Pride is a time to celebrate and honor the LGBTQIA+ people who have fought for equal rights before the law—sometimes literally, like the crowds at Stonewall, who defended themselves against cops raiding the New York City gay bar 50 years ago this month.
But increasingly over the years, major corporations have inserted themselves into the Pride narrative, trying whatever they can to glom onto this cultural moment. Though the commercialization of Pride has its roots in the 1990s, it hit a fever pitch in the 2010s, when every June began to be marked by branded and rainbow-colored pandering as an exercise in shoring up consumers from the queer community. It would all be a fairly typical corporate virtue wash, yet some of these same companies also quietly give tens of thousands—if not millions—of dollars through their political PACs to Republicans who actively work against gay and trans rights.
Huge corporations like AT&T, Verizon, Johnson & Johnson, donate because they hope to get something out of it: whether it’s the positive marketing of a Pride float, or swearing in a politician they hope will deregulate their industry. But Pride only lasts a month, and, if elected, these politicians serve terms that last way longer than that. Corporations may be covering their bases—but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t take notice.
We took a look at how much money corporations that are sponsoring Pride parades and touting pro-gay rights initiatives gave to Republicans candidates last year through their political PACs.
In May, AT&T launched a partnership with the Trevor Project called #TurnUpTheLove. AT&T is now powering the organization’s crisis intervention hotlines—TrevorText and TrevorChat—24 hours a day, seven days a week. YouTuber Tyler Oakley is the face of this campaign, as we can see in this weird video above.
In the 2018 election cycle, AT&T gave 61 percent of its total contributions to federal candidates—or roughly $1,800,000—to members of the Republican party: among them, Darin LaHood (R-IL), who opposed a bill banning anti-gay conversion therapy during his time in the Illinois state senate. Verizon donated roughly the same dollar amount to Republican candidates in 2016: $1,681,285.
PricewaterhouseCoopers is a Bronze-level sponsor of NYC Pride, which this year also celebrates the 50th anniversary of Stonewall.
It also donated $891,000 to Republican congressional candidates in the 2018 election cycle. According to the donation data on OpenSecrets, PWC’s largest donation to a congressional candidate went to Martha Roby (R-AL), who opposed same-sex marriage as recently as 2016.
In addition to participating in pride parades in Baltimore, Houston, Columbus, Chicago, Boston, and Washington, DC, Verizon is donating $250,000 to PFLAG.
In the 2018 election cycle, Verizon gave $763,900 to Republicans running for Congress. Among the Republican congressional candidates that Verizon gave the most money were Kevin Brady (R-TX), who identifies as a “pro-family conservative” and believes marriage is a “union between one man and one woman,” and Vernon Buchanan (R-FL), who in 2012, sent out mailers saying he “strongly support[s] DOMA” paid for by tax-payer money.
Chase is a Gold-level sponsor of NYC Pride.
JPMorgan Chase spent 62 percent of its total contributions to federal candidates on Republicans, or $322,800, in the 2018 election cycle. Among the congressional candidates who received the highest donations were Andy Barr (R-KY), who just earlier this year voted “No” on the Equality Act to protect gay and trans people from discrimination; Kevin Brady (R-TX), again; and Steve Stivers (R-OH), who has a pretty terrible voting record when it comes to protecting the rights of LGBTQ+ people.
Listerine is selling a Pride-themed mouth wash... because... gay rights? Listerine’s parent company Johnson & Johnson boasts that it “has raised over $1 Million for its non-profit partners” since 2011, though the Johnson & Johnson website doesn’t say where, exactly, that money came from.
In the 2018 election cycle, Johnson & Johnson gave $327,500 to Republicans running for Congress. One of the many Republicans that money went to was Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), the former House Majority Leader who reportedly caused an amendment that would have prohibited federal contractors from anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination to fail by one vote.
From May 27 to June 30, Bud Light is selling its shitty beer in rainbow-colored aluminum bottles, and has promised to spend donate $1 for every case sold (up to $150,000) to GLAAD.
That’s a solid chunk of money, but Anheuser-Busch gave almost two times that amount—$263,000—to Republicans running for Congress in 2018.
TD Bank will be at various Pride parades, and is a Platinum-level sponsor of NYC Pride.
In 2018, TD Bank gave $101,000 to Republican congressional candidates, including John Barrasso (R-WY) and David Perdue (R-GA), who oppose same-sex marriage; Bob Corker (R-TN), who has voted against LGBTQ+-inclusive hate crime legislation; and Mitch McConnell (R-KY), whose long history of support for anti-LGBTQ+ legislation precedes his time as the Senate Majority Leader.
Nike has launched a line of T-shirts, slides, and sneakers called the BETRUE collection, which, according to its website, “supports initiatives to end discrimination in sport.”
In 2018, Nike spent $76,000 on Republican congressional candidates. Although it gave $96,500 to Democrats, Nike has a history of funding Republicans over Democrats. Among the Republicans Nike donated to in 2018 were Corker (R-TN) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT), who fought diligently in the 1980s to overturn the right to abortion, previously supported DOMA, and once said in the ‘70s that he opposed gay teachers in public school.
American Apparel’s #Pride collection includes this shirt that says “Everyone’s gay.”
In 2018, the company donated $27,000 to Republican congressional candidates, versus spent on $18,000 on Democrats. The highest donation ($6,000) went to Adrian Smith (R-NE), a representative who voted against an amendment to established hate crimes based on gender identity and sexual orientation as a federal crime.
The ad copy for this rainbow-themed bottle of vodka on Absolut’s website reads: “Since the early 1980's, Absolut have been supporting the LGBTQ+ community. It is our firm belief that a colorful, diverse and respectful world is something to strive and work for. Everybody should be able to be, exactly who they are.”
Absolut’s parent company, Pernod Richard, gave $20,700 to Republican congressional candidates in 2018, compared to $3,000 given to Democrats.