Microsoft last week became the first of 49 LGBT supportive corporations identified by a new LGBT group as collectively contributing millions of dollars through their Political Action Committees to members of Congress with the “worst of the worst” anti-LGBT records, to consider halting those contributions.
The new group, Zero for Zeros, identifies itself as a campaign aimed at persuading the nation’s most prominent and well-known pro-LGBT corporations to stop a seemingly contradictory practice of giving PAC money to the re-election campaigns of members of Congress who oppose and undermine the LGBT supportive policies that corporations like Microsoft say they support.
Microsoft’s action was first disclosed in a July 23 internal memo leaked to outside advocacy groups. The memo was written by Fred Humphries Jr., Microsoft’s Corporate Vice President for U.S. Government Affairs.
It announces that the tech giant has temporarily suspended contributions to politicians from its employee Political Action Committee called MSPAC while it conducts a “realigning” of the PACs “giving criteria and how decisions are made in terms of the candidates we support.”
The memo surfaced less than two weeks after Zero for Zeros announced a first-of-its-kind campaign to persuade pro-LGBT U.S. corporations to stop giving money to 19 U.S. senators and 10 U.S. House members who have received a zero rating on LGBT related issues in the Human Rights Campaign’s Congressional Scorecard for the past two sessions of Congress.
In an announcement launching its campaign, Zero for Zeros said it would be targeting 49 corporations, including Microsoft, that have received a perfect 100 percent rating in HRC’s annual Corporate Equality Index, which assesses corporations’ internal personnel policies for protecting the rights of LGBT employees and other LGBT-related corporate actions.
“These companies have contributed a total of $5,837,331 from their corporate PACs to the worst of the worst members of Congress,” the campaign said in a recent statement. “Zero for Zeros is asking that these companies’ corporate PACs cease giving to these members of Congress,” the statement says.
Similar to most corporate PACs, the Microsoft PAC is funded mostly by Microsoft employees through a voluntary, opt-in fund contribution from an employee’s salary. Up until now, however, the employees had no control over who the PAC money is given to other than knowing the recipient supported legislation that helped advance the company’s business interests.
Corporations rely on employee contributions for their PACs because federal campaign finance laws prohibit corporations themselves from contributing more than $5,000 to a PAC in an election cycle.
In his internal memo, Humphries didn’t specifically mention the Microsoft PAC’s contributions to anti-LGBT lawmakers. But he said the company was creating new internal advisory councils based on Employee Resource Groups “to increase dialogue and transparency.”
LGBT activist Lane Hudson, who serves as the Zero for Zeros campaign manager, hailed Microsoft’s action as “a vital first step” in reconciling its LGBT supportive corporate policies with the lawmakers to which it gives PAC money.
“Microsoft was the first company that engaged with Zero for Zeros in good faith,” Hudson said in a statement. “We discussed their concerns, they heard ours and their employees weighed in,” he said. “We are thrilled that they have responded to our campaign.”
Hudson added, “Their plan looks strong and may ultimately be a model for how other companies can ensure that politicians that undermine the values of a company and its employees do not receive the support of their corporate PACs.”
In addition to Microsoft, among the other pro-LGBT corporations Zero for Zeros has identified as giving PAC money to anti-LGBT members of Congress are Facebook, AT&T, Amazon, American Airlines, Google, and Intel.
Among the 29 lawmakers Zero for Zero identifies as the “worst of the worst” on LGBT issues and who have received a zero rating from the HRC Congressional Scorecard are Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), James Inhofe (R-Okla.), Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), and U.S. Reps. Louie Gohmert (R-Tex.), Andy Harris (R-Md.), and Steve King (R-Iowa).
A full list of the 49 pro-LGBT corporations and the 19 anti-LGBT members of Congress can be found at zeroforzeros.org.