June 11, 2022 ~ By Shari Rose
With political donations, the corporate hypocrisy of rainbow capitalism hit new lows in 2022
It’s Pride Month once again, which means it’s time for multinational corporations to dust off that rainbow branding and display it throughout their social media channels and corporate websites. This performative exercise is more commonly known as ‘rainbow capitalism,’ and it is the idea that corporations shroud themselves in rainbow flags while quietly taking measures that undermine the LGBTQ+ community. And 2022 may be the most egregious year yet.
The reason corporations do this every year is because it produces effective marketing that targets LGBTQ+ buyers. The simple act of switching out the corporate logo for a rainbow-themed icon on Twitter suggests to LGBTQ+ consumers that we can become customers of these brands because they’re on our side. That we can buy their products or spend our money with them because they obviously support the community.
However, for so many of these multinational corporations, the rainbow is nothing more than a cheap marketing ploy to take money from gay, lesbian, bi and transgender customers and donate it to anti-LGBTQ+ politicians across the U.S.
If these corporations are people, they’re essentially waving the rainbow flag in one hand while discreetly handing off millions of dollars to anti-LGBTQ+ lawmakers with the other. One is lip service, and one is direct political action. It’s not hard to see which one actually creates change.
And with the onslaught of anti-gay and anti-trans laws that have hit a fever pitch in 2022, is it any surprise that these politicians have the financial support of many of this country’s wealthiest and most powerful corporations to fulfill their agenda?
Popular Information has done an incredible job of tracking down corporate political donations and showing how deep the hypocrisy goes in 2022 and years past. Here’s a look at just five corporations, but there are certainly dozens more that deserve just as much scrutiny.
AT&T has a long history of proclaiming its support of LGBTQ+ interests on social media, particularly during Pride Month. On June 1, 2022, @LifeAtATT on Twitter pushed its #TurnUpTheLove campaign, which AT&T describes as “an events and editorial initiative to celebrate the LGBTQ+ community.”
In addition, AT&T has a page on its official website dedicated to the corporation’s commitment to “standing behind the LGBTQ+ community.” From a queer music festival called LOVELOUD hosted by AT&T, to a partnership with HBO to “launch a website and create a safe place for the LGBTQ+ community and allies to gather, recharge and spread joy,” there is no shortage of marketing-specific initiatives that AT&T shares on its many outreach channels and social media. However, when it comes to how this corporation donates its money to political interests, AT&T’s actual priorities could not be clearer.
According to a massive study conducted by Popular Information, AT&T has donated at least $1,052,000 to anti-LGBTQ+ lawmakers since just 2021. A majority of this money ($598,000) was given to the “campaigns and leadership PACs of members of Congress that have received a zero rating from HRC.”
The HRC, or Human Rights Campaign, releases yearly rankings on politicians and corporations alike to grade their track records on LBGTQ+ rights on a scale from 0 to 100. The higher the score, the stronger the record. Nonetheless, the HRC does not look at political donations in its methodology. So it effectively ignores millions of dollars spent by corporations in funding anti-LGBTQ+ politicians across the country.
Since 2021, AT&T also donated $250,000 to the Republican Governors Association, and $100,000 to Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, who has declared an all-out war against transgender youth in the state.
Another Republican governor who received significant funds from AT&T is Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who signed the infamous “Don’t Say Gay” bill into law in March 2022. AT&T donated $50,000 to DeSantis in October 2021.
AT&T’s extensive donations to anti-LGBTQ+ politicians are not a recent phenomenon. During the 2018 election cycle, 61% of AT&T’s total contributions to federal candidates went to Republican lawmakers, for a grand total of $1.8 million.
In June 2021, AT&T signed a letter created by the HRC to oppose bills that “single out LGBTQ individuals – many specifically targeting transgender youth – for exclusion or differential treatment.” But, that same month, AT&T gave $5,000 to Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey, who approved a ban on transgender athletes two months earlier. In total, AT&T donated to five state lawmakers who voted in favor of the ban. AT&T did not give money to any Alabama state lawmaker who opposed the law.
Despite it all, AT&T continues to receive a perfect score from the HRC’s Corporate Equality Index.
On social media, Comcast NBCUniversal shares a wide array of pro-LGBTQ+ content throughout its channels, including an official @OutComcast account that connects “LGBTQ employees + straight allies.” On June 1, 2022, @comcast tweeted out their “Pride is Universal” page from its corporate website that highlights different events they host during Pride Month. In fact, there is a long list of marketing-based initiatives on Comcast’s corporate website that appear to be pro-LGBTQ+ in their messaging.
From featuring additional free content on their “LGBTQ Film & TV Collection,” to pushing their “NBC Out” programming, it would seem that Comcast NBCUniversal cares deeply about supporting the rights and protections of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people in America. However, their political donation habits tell a very different story.
Popular Information’s recent study found that Comcast NBCUniversal has donated $799,450 to anti-LGBTQ+ politicians since 2021. And from 2019 to 2021, the corporation gave more than $1.1 million to anti-gay lawmakers.
Since 2020, the company has given $28,000 to major supporters of Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill, as well as $13,000 to Gov. DeSantis from 2012 to 2016. Comcast NBCUniversal has also donated $2,000 to Florida Rep. Randy Fine since 2019, who recently co-sponsored a bill that banned transgender girls from participating in sports at school.
