Paul Singer is a media-shy New York billionaire and staunch conservative. A finance guy, Singer made his fortune after he started his own hedge fund in the late 1970s, Elliott Management Corporation. He’s donated significant amounts of money to numerous high-profile Republicans – including a $1 million check to Restore Our Future, Mitt Romney’s PAC during the last presidential election.
Despite Singer’s deep pockets lined with GOP money, the Republican Party is likely nauseous over Singer’s swift and inconspicuous ability to secure votes from conservative lawmakers in states across the nation to legalize gay marriage. It’s thought that Singer offers a financial safety net for Republicans who break from their party’s notoriously strict ideological stance on marriage equality.
Paul Singer influences the gay-marriage debate through his American Unity Fund, which funnels major resources to local gay-rights organizations and lawmakers as marriage equality bills are introduced and move through the legislative process. The American Unity Fund spent $500,000 in March 2013 and plans to raise another $7 million throughout this year as it lures state Republicans to provide the often-necessary votes in marriage-equality swing states.
Rhode Island’s recent gay-marriage victory, where a bill easily passed the state’s House of Representatives in January 2013 but faced a severe battle in the Senate, is attributed in large part to Singer and the American Unity Fund. Not a single Republican senator voted against the bill and keen observers noted the sharp increase in aggressive advocacy in the months following the bill’s introduction.
Singer's fund now looks to states like Minnesota, West Virginia, Utah, and Delaware as promising avenues for marriage equality. Paul Singer told the in the New York Times in a rare interview last week that gay marriage aligns as a conservative issue for him with integral components related to “individual liberty” and “strong families.” As Singer explained, “The institution of marriage is in very bad shape in this country, yet gay and lesbian couples want very much to be a part of it, to live as committed husbands and wives with their children in traditional family units. This should be what we want as conservatives, for people to cherish and respect this model and to want it for themselves.”
Minnesota is expected to vote on gay marriage as early as next week after voters rejected a state constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. While the state House of Representatives looks like they may give Paul Singer’s organization the cold shoulder, Minnesota Republican senators are much more open, with one confirmed vote in favor and several others undecided. In turn, the American Unity Fund spent more than $250,000 in the state on pro-gay-marriage lobbying efforts.
Paul Singer’s son is gay and married his husband in Massachusetts in 2009. To date, Singer has donated more than $10 million toward marriage equality advocacy with $1 million spent in New York, which in 2011 became the sixth state to legalize gay marriage.
Looks like GOP leaders are in need of their own Trojan horse.