June 11, 2012
By Jacob Combs
Writing in the New York Times, opinion columnist Frank Bruni reported this weekend that Paul Singer, a hedge fund manager worth billions and one of the most successful Republican fundraisers in the country, is starting a new super PAC for marriage equality. Singer will contribute $1 million to the organization, which will be called “American Unity PAC” and will seek to encourage Republican candidates and lawmakers to support equal marriage rights. Singer is no stranger to the marriage stage: he’s given almost $10 million of his money to marriage equality efforts in New Hampshire, New Jersey and New York, where he was pivotal in last year’s passage of a marriage bill with Republican support. He also helped garner around $250,000 apiece for the Republican state senators that supported marriage in New York to protect them from electoral opposition from anti-marriage groups. From Bruni’s Times article:
In an interview on Tuesday, he told me that he’s confident that in Congressional races, which would most likely be the super PAC’s initial focus, there are more than a few Republicans “who could be on the verge of support” or are “harboring and hiding their views.”
“And this kind of effort could be catalytic in generating some more movement,” he said.
Singer doesn’t court a high news-media profile. His willingness to meet at the Midtown Manhattan offices of his hedge fund, Elliott Management, and talk about marriage equality reflects the strength of his commitment to the cause. Although he is straight, he has a gay son and son-in-law who were married in Massachusetts, which legalized same-sex marriage in 2004.
Our conversation also reflected a growing awareness among prominent Republicans that embracing marriage equality could broaden the party’s base and soften the party’s image in crucial ways. Many swing voters who find elements of Republicans’ limited-government message appealing and have doubts about Obama’s economic stewardship are nonetheless given serious pause by the party’s stances on abortion, birth control, immigration and homosexuality.
Singer is also a major fundraiser for Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney: at one Manhattan fundraiser for the candidate last month, he helped raise over $5 million for the campaign. Mitt Romney, of course, does not support marriage equality, which President Obama does; Romney has also campaigned on a platform that includes pushing for a federal constitutional amendment limiting marriage to heterosexual couples and does not support civil unions for gays and lesbians. Obviously, Singer does not have to be a single-issue advocate, but it does seem difficult to square his strong support for marriage equality with an equally fervent support of the presidential candidate who would at best leave things as they are on the marriage front and at worst set the movement backwards. Nevertheless, it’s still significant to see Republican money being put towards achieving marriage equality, and it’s likely a sign to come as more Republicans begin to see marriage for gays and lesbians as a simple matter of equal rights.