ENTERTAINMENT

Coachella's Owner Under Fire For Alleged Ties To Anti-LGBTQ Groups

06/01/2017 4:41 AM AEDT | Updated 06/01/2017 1:15 PM AEDT
Lucy Nicholson / Reuters
A couple hugs in front of the ferris wheel at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in Indio, California April 10, 2015. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

The excitement surrounding Coachella reached fever pitch this week when it was announced that Beyoncé would headline both nights of the annual music festival in April. 

Amidst the buzz about the star-studded 2017 lineup, which includes Kendrick Lamar, Radiohead and Bon Iver, some more troubling news has come to light. Coachella’s owner, Phil Anschutz, is reportedly a major donor to a number of high-profile, right-wing groups that have opposed LGBTQ rights for years. 

The 77-year-old entrepreneur, who is the chairman of the Anschutz Corporation, is listed as a key “enemy of equality” in an infographic produced by the Washington, D.C.-based LGBTQ advocacy group Freedom for All Americans. The infographic indicates that Anschutz has donated thousands of dollars to the Family Research Council, the Alliance Defending Freedom and the National Christian Foundation, all of which have been staunch opponents in the fight for LGBTQ equality, through the Anschutz Family Foundation. 

The Anschutz Corporation’s subsidiary, the Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG), presents music and entertainment events around the world. AEG is also the parent company of Goldenvoice, which produces Coachella and manages the Los Angeles Lakers and Clippers basketball teams. 

Reports of Anschutz’s alleged ties to conservative groups is nothing new; the Freedom for All Americans infographic was produced in July 2016, and was re-printed by The Washington Post that same month. A 2009 Politico article pointed to Anschutz’s decision to purchase two conservative publications, the Weekly Standard and the Washington Examiner, in hopes of maintaining them as “a megaphone for his right-wing views.” In 2013, Greenpeace slammed Anschutz as a “financier of climate science denial groups,” highlighting his connection to Charles and David Koch, who have repeatedly backed efforts to block renewable energy standards. 

However, Anschutz’s political affiliations re-surfaced this week following the announcement of Coachella’s 2017 lineup, with detailed reports in Esquire, Teen Vogue and Refinery29, among other publications.  

When contacted by The Huffington Post, an Anschutz Corporation employee would not comment on the claims, and said, “We do not have a media relations department or press department and we do not accept these type of calls.” HuffPost has also reached out to Coachella’s press department and is awaiting comment. 

However, the Anschutz Family Foundation released a statement to the Colorado Springs Independent’s Indy Blog in July 2016, saying the group “donates to hundreds of worthy organizations each year, and it does not attempt to dictate to those organizations how to spend their monies.”

That statement continued: “Those donations are made in accordance with our process and guidelines, and neither process or guidelines identify or reference in any way sexual orientation or gender issues... Mr. Anschutz, and the Anschutz companies, invest in many businesses employing tens of thousands of people. In all instances, personal lifestyles are neither a requirement or limitation to employment.” 

Now that’s some food for thought when considering those Coachella tickets this spring.  

UPDATE: Anschutz released a statement to HuffPost Thursday after this story was first published.

“Recent claims published in the media that I am anti-LGBTQ are nothing more than fake news – it is all garbage. I unequivocally support the rights of all people without regard to sexual orientation,” he wrote. “We are fortunate to employ a wealth of diverse individuals throughout our family of companies, all of whom are important to us – the only criteria on which they are judged is the quality of their job performance; we do not tolerate discrimination in any form.

Both The Anschutz Foundation and I contribute to numerous organizations that pursue a wide range of causes.  Neither I nor the Foundation fund any organization with the purpose or expectation that it would finance anti-LGBTQ initiatives, and when it has come to my attention or the attention of The Anschutz Foundation that certain organizations either the Foundation or I have funded have been supporting such causes, we have immediately ceased all contributions to such groups.”

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