Tuesday, June 21, 2011

GLAAD, AT&T, Barrios: The Fallout Continues

Jarrett Barrios may be on his way out, but many of the details surrounding the AT&T gaywashing scandal continue to emerge, shining a bright light on Barrios's tenure, exposing further questionable actions on the part of the former GLAAD president. Yesterday I referred to sources telling me that Barrios had paid his administrative assistant Jeanne Cristiano in part from his political campaign committee as a political candidate in Massachusetts (where he was a state legislator), in addition to her salary at GLAAD.

These records confirm that in fact Cristiano was paid $15,000 from Barrios's campaign finance committee in 2010 and in 2009 she was paid $7,500 toward the end of the year, after she took the job with GLAAD. Cristiano, a long-time aide and confident of Barrios's, is indeed named at the top of the documents as the Treasurer of the Barrios Committee, an officer of the campaign. Many politicians keep their campaign committees open should they decide to run again in the future, and Barrios has over $500,000 in campaign funds. When not running for office the expenditures should be minimal. For the most part they are in this case -- except for the payments to Cristiano.

If you look you'll see that most of the expenditures in 2010 -- the total of which amount to little over $40,000 -- amount to financial service fees, tax payments and one payment to an accountant, all standard fees. But there are two very curious payments to JMC, Inc., at 53 Abbott Avenue, in Everett, MA. Property records show that the home at that address is owned by Jeanne M. Cristiano, and the two payments, presumably to her company, JMC, are for $7,500 each for "database management." But what database management is required of a dormant political campaign, and should it cost $15,000 a year?

During that time, Cristiano, as treasurer of Barrios Committee, was also getting a salary at GLAAD as Jarrett Barrios's administrative assistant. But according to one former GLAAD staffer, that position had been phased out in budget cuts by former GLAAD President Neil Giuliano, who instituted a reduction of force. The position was eliminated before Barrios got there, for cost saving. Somehow Barrios managed to carve out money for that position. But perhaps it wasn't enough money to cover Cristiano's needs so he supplemented her with $15,000 from his campaign committee and called it "database management." Whether or not that is the case, and whether or not her "database management" work on the campaign is legit, this arrangement surely raises a variety of serious ethical questions.

Meanwhile, the extent of AT&T's attempts to buy influence in the LGBT community, and LGBT groups' interactions with the FCC, are coming into sharper focus. Bil Browning at Bilerico reports that Barrios and GLAAD board member Tony Varona -- who several insiders describe as Barrios's chief sponsor on the board, having brought him in and remaining his main defender until recently -- had "met with the FCC chief Bill Lake and Deputy Director Bob Radcliffe in mid-May of last year. Varona is a former FCC attorney." (Emphasis added.) According to a GLAAD spokesman speaking to Bilerico, they "met with the FCC in May 2010 to discuss GLAAD's involvement in present and future FCC proceedings (including broadband proliferation items, public interest programming initiatives, etc.)"

And yesterday I and others received an email from the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. They too now claim they were duped by AT&T's "trojan horse" form letter, in which AT&T sent the groups a letter for them to just sign and send to the FCC regarding net neutrality. The NGLTF letter was the same letter that GLAAD sent to the FCC, and though it is written in a way that makes it seem innocuous or in favor of net neutrality, it is, to the eye of those in the telecommunications industry, an anti-net neutrality letter. Like GLAAD, NGLTF withdrew the letter once the deception was brought to their attention. Unlike GLAAD they didn't lie or cover-up the letter, nor did they go on to back the merger of AT&T and T-Mobile. According to their statement, the dupe had them revisit their policies:

"The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force submitted a letter to the Federal Communications Commission on Jan. 5, 2010, about rules and regulations regarding net neutrality. The letter was a response to a request by AT&T. However, we quickly realized that we had not gone through an appropriate internal process on such policy matters and that the Jan. 5 letter did not accurately reflect our views and was a mistake. As a result, on Jan. 14, the Task Force submitted an additional letter to the FCC clarifying the organization's position on net neutrality."

"The Task Force has established a clearer internal review process that applies to any request for sign-on or policy endorsement from any group, organization or corporate partner. We have not issued any additional letters on net neutrality. Additionally the Task Force has declined requests from our corporate partner AT&T for further action regarding this issue and declined requests to write a letter regarding the proposed merger between AT&T and T-Mobile."

How can any group continue to have a relationship with a corporation that is trying to trick the group into backing its policies to government agencies? Of course, the groups allowed themselves to fall for it. It is absolutely astounding how eager they are to please the corporations to the point where they don't even carefully read a letter to which they are committing themselves and the LGBT community -- every one of us.