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Gay Civil Rights, Politics

The big business of being anti-gay

Yikes. Turns out there is a cost to coming out in favor of same-sex marriage equality: about half a million dollars! At least if you’ve staked your entire career on being a pseudo-centrist shill for the forces of intolerance. See tomorrow’s story in the New York Times about the reboot of David Blankenhorn’s institute for keeping himself employed with a six figure salary, also known as the aptly-named Institute for American Values:

After his Op-Ed article appeared, five of his institute’s board members, including Robert P. George, a prominent conservative Catholic and Princeton professor, resigned almost immediately. The institute lost about half a million dollars in donations, “half our discretionary spending,” Mr. Blankenhorn said, referring to money not given by foundations for specific programs. “We’re in a real steep hole,” he added. “I laid two people off and am losing one by attrition.”

The op-ed the story refers to is the one Blankenhorn published last June in which he suddenly shifted away from his longstanding anti-equality position on marriage. This was kind of a big deal in that Blankenhorn was one of just two so-called “expert” witnesses (despite a distinct lack of credentials) to testify in support of Proposition 8 in the Perry v. Schwarzeneggar case now before the Supreme Court.

cc photo by aresauburn

Then-New York Times columnist Frank Rich wrote a particularly memorable column about Blankenhorn and his shtick a couple year’s back, just before the closing arguments in the case at the district level. I couldn’t help thinking about it while reading about Blankenhorn’s recent pecuniary misfortune. The whole column is worth reading (or re-reading) in full.

What was the unqualified Blankenhorn doing at the Prop 8 trial? Like Rekers, who had a lucrative history of testifying for pay in legal cases attacking gay civil rights, he also profits from his propaganda. Public documents, including tax returns, reveal that Blankenhorn’s institute, financed by such right-wing stalwarts as the Bradley and Scaife foundations, paid him $247,500 in base salary in 2008, the most recent year for which data is available, and another $70,000 to his wife. Not a bad payday for a self-professed arbiter of American marital values who under oath described his sole peer-reviewed academic paper (from the University of Warwick) as “a study of two cabinetmakers’ unions in 19th-century Britain.” That the Prop 8 proponents employed him as their star witness suggests that no actual experts could be found (or rented) to match his disparagement of gay parents

(Appropriately enough, news of Blankenhorn’s relaunch arrived on the same day as news that Protect Marriage, the group footing the bill in defense of Prop 8, is now in massive debt after throwing away several millions in legal fees for high-powered conservative lawyers.)

One more thing. I won’t bother getting into the merits of Blankenhorn’s new cause—marshaling gays and straights to fight “marriage decline” in the broader society—except to say I’m not sure this is the best tack:

Marriage is fracturing in America. While the nation’s attention is riveted by a debate about whether a small proportion of our fellow citizens (gays and lesbians) should be allowed to marry, marriage is rapidly dividing along class lines, splitting the country that it used to unite.

Sigh. I guess the civil rights of such a “small proportion of our fellow citizens” aren’t worth worrying about? At least not when there’s good money still on the table. Half a million dollars in lost donations sounds like a lot, but remember, this guy was paying himself a quarter million back in 2008. Indeed, a quick look at the Institute for American Values’ most recent tax returns shows Blankenhorn actually gave himself a 20 percent raise in recent years, boosting his base salary to over $300,000 and his wife’s to $120,000 in 2011, the most recent year on record. We’ll have to wait for the 2012 filings to see whether his own paycheck took a hit after the donations dried up. Don’t hold your breath.

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