Thursday, March 15, 2007

More Action, Less Talk

Thanks to activity and continued pressure on the part of Andrew Sullivan and other bloggers like Chris Crain, HRC is apparently starting to feel some heat -- a fact which seems to have caught the attention of more-conventional gay media in the West and (apparently) the East.

While all this attention on the problem is nice, what should be remembered is that this isn't the first time that HRC has felt pressure over their hyper-partisanship and sketchy membership and administrative practices -- and given the result of the last time it happened, it would explain HRC Executive Director Joe Solmonese's recent fit of pique.

While it might be tempting on several levels to use the Executive Director du jour as a sacrificial lamb, one should remember that HRC's Executive Board are the people who hired him in the first place; canning him just allows them to hire, as they did with Solmonese, someone who is even more hopelessly partisan and haplessly clueless than the person they just fired. Unless real, proactive change is made to (or forced on) the Board itself and the organization, the same dysfunctional pattern will repeat itself ad nauseum -- and gay rights will continue to take a back seat to pandering.

For real change, here are a few suggested priorities -- and means of implementing them.

1. The HRC Executive Board should represent gays first, not parties.

To do this, there should be two limits on eligibility for Board membership; one, you may not have been employed in any capacity by a campaign for elected office or by a state or national party apparatus within the past two years, and two, you may not be a registered lobbyist.

Doubtless there would be immediate howls of protest over how much "experience" and "access" the Board would be losing. The return response should be simple; you are welcome to volunteer your services for HRC's use, but the Board, not your billing or cocktail-party invitation needs, will determine where and on what those services are wanted.

2. HRC should walk the walk when it comes to non-partisanship.

Even with the removal of paid politicos from HRC's board, the potential still exists for partisan abuse of HRC's funds. Thus, to meet this goal, a 50% rule seems wise; that is, HRC and its PAC are allowed to give up to 50% of its predetermined budget for endorsements and support to candidates, organizations, and 529 groups that are aligned with or predominantly support (as in over 50% of their contributions) a specific party.

In short, HRC can only give half of its budget to Democrats. The rest doesn't have to go to Republicans, but it can't be spent on anything else partisan.

Finally, and most importantly,

3. HRC revenues, expenditures, and endorsements should be absolutely transparent.

The main reason HRC tells so little about its finances now, in the opinion of most, has primarily to do with how people would react to on what they are spending the millions of dollars they receive annually. Until HRC makes a thorough and clean accounting, its activities will constantly be suspect; that is an inescapable reality.

Taken together, I believe these three points can improve HRC's standing both inside and outside the gay community by encouraging sound business practice, limiting partisan overspending, and refocusing the organization on the issues of gays, rather than the issues of the Beltway elite and those who would profit by their association and influence with HRC.

Which means they may not have a snowball's chance in hell of getting implemented. But you never know until you ask.......

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