Two members of the Oklahoma-based group that bought the Seattle SuperSonics and Seattle Storm donated $1.1 million to start and fund Gary Bauer's anti-gay-marriage organization, Americans United to Preserve Marriage (AUPM). Bauer, former head of the ultraconservative groups Focus on the Family and the Family Research Council (and now the head of an anti-choice PAC called Campaign for Working Families), started the anti-gay-marriage group during the 2004 presidential campaign, when the GOP stoked homophobia to claim the "moral values" vote. AUPM is a 527 organization—like Swift Boat Veterans for Truth—to which an individual donor can give unlimited contributions. The group spent its millions on campaign ads.
Sonics/Storm owners Tom Ward, CEO of SandRidge Energy, and Aubrey McClendon, CEO of Chesapeake Energy (where Ward used to be CEO), donated $425,000 and $625,000, respectively, to AUPM's cause. The men gave $250,000 apiece one day after Bauer registered the anti-gay-marriage group with the Federal Election Commission. During the 2004 and 2006 election cycles, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, AUPM raised $1.3 million and spent $1.2 million—the vast majority of it during the 2004 election. (Ward also donated $5,000 to Bauer's Campaign for Working Families in 2002. McClendon donated $250,000 to Swift Boat Veterans.)
The news, first reported on The Stranger's website, is a slap at an enthusiastic, committed, and central bloc of Seattle Storm fans: lesbians. One fan, Carol Anderson, a lesbian who lives on Capitol Hill, routinely goes to games with a big group of gay friends; recently, she bought a block of tickets through Seattle's gay chamber of commerce, the Greater Seattle Business Association. Anderson said, "The whole thing is outrageous" because "the lesbian community puts a lot of money and support into the Storm."
The official response from the Storm was slow coming. Several calls to spokesperson Tom Savage over a two-day period netted little more than "I have to look into it" and "we're working on a response."
However, Sonics spokesperson Jim Kneeland did talk to the Post-Intelligencer (which picked up the story Tuesday, February 27). Kneeland, glossing over the fact that the whole point of Bauer's anti-gay campaign is to impose one set of values on society by preventing gays from marrying, said, "People are entitled to have their views; they are not my views, but they are not trying to impose them on anyone out there."
Tim Frank, spokesperson for the NBA/WNBA, told me, "We do not investigate or compile lists of political contributions of our owners and players."
I told Frank he didn't have to investigate the Storm owners' contributions because I'd done it for him. What I wanted to know was: What did the WNBA's Storm front office, which heavily markets to lesbians, think about these contributions? Frank had no comment. When I asked him about the NBA's swift reaction to former NBA star Tim Hardaway's homophobic freak-out, he said, "That's a different story. That was hateful language, really bigotry."
Unlike, say, spending $1.1 million dollars fighting to deny equal rights to gay WNBA fans and on ads like one they ran in the 2004 U.S. Senate race in Oklahoma denouncing Democratic candidate Brad Carson by stating (emphasis theirs): "He even voted to spend your tax dollars on gay domestic partnerships."