On paper, Paul Singer sounds like every other obscenely wealthy conservative voice in the United States. His resume reads like ½ of the New York Times obituaries ever written: Born in metro NYC he received his J.D. From Harvard Law, plied his trade at corporate law firms and investment banks for a few years before starting his own hedge fund in the late seventies. The $1.3 million from friends and family that Singer used to start his hedge fund, Elliot Management Corporation, has been flipped and re-flipped and is worth a cool $16 billion today. Singer is extremely involved in the national political scene, having helped raise $5 million for Republican Presidential Nominee Mitt Romney last month and ranking 12th in overall donations to the GOP during this election cycle.
As a hedge fund owner, one of the principle strategies used by Singer to grow his fortune more than a thousand times over is buying up distressed debt at cut rates and then selling it at a profit or suing for full payment. Those of us who haven’t made our fortunes off of this type of investment refer to it as a vulture fund. A good example of this was in 1995, when Elliot bought up about $20 million in debt from the Peruvian government and refused to participate in Peru’s restructuring of the debt—unlike over 99% of the other creditors—opting instead to sue the Peruvian government, recouping $56 million. Put very simply, this is not a nice man. As a matter of fact, I have a feeling that if you were to quote the golden rule to him, his head would erupt in flames and spin around like a satanic top. So, if Singer is just another amoral Gordon Gecko clone, why am I even talking about him?
Well, what makes Mr. Singer stand out from the rest of the .1% is his stance on marriage equality. Singer, who’s son is gay and was married to his partner in 2004 in Massachusetts, has shelled out nearly $10 million dollars of his own money in support of various gay rights initiatives over the years. Recently, he helped fill the coffers of a number of GOP state senators in New York, which resulted in the passage of the same-sex marriage legislation in the state. Now, Singer has cobbled together a few of his buddies and over $1 million to create a super PAC (political action committee) called the American Unity PAC, whose goal is to encourage Republican politicians to openly embrace same-sex marriage.
It certainly can never hurt to have an opposing ideology come around on a civil rights issue, but what does this really mean? Can this be a harbinger of a Republican party and conservative movement that is tolerant of the LGBT community? Or is this simply an aberration that has no bearing on the increasingly bigoted trajectory of GOP rhetoric. In a word…yes…to both questions, yes. I believe that what this proves, more than anything, is that it is really difficult in the 21st century to shun your own flesh and blood based on their sexual orientation. Former Vice President and descendent of Gollum Dick Cheney is on the record, now that he doesn’t have to worry about re-election, as supporting same-sex marriage due in large part to his daughter Mary, who has been openly lesbian for quite some time. Having one of your daughters come out to you and remain in a committed relationship while starting a family (Mary and her partner Heather Poe have two children together) certainly does wonders to one’s perspective on same-sex couples.
Yet, it wouldn’t be prudent to bank a marriage equality strategy on the hope that a majority of Republican politicians end up having LGBT kids that change their minds on the issue. So could Paul Singer be a glimpse at the future of the GOP? If so, it would require an immense schism within the party that could cause an irreparable gap between two factions of conservatives. On the one hand, you have Paul Singer and his ilk. These men and women are old school, Reagan-loving, tax-hating, free-market obsessed conservatives. If you need to know what the care about, just look in your wallet. Everything else is surfeit to these fiscal conservatives. Frankly, marriage equality is no skin off their back either way because two men having a wedding in Des Moines has absolutely zero effect on the NASDAQ or US bond prices. I absolutely see this fiscally driven, generally upper/upper-middle class breed of conservative embracing same-sex marriage within the next couple decades, especially as the generational shift takes place and the voting blocks are infused with a much LGBT-friendly average voter.
On the other hand, we have your social and religious conservatives, who appear to be getting more and more entrenched behind their shield of religiously-justified hatred. These are your Tea Partiers and your Bible Belters. I don’t see them jumping on the equal rights bandwagon any time soon. Maybe I’m overly pessimistic, but when a man who insinuated that gay sex leads to bestiality is almost nominated for the presidency, my faith gets tested. But, Rick Santorum being an insufferable douchebag is nothing particularly new or newsworthy. The important thing is that an arm of the conservative machine has begun to advocate for same-sex marriage. And, possibly more importantly, theirs is the arm that holds the money.
Categories: LGBT News