While TD Bank stands as a prominent sponsor of Halifax Pride and 41 other Pride festivals in Canada and the U.S., the corporation has recently contributed tens of thousands of dollars to the electoral campaigns of American politicians who have fought against the legalization of same-sex marriage.
Since establishing a Political Action Committee (PAC) in August 2011, TD has contributed over $135,000 directly to the electoral campaigns of Democratic, Republican and Independent nominees for US Congress, data from the U.S. Federal Election Commission shows.
Over $50,000 went directly to the campaigns of candidates with a history of being outspoken against marriage equality.
Many of these candidates have a history of voting in favour of legislation that would have banned same-sex marriage, and have openly expressed disagreement with the recent US Supreme Court ruling deeming marriage equality a nationwide right.
TD donates to mixed ratings
The Washington, DC-based Human Rights Campaign (HRC) is the largest political lobbying and civil rights activism group with a focus on LGBT issues. HRC’s annual rankings of corporations and American legislators analyze how those in power demonstrate support for LGBT equality.
TD earned a score of 100 per cent in the HRC’s 2015 Corporate Equality Index, a score based on “corporate policies and practices pertinent to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender employees.”
The bank says on its website it is “very proud” that the HRC has named them one of the best places to work for LGBT equality in the U.S.
But while the bank has a perfect HRC rating, it has also donated to the electoral campaigns of many legislators who have received the HRC’s lowest possible rating of 0 per cent.
Since establishing the TD Bank North America PAC, up to the end of last year, TD has donated to the campaign committees of 77 candidates running for federal office in the U.S.
Corporate PACs are a tool to aggregate donations from executive/administrative-level staff, stockholders and the families of both, to a fund from which the corporation may contribute a limited amount of money to campaigns in support of specific candidates, pieces of legislation or other PACs.
Out of the 77 candidates who received funds from TD by the end of 2014, the HRC has current data for the Marriage Equality stances of 65, all of whom are still in Congress.
Of these members of Congress, 28 are listed as opposing marriage equality, 35 are in support of marriage equality and two candidates are listed as having an unclear stance.
Candidates who are classified as being opposed to marriage equality have received $50,500 from the TD PAC, making up about 37 per cent of the total contributions that went directly to candidate campaigns.
The HRC has calculated percentage ratings for 59 of the 77 candidates, based on their congressional activities up to the end of the 113th Congress, which concluded this January.
The ratings are based off of factors like what LGBT-relevant bills members have co-sponsored, and members’ voting records on issues like marriage equality and non-discrimination policies.
The spreadsheet below contains every political contribution the TD PAC has made that is currently on record. Click on the green plus button to the left of each recipient’s name to find the amount TD has contributed, the HRC rating for the candidate, and the candidate’s position on Marriage Equality.
Seventeen of the 59 candidates with current HRC data have the lowest possible score of zero per cent. These Republican congressmen have received a total of $28,500 from the TD PAC.
TD’s most-funded candidate, Scott Garrett, is one of these men. Garrett is a Republican representing New Jersey’s 5th district in the House of Representatives.
Receiving $6,500 from T.D. between March 2012 and September 2014, Garrett is currently under fire for homophobic comments he allegedly made last week.
Politico reports that at a closed meeting of the House Committee on Financial Services, Garrett said he has refused to pay dues to his party’s national congressional committee in the past “because it actively recruited gay candidates and supported homosexuals in primaries.”
Garrett has not yet denied or commented on the allegations that he is refusing to participate with his party because they may not discriminate against queer candidates, an unnecessary sign that marriage equality has not immediately resulted in equal treatment of the LGBT community in America.
In 2013, the seven-term congressman co-sponsored a bill that would have amended the Constitution to ban same-sex marriage, but this did not keep TD from contributing to his reelection shortly after.
TD’s most recent contribution to Garrett was for $2,500 last September, two months after the 2014 Halifax Pride Parade.
Garrett allegedly made the anti-gay comments to committee chair Jeb Hensarling, Republican member of the House for Texas’s 5th district, who also has a record of donations from TD.
From November 2013 to July 2014, Hensarling received $4,500 in contributions from TD’s PAC. Like Garrett, his voting record does not align with TD’s LGBT advocacy.
Hensarling co-sponsored legislation in 2008 and voted in 2006 in favour of constitutionally defining marriage as a union between one man and one woman, and voted in 2007 against prohibiting job discrimination based on sexual orientation.
From 2010 up to the present day, Hensarling’s official website has outlined his stance on marriage equality summarily:
I have always believed in the sanctity of marriage between one man and one woman. I do not believe the federal government should confer marital rights or benefits to individuals outside of that definition. For the sake of our society, our children, and our democracy, marriage must be protected.
