Critics of North Carolina, Mississippi Anti-Gay Laws Funded Their Authors

North Carolina Republican Governor Pat McCrory. | HAL GOODTREE/ WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

North Carolina Republican Governor Pat McCrory. | HAL GOODTREE/ WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

Some leading companies that are currently blasting state governments in Mississippi and North Carolina for enacting laws that promote discrimination against LGBT people made substantial campaign contributions to the two Republican governors and Republican state legislators who enacted those laws.

The Wells Fargo North Carolina political action committee gave Governor Pat McCrory $5,100 on February 29 of this year, according to filings with the North Carolina State Board of Elections. That same day, the PAC also gave $3,100 to Tim Moore, the speaker of the North Carolina House of Representatives, and $4,100 to Phil Berger, the president of the State Senate. The PAC gave to other legislators, but Gay City News did not compare those names to the voting record on House Bill 2 (HB2).

Gay City News also found donations to McCrory from what appear to be lower level Wells Fargo employees or company affiliates in 2012. McCrory was elected governor in 2012, and had run unsuccessfully for the post in 2008.

GOP governors enjoy the largesse of corporations calling for repeal of harsh new measures

On February 25, the Bank of America political action committee gave Berger and Moore $3,000 apiece. The PAC gave McCrory $5,100 on December 10 of last year. Charles Bowman, market president for North Carolina and Charlotte at Bank of America, gave $1,000 to McCrory’s campaign on March 14 of this year. Bowman identified himself only as a “banker” in an elections board filing.

As with Wells Fargo, Bank of America made donations to other legislators, but Gay City News did not compare those to HB2 voting records.

HB2 was passed by the North Carolina legislature on March 23 and signed by McCrory the next day, but news that legislators would convene a special session to enact the law broke in North Carolina papers as early as February 25 so the Wells Fargo and at least some of the Bank of America donations were made after the public was aware of the proposed law. Moore was organizing House Republicans for the special session that passed the legislation as early as February 23 and discussing it publicly by February 24.

HB2 overturned local laws that banned discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity and requires transgender people to use public toilets that are consistent with the gender designated on their birth certificates, which could often mean that they end up using bathrooms unsuited to their gender identity.

Brian Moynihan, the chief executive at Bank of America, which is headquartered in Charlotte, and John Stumpf, the chief executive at Wells Fargo, which is headquartered in San Francisco, have joined more than 120 senior executives at other companies who signed a letter calling for the repeal of HB2. The letter is being circulated by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the nation’s largest LGBT rights group, and Equality North Carolina, a state LGBT rights group.


Mississippi Republican Governor Phil Bryant. | LANCE CHEUNG/ US DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE

While AT&T has opposed the Mississippi law and not commented on the North Carolina law, its PAC gave $2,000 to McCrory in 2012, and Cynthia Marshall, now the head of human resources at AT&T and the company’s chief diversity officer, gave McCrory $1,000 that year. Marshall was the president of AT&T North Carolina at that time.

In Mississippi, the picture is similar. AT&T, GE, Nissan Group of North America, and Tyson Foods are among the companies that either opposed legislation, which is now law, that effectively legalizes discrimination against LGBT people there or have called for its repeal. The effort was organized by HRC.

But Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant, who signed the legislation into law, won his office with their support. According to campaign finance documents filed by Bryant’s campaign, AT&T’s Mississippi political action committee gave his campaign $15,000 on October 23 of last year, $5,000 on October 31 of 2014, and $5,000 in 2009. Gay City News did not review all years for the Bryant campaign so this may not represent all of AT&T’s contributions. Bryant was first elected governor in November 2011 and was reelected in 2015, and before that served as lieutenant governor for four years.

A review of AT&T’s filings shows the company has donated extensively to candidates for state office and officeholders in Mississippi.

Tyson Foods gave Bryant’s campaign $1,000 last year and in 2009. GE and the Nissan Group of North America both gave Bryant $1,000 this year, and GE also gave him $1,000 in 2014 and $1,000 in 2009.

A cursory review of the campaign filings by candidates and PACs in both states shows that a number of companies that HRC partners with, honors at its fundraisers, or rewards with high marks in its Corporate Equality Index –– which ranks corporations by their pro-LGBT policies –– are supporting some of the most anti-LGBT officeholders and candidates in those states.

The Coca Cola Company and some of its bottlers, Comcast, Eli Lilly & Company, Nationwide, and Monsanto have all donated to Bryant and McCrory since 2009, with some contributing as recently as 2015. Some of these companies have opposed onerous anti-LGBT laws and may have helped in winning vetoes or defeats for such legislation. If these companies stop contributing, or say they might do that, it could have an impact.

“People who are donors, people who are substantial donors, have a foot in the door,” said Ken Sherrill, a professor emeritus of political science at Hunter College. “If several large donors say, ‘We’re upset with this’…it makes some people worry… The threat to cut out or cut back on contributions, if it’s a credible threat, makes some people worry.”

Josh Clifton, who is senior manager for corporate communications at Nissan North America, in an email message, said, “Nissan works with government leaders and organizations to positively impact local communities and create economic opportunities. Our financial, political or charitable contributions to organizations or individuals are not indicative of our direct support of any specific policy or legislation.”

The other companies did not respond to requests seeking comment.