Following a standout performance by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) in the third Republican presidential debate, a billionaire GOP philanthropist who supports LGBT rights has declared his support for the candidate’s 2016 bid.
In a three-page letter to dozens of donors obtained by The New York Times, New York-based hedge fund manager Paul Singer says Rubio “has been turning his campaign into a compelling argument for using conservative ideas to help America adapt and thrive in the 21st century.”
“This combination of appealing substantive views well suited to both the primary and general electorate, deep command of foreign and domestic policy details, hopeful confidence in America, grasp of 21st century realities and opportunities, political courage, and rhetorical style and talent, make him an exceptional candidate, perfect for this moment, and a potentially transformative governing figure,” Singer writes.
The endorsement from a high-profile donor like Singer, who backed Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney in 2012, is a major score for Rubio.
Alex Conant, a Rubio spokesperson, is quoted in The New York Times as welcoming the endorsement, adding, “We know we have a lot of work to do before Marco wins the nomination, but clearly this moves us in the right direction.”
Jimmy LaSalvia, author of “No Hope” and a gay political commentator who recently left the Republican Party, said Singer’s endorsement of Rubio isn’t surprising.
“At the end of the day, Paul Singer is an establishment Republican,” LaSalvia said. “The GOP establishment has been looking for a candidate to fall in line behind, and it’s looking like that’s Rubio.”
In addition to helping fund campaigns for Republican presidential candidates, Singer stands out among Republican donors because he supports LGBT rights. His son, Andrew Singer, is gay.
At a July 2014 conference for Wall Street CEOs and their gay sons, Singer said years ago he would rated himself a “solid 2.1” on scale of 10 on LGBT rights. After his son came out, Singer said conversations with him brought him to a 5.5 or 6 out of 10 on that scale. Singer is now considered a steadfast LGBT rights supporter.
In 2012, Singer launched the American Unity Fund and a political action committee, American Unity PAC, which aims to persuade conservatives to support LGBT rights. American Unity Fund helped push for passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act in 2013 and American Unity PAC sought to elect pro-LGBT Republican congressional candidates in 2012 and 2014.
In 2013, Singer forged an odd-couple partnership with progressive Democratic donor Jonathan Lewis. They each and donated $250,000 to Americans for Workplace Opportunity, a coalition group that sought to pass ENDA.
That same year, the Paul E. Singer Foundation teamed up with the Daniel S. Loeb Family Foundation to award the Human Rights Campaign Foundation major grants over three years to support LGBT rights and fight homophobia and transphobia at an international level.
In October 2014, Singer hosted a first-of-its-kind secret meeting for pro-LGBT Republican activists and donors in D.C. Among the scheduled event participants was Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin, who set to introduce Ted Olson, the Republican attorney who took the lead on litigation to overturn California’s Proposition 8 and Virginia’s ban on same-sex marriage.
No where in the letter does Singer say anything about Rubio’s positions on LGBT rights. Like all other Republican presidential candidates, Rubio is opposed to same-sex marriage.
The candidate has lashed out at LGBT advocates for pursuing same-sex marriage in the courts, saying in January, “If they wanted to change that law, they should have gone to the legislature or back to the Constitution and try to change it.”
In 2013, Rubio voted against the Employment Non-Discrimination Act and an LGBT-inclusive version of legislation to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act. The candidate missed a vote in July on an amendment from Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) along the lines of the Student Non-Discrimination Act.
LaSalvia said Rubio might try to convince supporters he doesn’t possess an anti-LGBT outlook, but the candidate’s record proves otherwise.
“Marco Rubio has pranced around the country telling any potential donor who will listen that he’s not an anti-gay bigot,” LaSalvia said. “His record does nothing to prove that. His words don’t match his actions.”
Gregory Angelo, president of Log Cabin Republicans, said Singer endorsement comes as no surprise based on Rubio’s interaction with Log Cabin.
“Log Cabin Republicans has had a relationship with Sen. Rubio for years, so it doesn’t surprise me that Mr. Singer sees the appeal of the junior senator from Florida as a common-sense conservative worthy of support,” Angelo said.
The Human Rights Campaign didn’t respond to the Washington Blade’s request to comment over the weekend on Singer’s endorsement.
Christine Baratta, a spokesperson for the American Unity Fund, distanced the organization from the endorsement.
“American Unity Fund and American Unity PAC aren’t involved in the presidential election; our focus continues to be on Congressional and state elections,” Baratta said.