Colorado

Gill Action Fund Abandons Colorado, Now Sends Most Cash to Out-of-State Groups

Organizations

The Denver-based Gill Action Fund, a project of the wealthy gay activist Tim Gill, now sends most of its money to out-of-state groups and campaigns according to an analysis of the group’s federal tax forms. The Gill Action Fund represents the largest gay-rights network in the state of Colorado. Over the last decade, founder and President Tim Gill has donated millions of dollars to promote a gay rights and a variety of other liberal causes.

In 2010, the organizations out-of-state donations went to national organizations like Progress Now, the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, and the Log Cabin Republicans. In 2009, only one local Colorado organization received grant money from the Gill Action Fund. The Equal Rights Colorado campaign was given $5,000 out of total of $140,000 in similar donations awarded in other states. In 2007, the group handed out a total of $1.8 million, none of which stayed in Colorado.

The three main local efforts supported by the Gill Action Fund in recent years were Coloradans for Fairness, Don’t Mess With Marriage, and One Colorado. These issue committees used Gill Action Fund money as their financial lifeline, receiving upwards of $1 million in support across the three groups.

Coloradans for Fairness was a 2006 effort that opposed Amendment 43, the same-sex marriage ban, and pushed for “Legal Domestic Partnerships” as defined by Referendum 1. Sixty-five percent of its funding came directly from the Gill Action Fund, with another near 20 percent coming from Pat Stryker and Jared Polis, two wealthy liberal activists in Colorado. Launched in March of 2006, Coloradans for Fairness lasted only six months, submitting a terminating report that September.

Don’t Mess With Marriage received part of the $3.6 million in total dollars that Gill Action Fund poured into opposition of Amendment 43.  While spending by the amendment’s opponents outpaced that of supporters by a ratio of more than three-to-one,  fifty-six percent of Colorado voters eventually supported the gay marriage ban language in Amendment 43. Referendum 1, the flip side ballot proposal which allowed for civil unions, came back with a minority 47 percent approval.

The final big in-state recipient of Gill Action cash is One Colorado, a lobbying group that received a $50,000 grant from the Action Fund. While the group has recently worked to revamp its efforts, it has been plagued with filing delinquencies and extensions in the last year.

Kirk Fordham, a registered GOP strategist, consultant, and former chief of staff to disgraced former Florida congressman Mark Foley, was recently brought on as Executive Director of the Action Fund. Now the token Republican of Gill’s network, Fordham agreed in March of 2012 to take over the nearly $3 million annual budget from outgoing director Patrick Guerriero. Fordham left his former $225,000 position as CEO of the Everglades Foundation in Florida to come to Colorado where he now rakes in over $300,000 a year, based on previous salary reports.

Democrats and other liberal players on both a local and national level praised new the Gill-Fordham partnership. Rick Palacio, chairman of the Colroado Democratic Party, commented that “Kirk knows what Coloradans have always known, that lasting progress comes as a result of a collaborative process and desire for a common good.”

Fordham also received the full stamp of approval from Democratic National Committee chair, Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who agreed with Palacio that Fordham has been a great help to Democrats and liberal causes even though he had worked for many Republicans in the past.

Follow Kyle Forti on Twitter: @kyleforti