By Anna Peirano
In an age of social media proliferation, viral political conversations, and bi-partisan warfare on the election front, one newly formed super PAC is hoping to represent the LGBT community on the political field. The Pride PAC, founded by San Francisco residents Marcus Lovingood and Rose Dawydiak-Rapagnani, has the goal of educating voters and re-electing Barack Obama.
Super PACs, technically known as independent expenditure-only committees, are a new kind of political action committee, able to raise unlimited sums of money from individuals, corporations, unions, and other groups. They were created in July of 2010 after the court case known as SpeechNow.org v. Federal Election Committee.
Super PACs are able to spend unlimited sums of money to overtly advocate for or against political candidates. They must report their donors to the Federal Election Commission on a monthly or quarterly basis. They are prohibited from donating money to political candidates or from having any communication or coordination with the candidate or political parties directly.
Following in the wake of online campaigns like those in support of Ellen DeGeneres against One Million Moms, and the campaigns against SOPA and PIPA, the Pride PAC hopes to be just as successful at bringing people together online. They currently have around 1,500 "likes" on Facebook. They are planning to use viral marketing, videos, flash mobs, and rallies to translate the social media community into real world action.
The group hopes to have one million followers and raise $1 million by the summer. Super PAC money has often been used to "satisfy corporate and special interests by using donations to lobby congress and run slanderous political campaign media against opposing presidential candidates." Lovingood believes using funds in such a way is a, "blatant misuse of our election system." The PAC hopes to instead create advertisements educating audiences about and in support of Obama and his efforts.
When asked why he started the Pride PAC, Lovingood said it was because of his, "desire to empower the LGBT community to take action in re-electing Barack Obama in a more cunning and innovative way."
Dawydiak-Rapagnani, who is an ally to the gay community and the PACs' social media director, said, "I am part of the Pride PAC because what is happening in our country right now is a direct affront on Civil Rights. Yes I am straight, but when the rights of some Americans are compromised, it is important to stand up and speak out."
Many have criticized Obama for his lack of conviction concerning LGBT rights during his years in office, leading some to wonder if he is as much an ally as they were promised during his first election. To these critics, Lovingood said, "I always try to emphasize the importance of not being discouraged by Obama's politics. The road to civil equality is never straight, and I truly believe the President is doing all he can to support the LGBT community."
He continued, "More has been done in the last four years than in the last twenty for the LGBT community and should be a clear indication of the President's desire to progress our movement."
The President has also been criticized for flip-flopping on his views concerning super PACs in general. Originally against the organizations, he said in 2007, "I don't take PAC money and I don't take lobbyists' money." However, he later came out with an endorsement of super PACs via campaign manager Jim Messina.
Messina urged donors to contribute to leading Democratic super PACs. In the President's statement, he said, "With so much at stake, we can't allow for two sets of rules in this election whereby the Republican nominee is the beneficiary of unlimited spending and Democrats unilaterally disarm."
The number one super PAC now in support of Obama which was given his full endorsement is called Priorities USA Action, which has raised over $4 million. Republican super PACs far outnumber Democratic ones, with the top 9 out of 10 in support of Republican candidates. The most successful super PAC to date is known as "Restore Our Future" in support of Mitt Romney, which has raised over $36 million. You can see full reports and analysis of super PAC organizations and spending on the "Open Secrets" website here.
Following in the wake of Lovingood's role model, Harvey Milk, the PAC held a rally on the steps of San Francisco's City Hall in late February, shouting Milk's famed tagline "I'm here to recruit you" through a megaphone. They hope to hold another rally sometime in April. For more information, visit the PAC's website here.