Republicans across the country have been proposing so-called “bathroom bills” to prevent transgender individuals from using public restrooms and locker rooms of the gender with which they identify. Republicans are introducing, and sometimes passing, bills in state legislatures to that effect. The Republican National Committee even passed a resolution condemning such bathroom accommodation in public schools.
Although before Republicans go further, they might want to take note of a major GOP donor: Jennifer (nee James) Pritzker.
The first openly transgender billionaire, Pritzker’s fortune stems from her father and uncle co-founding the Hyatt hotel chain, followed by the family making even more money through various holdings. Forbes estimates Pritzker’s net worth to be $1.75 billion, and ranks her the 372nd richest person in America. Her family founded the prestigious Pritzker Architecture Prize.
And Pritzker has been a generous donor to transgender causes. A retired lieutenant colonel in the army, she donated $1.35 million for an initiative to study and promote issues for transgender members of the military. Pritzker also gave $2 million to found a chair for transgender studies at the University of Victoria in British Columbia.
She formally came out as transgender in 2013.
Pritzker herself spoke out on the bathroom issue, saying, “I’d be curious to see any documented cases of anyone transgendered who entered a bathroom for voyeuristic activities.”
Nevertheless, Pritzker has also donated major sums of money to politicians unfriendly to the transgender movement.
An analysis of FEC campaign finance disclosures by Thought Front identified $380,872 in donations by Pritzker since 1997, almost entirely to Republicans and conservative causes. In addition, Pritzker has given over $2 million in donations in her home state of Illinois, again with the same ideological bent.
So when the RNC passed a resolution denouncing transgender accommodation, perhaps they should have considered the fact that Pritzker has donated $62,550 to the organization.
And the Republican Party of Illinois has received $66,550 from Pritzker; the United Republican Fund of Illinois, $15,200; Cook County GOP, $12,600; the Chicago Republican Party, $1,000; the 42nd Ward Republican Organization, $48,035.
Meanwhile, 22 Republican state representatives sponsored a bill to require public school students to use the facilities for their gender of birth. (Five Democrats also sponsored the bill.)
Various Republicans who have denounced transgender bathroom accommodation have nevertheless been the recipients of Pritzker’s largesse. That includes $1,000 to former Florida congressman Allen West, who was so opposed to bathroom accommodation that he even posted a totally apocryphal story that Target was installing urinals in women’s restrooms.
West did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Then there is the group of twenty-five GOP senators who co-signed an open letter denouncing the Obama administration’s directive on transgender accommodation in schools. The letter itself sidestepped the issue of whether there should be accommodation, instead denouncing it as federal overreach – logic not unlike that for federal anti-segregation laws in the past.
Of the 25 signatories, six received donations from Pritzker: Bill Cassidy ($1,503), Daniel Coats ($1,000), John McCain ($31,000), Mike Rounds ($1,000), Thom Tillis ($2,600), and Steve Daines ($500).
Illinois congressman John Shimkus, who said the administration’s directive is “furthering a radical left wing agenda of social engineering” and “politically correct nonsense,” nevertheless received $1,250 from Pritzker (albeit the most recent was in 2000).
Pritzker also gave $750 to a PAC drafting Ben Carson to run for president. Last year, Carson suggested creating separate bathrooms for transgender individuals because “It is not fair for them to make everybody else uncomfortable. It’s one of the things that I don’t particularly like about the [LGBT] movement.”
Another ironic donation by Pritzker was a $2,400 contribution to congressional candidate Joel Pollak, who is now editor of the rightwing news website Breitbart. One recent headline on the website proclaims that “Target’s Pro-Transgender Bathroom Policy Is Dangerous to Women and Children.”
“Awesome,” said Pollak in response to a request for comment by Thought Front.
Pritzker even gave $250 to Family-Pac, a socially conservative “pro-family” organization based in Illinois that opposes same-sex marriage. Family-Pac once took out robocalls denouncing state representative Mike Smiddy for taking $6,500 in donations from “Chicago homosexuals.” The recording added, “Who is Mike Smiddy representing? You or Chicago homosexuals?”
Family-Pac director Paul Caprio did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Pritzker has also given major donations on behalf of other Republicans who have not taken any public stance on bathroom accommodation. That includes $59,500 to elect Mitt Romney, $1,000 to Paul Ryan, and $3,300 to Rudy Giuliani. She has also donated $9,000 to the NRA’s PAC, plus another $1,000 to the Illinois State Rifle Association Political Victory Fund.
The Republican Party, then, should consider where their money is coming from when taking a stance on issues. (Although perhaps they have and decided it was worth risking Pritzker’s largesse.)
And Pritzker may want to reconsider whom she supports financially.
(See below for the full information on Pritzker’s donations.)