Wall Street Journal and San Diego Union-Tribune
SAN DIEGO, CA – Please take a few minutes to read both of these incredible stories that appeared today. The first story by Tamara Audi was on page A3 in the Wall Street Journal (link and full story below). Ms. Audi interviewed several of the business owners who were major contributors to the Yes on 8 Campaign, which would take away marriage equality in California. The second story (link and full story below) is by Bill Ainsworth and appeared on the front page of the San Diego Union-Tribune. That story deals with an apparently leaked email regarding some serious concerns internally within Doug Manchester’s core company Manchester Financial Group regarding our boycott of Doug Manchester’s hotels. http://click.icptrack.com/icp/relay.php?r=37196903&msgid=513224&act=DRDW&c=302269&admin=0&destination=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.boycottmanchesterhotels.com%2F
The boycott includes the Manchester Grand Hyatt San Diego because Doug Manchester gave $125,000 to take away marriage equality here in California.
There now appears to be a pattern coming from the major donors to the Yes on 8 side, as their stories change considerably.
Terry Caster owns A-1 Self Storage, with 40 locations around California. The Casters and his family gave nearly $300,000 to the Protect Marriage – Yes on 8 campaign. In today’s Journal story, Terry Caster now says that he only got a few calls a day due to our Call Terry Caster Campaign, http://click.icptrack.com/icp/relay.php?r=37196903&msgid=513224&act=DRDW&c=302269&admin=0&destination=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.callterrycaster.com%2F which asks callers to question Mr. Caster on why he gave so much money to push for a constitutional amendment to write discrimination into our California Constitution for the very first time. Back on July 31, 2008, San Diego’s GLT newspaper reported that Mr. Caster’s assistant Nadine Roberts was handling his phone messages originally, but by the next day she indicated that Mr. Caster set up a special voicemail to field the calls generated by the campaign. That doesn’t sound like "just a few calls" to us.
Additionally, William Bolthouse of Bakersfield, CA has given $100,000 to Protect Marriage this year. Mr. Bolthouse is the 3rd generation to run his family farming operation. They are the world’s 2nd largest carrot producer and the makers of Bolthouse Farms Fruit Smoothies and Vegetable Drinks that are sold in thousands of supermarkets around the county. Bolthouse Farms continues to go out of its way to distance itself from William Bolthouse’s support for many controversial causes, and says that he is not involved in the company. Our research shows that the Bolthouse Family sold a 57% interest in the company to a consortium of Bank of America and Madison Dearborn Partners, a Chicago-based private equity firm in 2005. However, the family apparently retained 43% of this $1.2 billion company. William Bolthouse’s own son-in-law, Andre Radandt is the current Chairman of the Board. We are considering possible action directed at this company after Labor Day.
And finally, what may now be the most famous political contribution in American history, Doug Manchester’s $125,000 to Protect Marriage has brought with it a wide array of responses from Mr. Manchester over the past several months. He said he gave money for about 6 different reasons in 6 different interviews, and now says that he is "saddened by the divisive nature of the movement." Well, Mr. Manchester apparently had no hesitation when he joined the "movement" to take away the freedom to marry for millions of same-sex couples in California by contributing $125,000.
"These people have put Constitutional Amendments on the ballot in 29 states over the last several years to hurt gays and lesbians and have done so with impunity," said Fred Karger, Campaign Manager of Californians Against Hate. "We want to let the world know who all of these major donors are, so that our millions of friends, neighbors, family members and co-workers can chose whether they want to support these businesses or not."
Gay Activists Target Businesses
When William Bolthouse, a California philanthropist, donated $100,000 in March to support a proposition to ban gay marriage in California, calls and emails poured in -- not to Mr. Bolthouse, but to the corporate offices of a company that bears his name -- even though he sold it three years earlier.
"It wasn't us, it's not our fault," says Jeffrey Dunn, now the chief executive of Bolthouse Farms, whose juice bottles are sold at upscale markets such as Whole Foods.
Bolthouse Farms is the latest target in what has become an increasingly bitter political fight in California. As gay-rights activists attempt to defeat the upcoming ballot initiative, called Proposition 8, they are going after not just individuals, but also companies to which they are connected, however tenuously.
"Mr. Bolthouse has said, 'I'm not connected to Bolthouse Farms at all.' But we don't accept that," says Fred Karger, who runs Californians Against Hate, a new gay-rights group that is leading the charge to identify and publicize corporate connections to significant donors. He notes that Mr. Bolthouse's son-in-law is chairman of the company and that Bolthouse Farms markets itself as a fourth-generation company.