In May 2022, hundreds of employees at Comcast NBCUniversal signed a petition to call out their employer’s PAC donations to lawmakers that vote in favor of laws that seek to harm LGBTQ+ youth and their families.
Nonetheless, Comcast NBCUniversal received another perfect score from the HRC in 2022.
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In recent years, Toyota appears to have distanced itself from showing public support of the LGBTQ+ community on social media. As of June 11, 2022, there are no mentions on its official Twitter accounts of Pride Month. However, Toyota’s corporate site features past press releases about its commitment to LGBTQ+ rights. A 2021 press release highlights the company’s partnership with Spectrum to “host informative fireside chats with leaders in the LGBTQ+ community, organize virtual events and participate in prominent panel discussions,” as well as other marketing-based efforts.
Toyota also shared on its corporate website that it was awarded Gold on the PRIDE Index 2021, a group based in Japan that “supports and develops diversity management initiatives for sexual minorities.”
According to Popular Information, Toyota has donated $387,900 to anti-LGBTQ+ lawmakers since 2021. Famously, Toyota announced in the aftermath of January 6 that it would stop donating to lawmakers who voted to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election. But less than a month later, it was discovered that Toyota quietly resumed donations to dozens of these politicians, for a total of $62,000 by just April 2021.
Among those recipients was Rep. Andy Biggs, an Arizona Republican, who voted against the coronavirus stimulus bill in March 2020 because it included paid sick leave for gay Americans in domestic partnerships.
Another anti-LGBTQ+ and pro-insurrection lawmaker Toyota continued to give donations to after the January 6 Capitol attack is Rep. Jackie Walorski, a Republican from Indiana. Among her efforts to overturn the results of the presidential election is her history of voting for anti-gay and anti-trans bills. In May 2016, the HRC itself called out Walorski for voting in favor of an anti-LGBTQ provision that sought to undermine existing federal protections for gay, lesbian, bi and transgender people against discrimination.
Despite Toyota’s ongoing interests to fund anti-LGBTQ+ politicians across the U.S.,Toyota continues to receive a perfect score from HRC.
During June 2022, Deloitte tweeted multiple times in favor of Pride Month and LGBTQ+ pride with a #QueerAllYear hashtag. The corporation features a series of personal stories from members of the LGBTQ+ community about coming out and having pride in their identities. Deloitte’s corporate twitter banner even portrays a symbol of equality with rainbow colors.
Moreover, Deloitte’s official “LGBT+ Inclusion” page on the corporate website labels Pride month as a “call to action for the LGBT+ communities still denied equal treatment, inclusion, and respect.” It names itself a supporter of the UN Standards of Conduct for Business in Tackling Discrimination against LGBTQ+ individuals and even calls out 2021’s Day of Transgender Visibility to promote their internal “guidance” documentation for transgender inclusion at the workplace.
But once again, this corporation doesn’t put its money where its mouth is.
Since 2021, Deloitte has quietly donated more than $514,000 to congressional lawmakers that received a zero rating from the HRC. Furthermore, Deloitte gave $310,900 to the Republican Governors Association in that same time period. From 2019 to 2021, Deloitte donated more than $662,000 to “103 federal lawmakers who received zeros from the HRC for failing to uphold and maintain LGBTQ rights.”
Deloitte continues to have a perfect score from the HRC.
Charter Communications (Spectrum)
On May 31, 2022, one day before Pride Month kicked off, Charter Communications’ Twitter handle @CharterNewsroom shared a list of LGBTQ+ programming hosted on its service, including the films ‘Moonlight’ and ‘Carol.’ The tweet was quickly ratioed by users on the platform who pointed out the corporation’s history of contributing huge donations to anti-LGBTQ+ politicians in recent years.
In 2020, Charter Communications shared a press release that lauded its involvement with the LGBTQ+ community, including its sponsorship of the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce Conference earlier that year. Its 2019 Corporate Responsibility Report also emphasizes Charter’s own Business Resource Group that focuses on the LGBTQ+ community to “connect employees with shared characteristics, life experiences, and interests, and enable them to engage in activities that advance our culture of inclusion and contribute to business success.”
Despite the flowery language used on its official site, what isn’t highlighted in press releases is the company’s political donations. Since 2021, Charter Communications has donated $584,775 to 52 different members of Congress that received a zero rating from the HRC. In addition, Charter gave nearly 150k to state lawmakers in Texas, Florida, Alabama, Tennessee and other states that have supported and passed recent anti-LGBTQ+ bills into law.
Like AT&T, Charter Communications also donated to Alabama Gov. Ivey, who signed two bills into law that harm transgender youth and prohibit discussions of LGBTQ+ identities in schools. The corporation has given $10,000 to Ivey since 2021. Furthermore, Charter donated $210,000 to the Republican Governors Association within that same time frame.
In 2019, a former executive at Charter filed a lawsuit against the company, alleging that he had been fired for being gay and advocating for other LGBTQ+ employees in the workplace. He alleges that he was fired for showing two pro-LGBTQ+ videos during Pride Month that featured employees talking about their experiences at Charter Communications. It’s unclear if that lawsuit has been settled, or if it remains ongoing.
Charter Communications received a score of 90/100 from the HRC in 2022, and is the lowest-ranked corporation listed in this piece.
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