Anti-gay Marriage Mastermind Keeps Ties to Pro-gay Companies

BY admin

November 11 2009 5:20 PM ET

There were two unequivocal winners to emerge from Maine on the morning of November 4. The first was the National Organization for Marriage, a major funder of the antigay Yes on Question 1 campaign, which successfully overturned marriage equality in the state despite being outspent by opponents. And the second was Schubert Flint Public Affairs, the Sacramento, Calif.–based consulting firm NOM hired to lead its media strategy in Maine -- in large part because of Schubert Flint’s success in spearheading a similar winning strategy a year ago in support of California’s Proposition 8.

Headed by archconservative Maggie Gallagher, NOM has long been chalked up as a far-right activist group -- albeit a formidable one, as proven earlier this month. But Schubert Flint, founded by political strategists Frank Schubert and Jeff Flint, is more mainstream than its connection to Gallagher and her group initially suggests. In fact, the firm’s relationship with at least two Fortune 500 companies -- businesses that regularly court gay and lesbian consumers and have received consistently high ratings on the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index -- are of particular note, considering Schubert Flint’s status as the go-to media strategist for antigay marriage initiatives.

Reynolds American, the parent company of R.J. Reynolds and maker of cigarette brands like Camel and Winston, has a longstanding relationship with Schubert Flint, hiring the firm to produce multimillion-dollar campaigns in opposition to tobacco tax hikes. In 2006, Reynolds American paid Schubert Flint $1.1 million to fight California’s Proposition 86, which would have added a $2.60 excise tax to a pack of cigarettes (the payments to Schubert Flint were made through Reynolds’s front group, No on Proposition 86: Californians Against Unaccountable Taxes). In July, an article in the Northern California newspaper Contra Costa Times about a possible state cigarette tax increase quoted Schubert Flint partner Richard Wiebe as a representative of Reynolds American, which opposed the tax hike.
 
Reynolds was given an 88% rating on the HRC index this year, largely for its antidiscrimination policies and gay-friendly partner benefits.

Ford Motor Co., one of 123 Fortune 500–ranked businesses to earn a perfect score from the HRC this year, contracted with a consultant from Schubert Flint as recently as May -- just six months after California voters approved Proposition 8 -- to assist in a PR campaign around the reintroduction of the Ford Fiesta to the U.S. market. A Ford press release available online lists Schubert Flint’s main office number and Nancy Limón as the main contact. Limón works for Direct Impact, a communications firm hired by Ford, but she is also a senior account supervisor in Schubert Flint’s Irvine, Calif., branch office. Ford also has worked in the past with Schubert Flint on its Driving Skills for Life campaign, a national teen education program.

“The LGBT community should take a good hard look at any company that’s using any suppliers actively working against LGBT equality,” said Justin Nelson, president and cofounder of the National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, of Reynolds American’s and Ford’s relationships with Schubert Flint. “We’d hope that when this is brought to [a company’s] attention, that they’ll rectify the situation.”
 

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