A few wealthy Republicans are donating significantly to the same-gender marriage fights that are on the ballot this November in Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, and Washington, but their donations are to support — not oppose — marriage equality.
Hedge fund billionaire Paul Singer, AQR Capital Management founder Cliff Asness, Yahoo investor Dan Loeb, and Baupost private equity founder Seth Klarman have donated over $1.5 million to Freedom to Marry, providing over 20% of the organization’s budget. They also created a super PAC called American Unity which gives financial support to Republican congressional candidates who back marriage equality. Joining their efforts is former Republican National Committee chairman Ken Mehlman. Some of these men backed New York state’s battle for marriage equality last summer.
While only some of these donors are gay, or have a gay relative, all of them recognize that as society continues its steady, inevitable shift in favor of marriage equality, the Republican Party is increasingly being left behind, especially by younger voters. It’s mainly older voters who still think that conservative attitudes have to apply across the board: socially, fiscally, militarily, etc. Young Republicans see the individual freedom to marry as a conservative value, and aren’t comfortable denying that right to a whole swath of society.
In the 27 states where marriage equality is an issue this year for voters, legislators, and/or judges, such large financial donations from Republicans do get attention. But the bulk of the party’s voters and politicians won’t be swayed away from the GOP’s historic positions, especially with Tea Partiers and evangelicals always willing to create a right-wing uproar.
What this Republican funding does do, however, is scoop up conservative-leaning independent voters. And that’s why this new money could reap a disproportionately large effect come November.