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Saturday, September 23, 2006

Interview with Ann DeGroot on the OutFront and HRC PACs

Outfront's PAC, Outfront Action has raised $2000.00 this year. They are focused on legislative races and not looking at county commissioner races.

Outfront has sent out questionaires to all the legislative candidates. A staffer is following up with candidates to make sure they submit answers. They are also looking at the Judicial candidates.

PAC board members are (party affiliations identified by me):

Ann DeGroot, Chair (DFL)
Lynn Moline, Treasurer (Unsure)
Eileen Scallen (DFL)
Amelious White (unsure)
Javiar Morillo (DFL)
Amy Finken (unsure)
Alan Spear (DFL)

Endorsements are based on:
1. answers to questions.
2. legislative record (if available)
3. press on candidate on gay issues (if available)
4. viability

I hope that board members of this PAC asked Hatch to respond to his previous anti-gay record:

1994: Hatch Rejected Opportunity To Appear Before Minnesota Lesbian/Gay DFL Caucus. "Hatch's troubles began when he rejected the opportunity to appear at a Jan. 22 candidate forum sponsored by the Minnesota Lesbian/Gay DFL Caucus. Every declared DFL candidate for governor attended the candidate screening except Hatch. In declining the invitation, he criticized the group's newsletter for using the word 'queer' and for what he misperceived as the group's top priority - repeal of the sodomy laws." (Editorial, "Hatch's Zeal - Double-Edged Rhetoric On The Gay Issue," Star Tribune, March 14, 1994)

1994: Hatch Accused Minnesota Lesbian/Gay DFL Caucus Of "Pandering." "After the caucus endorsed John Marty, Hatch falsely accused the group of political 'pandering' by sending a letter opposing his candidacy to party activists. 'It's hard to keep focused with the increasing demands of pressure groups who hold candidates hostage to their particular interests,' Hatch said in a Feb. 2 letter to the gay caucus." (Editorial, "Hatch's Zeal - Double-Edged Rhetoric On The Gay Issue," Star Tribune, March 14, 1994)

1994: Star Tribune Editorial Criticized Hatch's "Double-Edged Rhetoric On The Gay Issue." "Gubernatorial candidate Mike Hatch can't have it both ways. On one hand Hatch is sending critical, even strident, messages to gays, lesbians and their supporters. On the other hand, Hatch says he wants to be their friend. he flip-flop might be understandable if Hatch's chief motivation for harsh criticism of a gay political group was to foster greater unity within the DFL Party. However, his verbal and written lashings seem to have no more noble purpose than inciting Minnesotans who dislike gays and lesbians to support his candidacy. In manipulating gay rights supporters, Hatch's zeal to capture the moderate-to-conservative political ground of the DFL Party reveals a weakness that may in the end cost him dearly." (Editorial, "Hatch's Zeal - Double-Edged Rhetoric On The Gay Issue," Star Tribune, March 14, 1994 )

Ann says that Outfront is working with America Votes and America Coming Together as a coalition for this falls elections. These are both liberal coalitions - and Ann acknowledged this. I asked whether she has gone to Chamber of Commerce events, and she said that she has not. I have a follow up email to Ann asking her what Outfront hopes to get in return for being part of these coalitions. Outfront's participation in these groups also hurts Outfront's standing with Republicans. OutFront is the only GLBT advocacy organization in the state, so why is Outfront lending their name and reputation as a bi-partisan organization to a coalition of liberal groups?

I'll have more when I get some answers to my follow up questions.

HRC has also registered a Minnesota PAC. The officers are all from Washington. Ann says this PAC was about GOTV organizing in the GLBT community. It has nothing to do with screening, or providing useful information about candidates.

Ann told me that Mike Hatch has reached out to her privately - and requested a meeting with her. Tim Pawlenty has refused to meet with OutFront. I don't defend that, but when Outfront has a lobbyist who is ED of the Minneasota Alliance for Progressive Action, and when Outfront is part of the America Votes leftwing coalition, that makes it seem to Pawlenty's office that there is no point to meeting with Outfront, because these are all liberals. I have no desire to be on Outfront's board or PAC board, but I do wish they would find some alternative voices who would raise these points. The gay community cannot afford a liberal only coalition strategy. This helps the DFL, but hurts gays.

As Lloydletta's Nooz reported earlier, Stonewall DFL declined to endorse Mike Hatch. After Hatch got endorsed by the DFL, Stonewall was in a pickle. It will be interesting to see what Outfront Action will do. Ann told me that some of the endorsements were contentious - and there are internal disputes about whether or not to endorse the constitutional officers. Peter Hutchinson is clearly better than Mike Hatch on the gay issues, and Outfront has a history of doing multiple endorsements, so a Hatch endorsement, without endorsing Hutchinson also, would open them to criticism about whether they are really representing gays, or are they a pawn of the Democrats. They will be having a meeting on Tuesday to discuss constitutional officer endorsements. I think that meeting will be quite interesting. It's probably as interesting as the Stonewall DFL meeting when they decided to take a pass on endorsing Mike Hatch.

Ann told me that HRC's "Minnesota PAC" will be working with "America Votes" to Get Out the Gay Vote. This is hardly the action of a "non-partisan" organization. Will HRC's organizers be informing gay voters of the anti-gay votes and statements by Democrats? Will HRC with their federal organizers be informing gays that Collin Peterson was the original co-sponsor of the Federal Bachmann Amendment, and has told HRC lobbyists that he doesn't believe gays live in his district?

UPDATE: Ann DeGroot commented -

In response to the blog post of September 25th, 2006, I’d like to offer some additional information and clarification.

1) OutFront Minnesota Action is bound by state law to work on particular races. It can work on legislative, judicial and county races, but not federal races. This year, the PAC is putting most of its energy into legislative races.

2) Anyone interested in who the PAC endorses can visit the OutFront Minnesota Action web site To date, the PAC has not yet endorsed candidates but expects to do so soon.

3) The original post states that OutFront Minnesota Action has raised $2,000 but does not give the purpose of those funds. OutFront Minnesota Action has raised funds for expenses such as mailing questionnaires to candidates, publishing a voter's guide, and organizing work on behalf of endorsed candidates. These expenses are in accordance with state law.

4) The original post states that "The gay community cannot afford a liberal only coalition strategy. This helps the DFL, but hurts gays." OutFront Minnesota Action is designed to help support those candidates whose positions and voting records most closely align with public policy which protects GLBT people against discrimination, and furthers GLBT people's rights in living the lives they choose to live - as individuals, couples, and families. Efforts by the PAC itself, as well as membership in any coalition, are designed to further this goal.

OutFront Minnesota Action will consider endorsing any candidate whose policy positions are consistent with issues of fairness and equality for the GLBT community.

5) While OutFront Minnesota is familiar with the HRC PAC, the best source of information about that effort is HRC itself.

Ann M. DeGroot
Executive Director
OutFront Minnesota
Ann DeGroot