, libertarian ethos of the Valley. Fellow Facebook billionaire Peter Thiel, an openly gay man, also burns cash on odd causes (a floating island colony inspired by Ayn Rand anyone?) and antigay politicians like Ted “I stopped the gov, and the gov won” Cruz.
Or maybe he’s got lofty (and unrealistic) dreams about what effective leadership looks like. He’s refused to talk openly about his donations, but people close to him say that he’s obsessed with government efficiency. He’s focused on working with bipartisan leaders. But that still doesn’t explain why he’s chosen these particular allies — when you think of efficiency and bipartisanship, homophobic legislators don’t exactly leap to mind.
At the end of the day, Parker’s cash is doing damage. Let’s take a look at where his donations are going:
Here’s what this “ambiguously gay” South Carolina Senator had to say about the Supreme Court overturning DOMA: “I have been a strong supporter of the Defense of Marriage Act. I voted for it as a member of the House of Representatives, and as a Senator wrote a brief to the Supreme Court to uphold this important law.” He also took a cute photo at Chick-Fil-A during that whole disaster. And he blocked immigration bill that would have ended the deportation of married gay spouses.
Contribution: Six figures
Record: Cochran voted to put a marriage ban in the US Constitution, wants zero enhanced penalties for homophobic hate crimes, likes the idea of firing people just for seeming gay, and has a rating of 0% from HRC. About Parker, Barbour said: “He liked the fact that Thad Cochran was somebody who could get something done in Washington in a productive way.”
Parker’s donation allowed Cochran to defeat a challenge in a primary earlier this month. Great work, kiddo! You sure know how to pick ’em!
Contribution: $350,000 (Fellow donors: New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour, who “has long opposed gay marriage” and wants to reinstate DADT.)
Record: In 2004 and 2006, he voted in favor of a constitutional marriage ban. He voted to ban adoption by LGBT parents. He voted to protect employers who fire gay workers. And he has a 0% rating from Human Rights Campaign.
Simpson was challenged in 2012 by Nicole LeFavour, Idaho’s first openly gay state legislator. She lost, but pointed out, “in Congress Mr. Simpson has consistently opposed legislation to end discrimination against gay people in employment and military service and has even voted against ending the violence too many still face in our communities.”
He is also a strong supporter of Idaho sugar beet growers, which we assume was Parker’s reason for backing him.
Record: Walden is an Oregon Representative and the National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman, and faced a lot of challengers in a recent primary. Parker’s donations helped him hold on to power.
Just like his political pals, Walden voted in 2006 to ban marriage equality with a constitutional amendment. He also has an approval rating of 72% from the evil American Family Association, which wrote, “Homosexuality is a sign of a person’s brokenness through the fall of man, a brokenness that all human beings share.”
This Illinois Representative is a real piece of work. He put his name on a letter defending the Family Research Council, which works to (among other things) re-criminalize homosexuality so we can all be locked up.
It doesn’t end there. A few years ago, Roskam was a headliner at a rally to fight the “homosexual agenda.” Too bad Parker wasn’t friends with Roskam at the time, he could have been his plus-one.
His Own Car
Record: Bizarrely, Parker is also the primary backer of a measure in San Francisco that would make it easier to park his car. Yes, really: Parker teamed up with the local Republican party to put a measure on the ballot that would create weird little government discounts for anyone parking a car. The number of regular people (meaning, non-billionaires) with cars in San Francisco has been steadily declining for years (bikes are better!), so you can think of Parker’s car crusade as basically a “Let Me Park My Porsche For Free” measure. So far he’s spent nearly $20,000 on signature-gathering.
This isn’t a antigay maneuver, by an means, but it is fairly evil nonetheless. So we’re throwing it in as evidence of Parker’s extravagance.
Record: Wait a minute — Harris is actually an LGBT hero. Parker hosted a fundraiser for the California Attorney General this year, and is considered a great candidate for the U.S. Senate and California governor. She’s fought for LGBT equality for years, so it’s delightful that Parker kicked a little cash her way. And this is probably a sign that he doesn’t actually intend to support discrimination. He’s likely just doing that by accident.
Does that make it okay? No.
How Parker Can Make Amends
So, now that we’d identified the problem, how do we go about fixing it? There are a bunch of ways that Parker could undo the damage of his previous donations:
For starters, stop giving money to antigay politicians. No matter how much he may like their policies on, say, urban redevelopment agencies, his beneficiaries are still antigay. They will not stop their attacks until it hits them in the campaign coffers.
You want to give to Republicans? Fine, go ahead. There are plenty of Republicans who are not horrible about equality (just ask Dick Cheney).
For example, there’s Richard Tisei in Massachusetts. And Carl DeMaio in California. Or how about Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the first Republican member of Congress to support DOMA repeal?
Then there’s Susan Collins in Maine, Robert Dold in Illinois, and Dan Innis in New Hampshire.
All of those politicians are beneficiaries of American Unity PAC, a group set up specifically to support pro-equality Republicans.
In fact, Parker could even start donating to organizations instead of people. For example, match that $350,000 donation to Thad Cochran with a gift to Freedom to Marry.
Use the Media
Parker’s latest tech endeavor is something called “Brigade Media.”
According to USA Today, Brigade Media is “an effort to get Americans reengaged in politics at a time when big money and big interest groups have left many feeling powerless and disenfranchised.” Big money making people feel disenfranchised? That sure does sound like a problem. Hopefully Parker knows a thing or two about that.
It’s unclear exactly what Brigade is. All we know is that it’ll launch in 2015, and will be “nonpartisan,” and will give regular people a way to take action on issues.
LGBT equality should be nonpartisan, so it would be a great fit for the site. Whether you’re conservative or liberal, Democrat or Republican, Parker’s new website should prioritize queer-friendly politics. He has a golden opportunity here to make up for his careless donations and correct some of the harm that he’s done.