Members of the California Legislative LGBTQ Caucus have been found to have solicited over a million dollars for Equality California, an activist organization that aligns with their goals and promotes their legislative agenda. The organization’s mission, as stated on its website, is to elevate the voices of LGBTQ+ individuals and their allies in positions of power, both in California and across the United States. Their overarching goal is to create a world that is healthy, just, and fully equal for all LGBTQ+ people, advocating for civil rights and social justice.
According to public campaign filings examined by the Daily Caller News Foundation, members of the California Legislative LGBTQ Caucus collectively raised more than $1,100,000 for Equality California between 2019 and 2023. In turn, Equality California and its employees donated over $80,000 to campaigns of caucus members. These funds were raised through California’s behested payments system, which allows public officials and lawmakers to request payments from individuals or organizations for legislative, governmental, or charitable purposes. The payments solicited by caucus members included sponsorships for events such as Equality California’s Equity Awards, the Los Angeles Equality Awards, and the Equality California San Francisco Gala.
Tax filings reviewed by the DCNF revealed that Equality California allocated $300,000 towards lobbying efforts in 2020 and over $250,000 in 2019 to influence legislation. Notably, Democratic California Assemblymember Christopher Ward solicited approximately $680,000 in payments made out to Equality California between 2021 and 2023. On the other hand, Democratic California state Sen. Scott Wiener solicited nearly $150,000 in payments during the period from 2019 to 2023.
It is worth mentioning that Equality California also played a significant role in supporting the political campaigns of these lawmakers. Wiener’s Senate campaigns received around $14,000 in donations from the organization, while Ward’s Assembly campaigns received approximately $8,000. Additionally, Equality California actively promoted their legislation, which included Wiener’s bill to prevent courts from enforcing out-of-state court orders that revoked custody for parents who allowed their children to undergo sex changes in the state. Another bill backed by the organization was Wiener’s legislation that reduced penalties for knowingly transmitting HIV to another person. Both of these bills ultimately became law.
The findings of this report shed light on the close ties between members of the California Legislative LGBTQ Caucus and Equality California. The financial support solicited and received by caucus members allowed the organization to further advance its mission and actively promote legislation that aligned with their goals. Although there are no claims of wrongdoing, these revelations raise questions about the influence of activist organizations on the legislative process and the relationships between lawmakers and interest groups.
To read the full report, click here.