November 10, 2017 at 12:50 pm PST | by Chris Johnson
Gill Action Fund ‘shut down’: sources

Tim Gill (Image courtesy of YouTube)

The Gill Action Fund, a prominent LGBT political organization founded by gay philanthropist Tim Gill, has effectively been “shut down” according to two knowledgable sources.

Sources familiar with Gill Action said the recent departures of two individuals — Shawn Werner, who served as national political director, and Tim Meinke, who served as director of political outgiving — brought the group’s operations to an end.

A spokesperson confirmed the departures of the two employees, but said Gill Action continues its work. The only change is turning to a consultant model and one of the two employees was retained in that capacity, the spokesperson said.

Tim Gill and his spouse, Scott Miller, remain as engaged in political work as they’ve always been, the spokesperson said.

But one source insisted the departures — even if one is retained as a consultant — means the organization, which once had 15 employees working on political activities, has “shut down.”

“I don’t think anything exists anymore,” one source said. “It’s probably there on paper, but I know that they’re not really doing anything anymore.”

The spokesperson called the assertion Gill Action is closed “not true” and said the organization remains as active as it has been in previous capacities.

“There’s no change in the way that they’ve been doing business other than the fact that they are using consultants as opposed to using two employees in house,” the spokesperson said. “So the things that they have been funding and the things that they have been focused on for years are going to be the things that they continue to fund and continue to work on.”

As evidence of the organization’s closure, another source pointed to Gill Action’s website, which is no longer in operation. The spokesperson said the website had merely contained the bios of the two employees who left and is being redesigned, but couldn’t say when the website would be back online.

Meanwhile, the Gill Foundation, a Denver-based non-profit funder for LGBT causes, remains in operation as it has, both sources and the spokesperson said. Although the former CEO of the organization, Courtney Cuff, departed last week, the organization has launched a campaign to replace her.

No similar campaign is underway to find a new executive director for Gill Action and instead the consultants report directly to Tim Gill, the spokesperson said.

Founded in 2005, Gill Action has aimed to advance LGBT rights behind the scenes without attention in the public and the media. That’s consistent with Tim Gill’s mode of operation; he made a fortune as a founder of the software company Quark and has a reputation for being averse to media coverage.

Early efforts include a TV ad in 2006 against former Rep. Marilyn Musgrave (R-Colo.), who introduced a U.S constitutional amendment that would have banned same-sex marriage nationwide. Instead of targeting her for the anti-gay measure, the ad featured a depiction of Musgrave pilfering the graves of fallen U.S. troops during the height of the Iraq war. Musgrave didn’t lose that year, but lost her seat during the Obama Democratic wave in the 2008 election.

In 2010, when the New York State Senate failed to approve a bill that would have legalized same-sex marriage in the state, Gill Action launched a campaign called Fight Back New York, which sought to oust Democrats who voted “no.” The campaign successfully ousted three senators in the Democratic primaries, replacing them with candidates who supported same-sex marriage. New York legalized same-sex marriage in 2011.

Among the efforts in which Gill Action was engaged was passing state legislation and lobbying. In recent years, the group has sought to pass LGBT non-discrimination legislation in Michigan, but that effort failed after lawmakers wouldn’t agree to pass a trans-inclusive bill. Gill Action and others opposed the bill.

Gill Action has also had a role in managing the annual OutGiving conference, an effort for high-dollar donors seeking to give to causes that advance LGBT rights. The conference is for funders and philanthropists whose annual giving to LGBT causes exceeds $25,000. This year, OutGiving took place in May in Miami.

Traditionally, Gill Action has hosted OutGiving in even-numbered years and Gill Foundation has hosted it in odd-numbered years. The Gill Action years were political in nature, and the Gill Foundation years were philanthropic in nature.

A spokesperson said, however, the model changed in 2014. The political OutGiving was dropped in favor of regional conferences for political donors, while the model for philanthropic OutGiving remained the same. The regional conferences, the spokesperson said, will happen as planned in 2018.

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson attends the daily White House press briefings and is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

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