A book lampooning Barack Obama at the CPAC conference last year. (Reuters/Jonathan Ernst.)
In recent years, Microsoft has become one of the most gay-friendly corporations in America. Yet, as the company unveils a new advertisement featuring a same-sex wedding and signs onto a brief supporting marriage equality, Microsoft provides support for CPAC, the agenda-setting Republican conference that has moved to eject gay Americans from the conservative movement.
As Americablog reported, for the second year in a row, CPAC refused to allow GOProud, a right-wing gay advocacy group, from participating in their conference this week. “We got kicked out last year because we are gay,” said GOProud’s Jimmy LaSalvia over Twitter, adding, “We won’t be at CPAC.”
Though the American Conservative Union, the sponsor of CPAC, does not reveal its donors, I have a list of the group’s benefactors in previous years. In addition to Shell Corporation, the Edison Electric Institute, Koch Industries, and Chevron, Microsoft provides a significant contribution to the American Conservative Union Foundation. It appears that this year is no different. The Huffington Post’s Zach Carter tweeted a photo of Microsoft’s booth at the convention yesterday. The American Conservative Union’s board also includes a Microsoft representative, Suhail Khan.
Microsoft lobbies on dozens of issues, from tech policy to trade and tax issues. It seems likely that Microsoft helps underwrite CPAC to maintain influence among conservative activists and Republican politicians—to sell products and promote economic policies beneficial to Microsoft’s bottom line.
CPAC has been criticized not only for discriminating against GOProud, but also for providing a forum to a number of virulently anti-gay activists. If Microsoft is truly interested in reforming policies affecting gay Americans, it appears counterproductive to provide financial support to CPAC.
And it’s not only Microsoft that may face charges of hypocrisy. Cleta Mitchell, a partner to Foley & Lardner, the “Best Law Firm for LGBT Lawyers,” sits on the board of the American Conservative Union, which governs how CPAC is set up and run.
Notably, the Competitive Enterprise Institute (a big business-friendly think tank also sponsored in part by Microsoft) joined with a small group of conservative pundits to sponsor an event with GOProud near CPAC’s official confab, in part to protest the exclusion of gay conservatives.