Next week, Californians Against Hate is planning to push its tactic further by publishing a "Dishonor Roll," a list of individual and corporate donors who give $5,000 or more to groups campaigning on behalf of Proposition 8. The list will include the donor's name, employer and the corporate logo of that employer -- even if the company itself didn't donate to the Proposition 8 fight.
Mr. Karger said the tactic isn't intended to keep individuals or companies from donating, but is meant to educate the public so consumers can make informed choices. He said including corporate logos of businesses whose employees donate is fair game, since that information is publicly available on government Web sites that track donors. "Our larger message is to other business people," Mr. Karger says. "It's a free country, you can give as much money to this campaign, but we are going to publicize that and people can make a decision on whether or not they want to support those businesses."
Some Proposition 8 supporters see the effort as crossing a line. "To tell a business owner that they can't express their beliefs on an issue is a really stupid thing," said Terry Caster, the owner of A-1 Storage, a self-storage company based in San Diego. Californians Against Hate says Mr. Caster and his family gave about $300,000 to support Proposition 8, prompting the group to make him the focus of a call-in campaign. Mr. Caster said he received a few phone calls a day that petered out after several weeks, and his business wasn't affected.
Mr. Dunn said Bolthouse Farms's bottom line wasn't affected by the publicity and that his company has made an effort to correct wrong information on blogs that said Mr. Bolthouse still owned a large portion of the company.
Same-sex marriage was legalized in California in June after the State Supreme Court ruled a ban was unconstitutional. That set the stage for a ballot proposal to outlaw gay marriage. Both sides see California as the crucial battleground state that could determine how far same-sex marriage rights can be extended. Fund raising has poured in from across the country.
From January to the end of June, the largest campaign to ban gay marriage had raised $2.6 million, according to the California secretary of state's Web site.
The largest campaign to protect gay marriage raised $2.5 million during that period. Both sides said they had raised considerably more since then.
Some large corporations have waded into the fray. San Francisco-based Pacific Gas & Electric, the state's largest utility by revenue, donated $250,000 to defeat Proposition 8. A spokeswoman said the company received some complaints from its 20,000 employees and six million customers, and it was able to handle the protests internally.
Other companies haven't had it so easy. San Diego's Manchester Grand Hyatt is now the target of a boycott that was kicked off after its owner, Doug Manchester, donated $125,000 to the campaign to support Proposition 8. With the help of a local union, gay-rights activists managed to convince two professional associations to cut back on some events they planned to host at the hotel. A hotel official said both groups are keeping the rooms they have blocked off for their events but moved some meetings and other events to other venues.
In an email responding to a reporter's question, Mr. Manchester said, "We have received support from those that are in favor of Prop 8 which has made up for some of what is being lost as a result of the boycott. Nonetheless, we are saddened by all the divisive nature of the movement."
A spokeswoman for Hyatt Corp. in Chicago said it doesn't require its hotel owners to follow any particular policy. "We absolutely don't have a position on the proposition itself but we have a really strong, long track record of inclusiveness in terms of the way we welcome our guests and the way we treat our employees. Doug Manchester...in no way speaks for Hyatt," said the spokeswoman.
That distinction may be harder to make as gay-rights groups offer fuller public profiles of private donors. Jennifer Kerns, a spokeswoman for ProtectMarriage.com, the largest fund-raiser for the Yes on Prop 8 campaign, says she expects it will become more difficult to entice corporations to contribute to her cause.
"The moment [Mr. Manchester] wrote the check, he found himself to be the target of numerous boycotts and protests," she said. "Our side has a significant challenge in that." Ms. Kerns noted that the greater chunk of her group's funding will likely come from individuals and religious groups, such as the national Catholic organization Knights of Columbus, which recently contributed $1 million to the campaign.
Write to: Tamara Audi at email@example.com
Manchester executive is troubled by boycott
He warns hotel owner about alienating gays
U-T SACRAMENTO BUREAU
August 27, 2008
SACRAMENTO – Officials at the Manchester Financial Group have argued for weeks that a boycott by gay rights and union groups hasn't hurt business at its two San Diego hotels, the Manchester Grand Hyatt and The Grand Del Mar.
Gay rights groups to boycott Manchester Grand Hyatt (July 10, 2008)
Pension board OKs conference at Hyatt (Aug. 8, 2008)
In a July 29 e-mail to Manchester, Paul Wilkins, chief financial officer for the group, said he believed “this boycott effort will cost you millions of dollars of lost revenue and possibly tens of millions of dollars in lost value for both the Manchester Grand Hyatt and The Grand Del Mar.”
