A rare look inside the Gill Action Fund

A1011X135.jpgThe Advocate is out with a rare look inside the most effective pro-gay political weapon you never heard of:

Gill Action, in my estimation, bears some resemblance to GOPAC, the political action committee Gingrich wielded to obtain the GOP’s landslide victories in 1994, when — along with taking control of the U.S. House of Representatives for the first time in four decades — Republicans stormed state legislatures to seize power in 18 chambers. In the 2006 election, by its own account, Gill Action’s nationwide donor base directed some $2.8 million to 68 candidates across 11 states. And 56 of those candidates won — presumably knocking out 56 other candidates who weren’t so friendly with the gays.

Gill Action isn’t the financial juggernaut that GOPAC was, nor does it have the sweeping ideological agenda of Gingrich’s Contract With America. But Gill’s emphasis on growing power from the bottom up — planting one school board member or city council person at a time until Congress is eventually overrun by politicians who support LGBT rights — is strikingly similar to the way GOPAC helped create a Congress full of pols who had been vetted by the Christian right before rising up through the GOP ranks. It was Gingrich’s revolution that laid a foundation for the Rovian politics of fear that has locked gays out of relationship recognition at the state level nearly across the country.

In the course of my conversation with [Executive Director Patrick] Guerriero and [Political Director Bill] Smith, I hesitatingly offer up the Newt analogy, thinking that few self-respecting LGBT activists — of Republican persuasion or not — would welcome the comparison. Instead, Smith and Guerriero flash a glance at each other. Far from drawing a distinction, Smith offers, “We’re not afraid to learn from anyone across the political spectrum who’s doing really smart work, be it EMILY’s List or GOPAC.” Sure, you could call these guys activists, but what Smith just gave me is neither gay nor straight. It’s the response of a political operative.

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Gill Action was intended to address the LGBT movement’s most troubling deficits: its inability to provide direct candidate support, put lobbyists on the ground, and attract backing even from politicians who were genuinely pro-gay but too intimidated to act on it.

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Asked which organization Gill Action most resembles, Guerriero and Smith stumble a bit trying to find a good comparison. It’s not a membership-based organization like the Human Rights Campaign, because even though it has a donor network, those donors don’t give money to Gill Action. Instead, they send their money directly to candidates that Gill Action has handpicked as pro-gay, in races that have been deemed strategically important. The donor base, said by insiders to be several hundred people strong and growing, is the sacred lifeblood of the organization.

Gill Action is also more than a political action committee. Beyond simply pumping money into LGBT equality organizations, Gill provides political counsel in everything from lobbying to field operations. … The focus is intentionally, bipartisan and so is its leadership team.

Read the full article for the tale of the New York/New Jersey race to become the first state to legislatively legalize same-sex marriage without having been instructed to do so by court order.