August 14, 2013 | by Michael K. Lavers
LGBT groups incorrectly listed as Stoli event beneficiaries
Human Rights Campaign, HRC, headquarters, gay news, Washington Blade

Human Rights Campaign headquarters in Northwest D.C. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Three LGBT advocacy groups have disputed claims they will accept money from Stoli raised at events across the country.

Oscar Raymundo of Gaycities.com, which also owns the LGBT website Queerty, said in a press release on Tuesday the gay website had “convinced” Stoli’s parent company, SPI Group, to donate $5 to local chapters of Equality California, Equality Texas and the Human Rights Campaign for each person who RSVPs and attends the Most Original Stoli Guy Live events in D.C., San Francisco, San Diego and Dallas in the coming days. Cobalt in Dupont Circle is scheduled to host a Most Original Stoli Guy Live event on August 22.

HRC spokesperson Michael Cole-Schwartz denied his organization was accepting any money from Stoli or these events.

“The Human Rights Campaign is not participating in the Most Original Stoli Guy events and is not accepting any donations related to these events or otherwise from Stoli,” Cole-Schwartz said. “The press release indicating our participation was flat out wrong and the event organizers have unfortunately not provided any information to substantiate their claim.”

The Dallas Voice reported that Equality Texas Executive Director Chuck Smith said his organization does not have any relationship with Stoli, and would not accept any donations from the vodka brand. Joe.My.God noted an Equality California spokesperson said the group did not respond to Raymundo who sent the press release that noted their participation in the San Francisco and San Diego events that are scheduled to take place later on Wednesday and on Friday.

The controversy comes against the backdrop of calls to boycott Stoli and other Russian vodka brands over Russia’s gay crackdown.

SPI Group CEO Val Mendeleev said in a July 25 statement the Russian government does not own Stoli. He acknowledged the vodka contains Russian ingredients, but a factory in neighboring Latvia distills it.

Mendeleev referenced the Most Original Stoli Guy partnership with Gaycities.com as among the pro-LGBT groups and initiatives it has supported. Others include Pride celebrations in South Africa and Austria.

A Stoli spokesperson did not respond to the Washington Blade’s request for comment.

Raymundo told the Blade the press release that mentioned Equality California, Equality Texas and HRC as beneficiaries of the Most Original Stoli Guy events in San Francisco, San Diego, Dallas and D.C. was “inaccurate.” He did not immediately respond to a follow-up question about why he distributed it in the first place.

“Gaycities is still in the process of finalizing the beneficiaries to be part of the Stoli Guy campaign, which will be made public once they are officially confirmed,” Raymundo told the Blade. “We apologize for the miscommunication and any confusion it might have caused.”

Michael K. Lavers has been a staff writer for the Washington Blade since May 2012. The passage of Maryland's same-sex marriage law, the HIV/AIDS epidemic, the burgeoning LGBT rights movement in Latin America and the consecration of gay New Hampshire Bishop V. Gene Robinson are among the many stories he has covered since his career began in 2002. Follow Michael

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