Wilkins, who did not return several phone calls seeking comment, also warned about the dangers of alienating the gay community, which he called a “large and very affluent market segment.”
Further, he said The Grand Del Mar “is still struggling financially” 10 months after opening and the “absolute last thing The Grand needs right now is a boycott.” Gay rights and labor unions called the boycott in July to protest Manchester's donation of $125,000 to Proposition 8, which would amend the state constitution to ban same-sex marriage.
Manchester's money, along with contributions by several other prominent San Diego residents, helped provide the funding to put the initiative on the November ballot.
The measure would overturn a California Supreme Court decision in May that paved the way for California to follow Massachusetts as the second state in the nation to allow same-sex marriages.
Since the boycott began, several groups, including the county retirement board and the Association of American Law Schools, canceled events at the Manchester Hyatt, one of the largest hotels on the West Coast.
Manchester, in an interview yesterday, said the fears expressed by Wilkins in the e-mail have not come true because his assumptions were “totally incorrect.” “He was alarmed at the potential,” Manchester said. “As a matter of fact, we have picked up lots of business since the boycott began.” Manchester said he was disturbed that the Union-Tribune had obtained the e-mail exchange, which he called a confidential transmission.
A prominent developer, Manchester has been a generous political contributor. State records show that in 2006 he gave about $147,000 to a variety of largely Republican causes.
Manchester said he gave to the effort to ban same-sex marriage because of his Catholic faith – the church opposes same-sex marriage. But, he said, he welcomes gays and lesbians to his hotels and he continues to support gay and lesbian workers. In a July interview, Manchester said he does not intend to give any more money to Proposition 8.
Yesterday, Manchester said he was rejecting Wilkins' recommendations in the e-mail that Manchester try to defuse the controversy by asking for his $125,000 donation to be returned or by making an offsetting donation to the campaign against Proposition 8. Wilkins wrote in the July 29 e-mail that his recommendations were motivated solely by his desire to protect Manchester's business interests. But Wilkins' e-mail angered Manchester. “I appreciate your rightful concern,” Manchester wrote in a July 29 response, but he added: “I am now really angry and I consider this a personal attack on myself and my family.” Manchester seemed more conciliatory yesterday, saying the chief financial officer was “attempting to do whatever he felt was right.”
Wilkins wrote that boycotts are difficult to measure. Most people, he said, will not take the time to explain why they are canceling or not booking at the hotels, but will simply cross “your name off the list of hotels being considered for their next big corporate event.”
“More than 400 companies in the Fortune 500 now provide equality of treatment to their gay employees and these are companies that book our group business,” he wrote.
Wilkins said that the controversy could prompt action from the Hyatt Corp., which manages the Manchester Grand Hyatt. He noted that there have been calls to extend the boycott to all Hyatt hotels and for the company to end its contract with Manchester.
That “could open you up to significant legal liability,” Wilkins wrote. The Hyatt Corp. has reached out to gay and lesbian customers and employees, earning high marks from gay rights advocates for its efforts.
The campaign against Manchester's business represents a rare use of boycotts in California's expensive ballot battles. Religious conservatives have used boycotts during the past decade against corporate giants that they believe are becoming too cozy with the gay and lesbian community, including Ford, Disney and McDonald's.
Some analysts say gays and lesbians are a critical market for high-end hotels.
Community Marketing Inc., which serves the gay and lesbian tourist market, has conducted surveys showing that gays and lesbians are more likely to travel than other citizens.
In his e-mail, Wilkins said that “nearly every other luxury hotel in California is actively seeking out and marketing to the gay community to get their business. . . . We should be doing the same.”
One San Diego hotel company, the Evans Hotels, which operates The Lodge at Torrey Pines, has been reaching out to the gay community. The company has been donating a percentage of its sales from same-sex weddings to help defeat Proposition 8, said Bill Evans, director of operations for Evans Hotels. Evans said it's the right thing to do, but it's also good business.
“Since we are making money from these situations, we want to support them,” he said.
The latest Field Poll shows that Proposition 8 is losing, with 51 percent of likely California voters against it and 42 percent in favor.
The issue has sparked an intense, emotional debate, drawing contributions to both campaigns from across the nation. Supporters argue that the ban is needed to preserve the sanctity of marriage; opponents say it would deprive gays of their civil rights.
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