The Pride Fund To End Gun Violence has done almost nothing to affect Florida elections and raises/spends nearly all of its money outside of Florida.
By Jacob Engels
In the wake of the terrorist attack at Pulse nightclub, political operative and Iraq war veteran Jason Lindsay founded The Pride Fund To End Gun Violence, billing it as a continuation of his public service.
The group promised to “end gun violence” through supporting tougher gun laws and candidates that supported their mission statement. However, according to our investigation of campaign finance reports for the organization, it appears that it exists to enrich DC-area consultants and out-of-state candidates.
Since its inception, The Pride Fund To End Gun Violence has paid tens of thousands of dollars in management fees to Mr. Lindsay and his communications director Taylor Houston. In total over $50,000 has been spent on staffing, primarily to sustain healthy monthly retainers for Lindsay & Houston.
Vendors that are benefitting from paid gigs through the Pride Fund are large in part based in the DC/Virginia area, with just a handful of services being rendered by businesses employing people in the state of Florida.
They have also spent a whopping $15,000 in office rental costs in Washington D.C. and over $8,000 on travel costs and advertising/promotional costs. In one instance, it even appears that someone traveling on behalf of the Pride Fund purchased a seat upgrade, checked bags, or racked up a healthy amount of in-flight service charges on donor cash.
FEC filings reveal that of the $18,000+ donated to candidates for public office, only one Florida candidate was the recipient of financial assistance from the group, then-candidate Stephanie Murphy of Winter Park.
Murphy is also coincidentally one of the few donors to the organization based in the state of Florida. She received $1,000… the same exact amount that she donated to the Pride Fund. An individual tied to Murphy’s congressional campaign also donated several hundred dollars.
This is worth mentioning because it reveals that the Pride Fund has refused to use their checkbook or resources to promote gun control candidates in over a half-dozen major legislative elections in the state of Florida, save Stephanie Murphy who effectively purchased their support.
Aside from the one candidate (Stephanie Murphy) who “bought” the allegiance of the Pride Fund with a hefty donation that came back to help fund a video ad slamming her opponent, no financial efforts have been made thus far by the Pride Fund to effect change in the community surrounding the Pulse tragedy, or at the very least any candidates based in Florida. South Florida congressional candidate David Richardson and State House candidate Anna Eskimani have also been endorsed by the Pride Fund, according to their website.
Murphy was the first candidate to receive their backing, after her generous $1,000 donation. They then launched a digital marketing campaign accusing incumbent Congressman John Mica of having a “blood oath” with the NRA, for simply taking a campaign contribution from the nations oldest civil rights organization.
Images of the carnage at Pulse were featured extensively, to make it seem like anyone associated with the NRA is somehow complicit or supportive of those depraved acts of violence. And that is the first and only time that Mr. Lindsay and his Pride Fund conducted operations in Florida elections.
Yet, on the anniversary of Pulse and immediately after the Parkland massacre, the Pride Fund relentlessly spams their email database to ask for money, or tout their out-of-state forays.
More recently, Mr. Lindsay has described the NRA and anyone who is a member or supporter of the civil rights organization as “domestic terrorists.” A simple enough and easy enough pronouncement for someone like Lindsay, who can do so from his DC-based office with a hefty monthly retainer on the donor’s dime.
When it comes to the discussions of donors, in fact, the purpose of the Pride Fund becomes ever more clear. Out of $160,000 raised by the group, a paltry $6,250 has come from major donors based in the state of Florida, even less of that number coming from residents living in communities still reeling from the terrorist attack at Pulse.
Their donations come from the DC quid-pro-quo crowd and get spent with that same crowd of connected operatives and politically linked vendors. I will admit, Mr. Lindsay might have formed the Pride Fund with pure intentions, but the numbers reveal that it has instead become a vessel for a big payday for Lindsay, his friends, and his selected candidates that are based in the DC-bubble.
The biggest takeaway in all of this is simple. Many other organizations that share similar missions are able to operate through industry leaders who are willing to volunteer their time. They are lead by people who abide by the core tenets of their mission statement, starting their fight in their own backyard before expanding too far off places to spend donor money.
Instead, the Pride Fund has wasted almost $20,000 on rental costs in the uber-pricey DC area, when dozens of Pulse leaders and local gun control advocates would have gladly gifted office space. In sum, they have spent 99% of the money they have disbursed to non-Florida candidates, some who have won and some have lost.
The only candidate who has gotten love from the Pride Fund financially is Congresswoman Stephanie Murphy, who donated at least $1,000 to the organization according to the most recent FEC reports. They routinely send out press releases touting Murphy-linked favorable legislation, amongst other things.
Going forward into 2018, Mr. Lindsay and the Pride Fund should come clean about a few things.
1). Must a Florida candidate seeking help from the Pride Fund grease the wheels by donating and soliciting other donors on your behalf? Or in the case of David Richardson, one of the only other Florida endorsed candidates; must one be gay or linked to LGBT causes to get the Pride Funds blessing. Does being a Republican disqualify a candidate?
2). Does your organization, which is run by a combat veteran, want to explain your founder’s comments calling NRA members domestic terrorists? Does Mr. Lindsay have evidence to back up these claims? Does he consider groups like Antifa and the #Resist movement, which have a clear documented history of committing acts of violence and domestic unrest terrorists as well?
3). Why does he need such a hefty payday for being the Founder of the Pride Fund, when he bills his participation in the group as a selfless continuation of his service to his country and causes greater than his own self-interest. Do the donors of the Pride Fund know that you are using their hard earned money to enrich yourself and your DC allies? If it is about him making money that is perfectly fine, but that should be part of the mission statement for the Pride Fund and made clear to donors.
4). If a GOP candidate who has taken money from the NRA voiced support for expanded background checks or any other of your key priorities… would they get support from the Pride Fund? Has the Pride Fund endorsed any candidates other than Democratic candidates?
5). I am a member of the LGBT community who wants to prevent further gun tragedies. My solutions are different than yours. Do you allow people like me to join your board or provide input in the decision making the process at the Pride Fund? If not, how can you claim that this organization is anything but a political front group for progressive DC special interests?
Mr. Lindsay and his Communications Director Taylor Houston have refused to respond to inquiries made by the Central Florida Post via email and text message over the past year, with recent efforts having been made in the past week.
Before we get any deeper into the craziness of the 2018 election-cycle, Mr. Lindsay owes his donors and the LGBT community an explanation on his hiring practices, spending habits, and the process of evaluating candidates who receive funding or support from the Pride Fund.
Political slush funds are commonplace in the state of Florida, and even more so in Washington DC where the Pride Fund is based, spared at no-expense.
Either they are a political slush fund that is fundraising money on the backs of victims of mass shooting tragedies, or just your run of the mill idea cooked up by a political operative looking for a steady payday. A way for Mr. Lindsay to stay front-and-center, a personal vanity project.
It can’t be both and we need to know the truth about the Pride Fund sooner than later. They have an active and well-paid press shop, yet have refused to answer our questions about their finances. For months, we have attempted to reach them to no avail.
Refusal to have an open dialogue on these matters will send a crystal clear message… that the Pride Fund is a political slush-fund for DC grifters.
Jacob Engels is an Orlando based journalist whose work has been featured and republished in news outlets around the globe including Politico, InfoWars, MSNBC, Orlando Sentinel, New York Times, Daily Mail UK, Associated Press, People Magazine, ABC, Fox News, and Australia’s New Dawn Magazine. Mr. Engels focuses on stories that other news outlets neglect or willingly hide to curry favor among the political and business special interests in the state of Florida.