By almost all measures, AT&T has been a stalwart supporter of LGBTQ equality for a long time. It has protected workers from sexual orientation discrimination since 1975. It sponsors the Trevor Project to help LGBTQ youth in crisis. It received a perfect 100 score from the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) in its annual equality index, ranking among the nation’s most inclusive places to work.
By any measure, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) is among the nation’s most anti-LGBTQ bigots. He defended bans on same-sex marriage as “sound public policy” and spearheaded the effort to block the elected government in Washington, D.C., from enacting marriage equality. He boasted of receiving a “True Blue Award” from the Family Research Council, a Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC)-designated anti-LGBT hate group. He consistently earns a 0 score on HRC’s congressional scorecard, ranking among the lawmakers most virulently opposing equality.
Yet, AT&T’s corporate political action committee has given tens of thousands of dollars to Jordan’s campaigns since 2010, helping bankroll the re-elections of a man who HRC once inducted into its anti-equality “Hall of Shame” for “proactively [working] to undermine existing legal protections and promote anti-LGBT discrimination.” And AT&T’s PAC has given more than $400,000 to other firmly anti-LGBTQ members of Congress in recent years.
An AT&T spokesperson told ThinkProgress that its PAC contribution decisions are guided by its “Core Values and candidates’ positions on issues that impact AT&T’s business.”
But it is hardly alone in its seemingly contradictory political giving.
A new activist pressure group called Zero for Zeros aims to change that. In recent days, it has released a list of more than two dozen major companies with 100 HRC scores, urging them to stop their donations to Jordan and other lawmakers with zero HRC ratings.
Lane Hudson, a longtime LGBTQ-rights activist, is campaign manager of the effort. He explained in an interview with ThinkProgress that “to really glean out the worst of the worst, the ones who take extra actions to work against our community, the ones that really fight against equality,” the group filtered the people with zero ratings even further. After picking 10 U.S. representatives and 19 senators with the worst ratings, the group found 49 had used their corporate PACs to support the worst.
Hudson explained that he understands that companies make PAC contributions based on more than just LGBTQ issues. “[I]t doesn’t surprise me,” he said, that the companies’ corporate PACs are “supporting politicians that are connected to those other issues.” But, he added, it is important that these companies hold lawmakers to a higher standard.
“What we’re asking those companies to do is to apply their corporate values to their political giving,” he said. “They create safe and welcoming workspaces for their LGBT employees. They market to LGBT customers. They support their LGBT employee resource groups. They march in full force at [Pride events] around America and sometimes abroad … These are companies that have been with us for a long time and helped us win a lot of the progress that we made and their political contributions to these people threaten to undermine everything we’ve done, and undermine their own efforts.”
On Tuesday, Zero for Zeros released a list of 14 technology and lifestyle companies with otherwise stellar pro-equality records, but also a history of PAC contributions to anti-LGBTQ extremists. On Wednesday, it released an additional list of 13 financial services giants in the same category.
ThinkProgress reached out to each of the 27 companies for comment. Five responded with statements. Two declined comment.
Those responding included:
American Airlines has been recognized by the Human Rights Campaign for nearly two decades as a leader among U.S. companies when it comes to workplace policies and practices for LGBTQ team members. American participates in the political and public policy process in a number of ways, including by making contributions from our political action committee. With respect to the contributions that we make, we don’t agree on every issue with the lawmakers to whom we make contributions, but we fundamentally believe that everyone deserves to be treated with dignity and respect — and equally under the law. We are proud to stand with the LGBTQ community, and our commitment to equality for all of our team members and customers is unwavering.
For over four decades we’ve been committed to the LGBTQ+ community, have led the way in adopting workplace policies that prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, and are strong supporters of legislation extending full civil rights protections to the LGBTQ+ community. Through political action committees, our employees support candidates on both sides of the aisle. But that doesn’t mean that they support every candidate’s views on every issue. Our committees of employees who make PAC contribution decisions are guided by our Core Values and candidates’ positions on issues that impact AT&T’s business.
Capital One Financial Corp
Capital One’s longstanding support for the LGBTQ+ community reflects our core values and our commitment to diversity, inclusion and equality. Our efforts to ensure non-discrimination and equal opportunity in the workplace include the early adoption of policies, benefits and other practices that apply equally to our LGBTQ+ associates. We work with and support legislators and policymakers who are relevant to our business, our associates, our customers and our communities. We support candidates on a bipartisan basis. Our support for any candidate should not suggest that we agree with their positions on every issue.
Intel does not support discrimination in any form. The Intel PAC continuously evaluates its contributions to candidates.
Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance
[T]hank you for recognizing MassMutual’s stellar pro-LGBTQ record and 100% HRC rating year over year. At MassMutual, we help all customers secure their future and protect the ones they love, regardless of race, gender, age, abilities, place of birth, religion or who they love. We actively advocate for inclusion, fairness and equality, value people for who they are, and celebrate all diversity. From our people policies to our involvement in pro-LBGTQ amicus briefs to lending our voice to specific ballot initiatives, we have an established record of active and engaged support for the LGBTQ community.
Citigroup and Wells Fargo each said that they had no comment.
Amazon, AT&T, Cigna Corp, Cisco Systems, Compass Bank, Dell Inc., Deloitte, Ernst & Young, Facebook, Google, JPMorgan Chase, KPMG, Mastercard, Microsoft, Morgan Stanley, Oracle, PNC Financial Services, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Sap America, T-Mobile, and Visa did not respond as of publication time.
HRC national press secretary Sarah McBride told ThinkProgress in a statement that while the corporate equality index “captures LGBTQ-inclusive policies, practices and benefits, there isn’t a one size fits all way to consistently score companies on the scope and impact of their political donations.”
“We do monitor employers’ contributions to anti-LGBTQ ballot measures and organizations whose primary mission includes anti-LGBTQ advocacy,” she added. “It is important for reporting like this that asks tough questions of corporations and brings these donations into the public discussion. The Corporate Equality Index is a critical tool for advancing LGBTQ equality in the workplace, but it is not the only tool.”
Hudson said he and his team are talking with the companies and are hopeful that they will take anti-LGBTQ extremism into account more in their future PAC giving.
“This effort is meant to not be an attack on these companies, because we view them as our allies. They have invested in their employees and customers and been with us in these court battles,” Hudson said. “We sent letters to their CEOs and I also reached out to the government affairs staff and asking them for a conversation about this, so we can talk about why it’s important not only to the LGBTQ community but to their employees and their customers and to the overall movement in general and how it can be beneficial to their business.”
This story has been updated to include comment from AT&T.