Now, more than ever, our democratic and cultural values demand that we defend marriage. Marriage is one of our most sacred institutions, and I will continue to fight to protect its sovereignty.
(Up until at least April 2014, his statement also included a condemnation of “unelected, activist judges who seek to redefine [marriage].”)
Conflict with TD’s advocacy stances goes unexplained
TD’s donations to members of Congress who have voted towards cutting out gender and sexual orientation-based clauses in discrimination legislation may seem an anomaly when contrasted against the bank’s prominent image as a corporate advocate for the LGBT community.
Some present at the June opening ceremony of Halifax Pride took note of the promotional giveaway of rainbow flags branded with a TD logo.
— Rebecca Rose (@rrosewrites) June 17, 2015
And the bank’s donations to members of Congress who disregard LGBT affairs are a small fraction of what the bank spends towards advocacy on the same issues – TD’s website says the bank invested over $1.2 million in 2014 “to support LGBTA community organizations and events across North America.” (The bank uses the acronym LGBTA, “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Allies.”)
Additionally, the bank has a history of being on the vanguard of Canadian corporate recognition of equal rights for the LGBT community, being the first bank in the country to introduce spousal benefits for same-sex employees in 1994.
Still, TD’s PAC spending contradicts its self-attributed ambitions for political contributions.
In describing its corporate responsibility, TD emphasizes the financial focus of its PAC, saying it allows “eligible, interested” employees of the bank to make “voluntary, personal donations to candidates for federal office who support a strong financial services sector and sound economic policies.”
“TD PAC makes political contributions that are allowed by federal law and that are consistent with the bank’s strict guidelines for public policy activities and advocacy,” says the bank’s website.
Seeking to understand which guidelines for public policy activities and advocacy are referred to in that clause, the Halifax Examiner reached out to TD with questions about why its PAC has donated to candidates for American federal office who have a record of voting against marriage equality while the bank considers LGBTA advocacy a priority.
When reached by phone, a TD spokesperson requested that questions about the PAC to be emailed.
The Examiner asked the following questions via email:
“1) Could you please explain the process by which the TD PAC makes contributions to candidates for federal office, from the point where employees donate to the PAC to the point where the PAC makes contributions to campaign committees?
2) The “Political Contributions” page of TD.com says the TD PAC “makes political contributions that are allowed by federal law and that are consistent with the bank’s strict guidelines for public policy activities and advocacy.” What are TD’s guidelines for public policy activities and advocacy regarding PAC donations?
3) Before the TD PAC makes campaign contributions to candidates for federal office, are candidates’ stances or voting records on marriage equality or other legislation relevant to LGBTA (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Ally) issues considered?”
The day after sending these questions, the Examiner received an email from a Canadian spokesperson for TD saying in full: “Hi Jesse, thanks for reaching out. We don’t have anything to add to the story.”
TD funds PAC after it supports outspoken opponent of Pride parades
Even if TD’s contributions to campaign committees are in the interest of supporting individual candidates who the bank considers supporting “sound economic policies,” TD also supports a number of other PACs that exist to pool funds to contribute to candidates supporting these PAC’s particular causes, meaning TD has no say in these cases as to where their funds ultimately end up.
Some of these PACs, to which TD has contributed thousands, exclusively donate to Republican candidates who almost universally have a voting record of being against marriage equality and other LGBT issues. These include the Freedom Fund, the Defend America PAC and the Citizens for Prosperity in America Today PAC.
Six months after TD contributed $2,000 to the Defend America PAC in January 2014, Defend America PAC moved $5,000 towards the campaign coffers of James Lankford, the Oklahoma Senator who in 2012 said he believes “being gay is a choice and should not be protected from workplace discrimination.”
The Citizens for Prosperity in America Today PAC received $1,000 from TD in March 2014. Before this contribution, the Citizens for Prosperity donated $15,000 to the campaign of Texas Senator Ted Cruz from September 2011 to April 2012.
The current Republican presidential hopeful has vocalized his distaste for Pride parades.
During the 2012 Republican primary Cruz said of his opponent Tom Mayer, then mayor of Dallas: “When the mayor of a city chooses twice to march in a parade celebrating gay pride, that’s a statement. It’s not a statement I believe in.”
It is safe to assume Cruz will not be present to enjoy the TD float at this September’s TD-backed Dallas Pride.
(The acronym “LGBT” is loosely used in this story as a compromise in recognition that the acronym “LGBTQ+” is used by Halifax Pride, “LGBT” is used by the Human Rights Campaign and “LGBTA” is used by TD.)