the wicked, chastised

By Diogenes ( articles ) | Feb 09, 2007

"The software mogul Tim Gill has a mission: Stop the Rick Santorums of tomorrow before they get started. How a network of gay political donors is stealthily fighting sexual discrimination and reshaping American politics." That's the slughead to an article in the latest Atlantic that sympathetically, even gloatingly, details a new development in gay political combat: countering grassroots opposition by tactical herbicide. Author Joshua Green explained to Iowan Danny Carroll, a pro-family state rep defeated last November, that yes, they really were out to get him:

A suggestion that he'd been targeted by a nationwide network of wealthy gay activists was met with polite midwestern skepticism. But Carroll was sufficiently intrigued to propose that we each log on to the Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board's Web site and examine his opponent's disclosure report together, over the telephone.

Scrolling through the thirty-two-page roster of campaign contributors revealed plenty of $25 and $50 donations from nearby towns like Oskaloosa and New Sharon. But a $1,000 donation from California stood out on page 2, and, several pages later, so did another $1,000 from New York City. "I'll be darned," said Carroll. "That doesn't make any sense." As we kept scrolling, Carroll began reading aloud with mounting disbelief as the evidence passed before his eyes. "Denver … Dallas … Los Angeles … Malibu … there's New York again … San Francisco! I can't -- I just cannot believe this," he said, finally. "Who is this guy again?"

"This guy" is a Denver multi-millionaire named Tim Gill, who, as Green says, is an adept at organizing fellow activists who are "eager to influence politics but barred from the traditional channels of participation by recent campaign-finance laws designed to limit large gifts to candidates and political parties." The key is to kneecap up-and-coming candidates who may prove intractable:

Together, Gill and Trimpa decided to eschew national races in favor of state and local ones, which could be influenced in large batches and for much less money. Most antigay measures, they discovered, originate in state legislatures. Operating at that level gave them a chance to "punish the wicked," as Gill puts it -- to snuff out rising politicians who were building their careers on antigay policies, before they could achieve national influence.

In terms of shifting cultural permissions, note that gays are now allowed to get away with using the phrase "punish the wicked" of their adversaries, with the understanding that well-conducted persons will smile at the hyperbole. If you think of the probable reaction had roles been reversed (and, say, Carroll used the expression of Gill), you'll realize the permission is not symmetrical. Nor is the funding base.

Even as he has shied from the spotlight, Gill has become one of the most generous and widest-reaching political benefactors in the country, and emblematic of a new breed of business-minded donor that is rapidly changing American politics. ... Gill's principal interest is gay equality. His foundations have given about $115 million to charities. His serious involvement in politics is a more recent development, though geared toward the same goal. In 2000, he gave $300,000 in political donations, which grew to $800,000 in 2002, $5 million in 2004, and a staggering $15 million last year, almost all of it to state and local campaigns.

Gill's use of his wealth is emblematic of a more general built-in advantage that gays have in leveraging their political clout: beyond a modest threshold, all their income is disposable income, and that means they can pay -- early and often -- to punish "the wicked." Midge Decter pointed this out in her classic Commentary essay, "The Boys on the Beach":

The money, however limited, that the homosexual had in his pocket was, all of it, for him to spend on himself. No households of wives and children requiring security; no entailments of school bills, doctor and dentist bills; no lifetime of acquiring the goods needed for family welfare and the goods desired for family entertainment, with a margin left over for that greatest of all heterosexual entailments, the Future: no such households burdened the overwhelmingly vast majority of homosexuals.

"In the long run we'll all be dead," spake the economist John Maynard Keynes. And if, like Keynes, one is an atheist homosexual with no grandchildren to be concerned about, even the short run is co-terminous with one's yearnings and hatreds. If money can buy only so much pleasure for oneself, the surplus can be used to purchase grief for someone else. And isn't that what diversity is all about?

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