In the latest response to reports that Philip Anschutz, owner of Coachella parent company AEG Live, has donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to various anti-LGBTQ groups through his philanthropic foundation, a Care2 petition is making the rounds urging this year's headliners — Beyoncé, Radiohead and Kendrick Lamar — to donate their earnings from their Coachella appearances to pro-LGBTQ groups.
“Coachella drew nearly 200,000 attendees last year, generating almost $85 billion, a portion of which we now know went to organizations actively fighting to deny human rights to LGBTQ people,” the petition reads in part. (For the record, Coachella's actual 2016 gross revenue was about $85 million, according to Billboard — not $85 billion as the petition claims.) As of this writing, the petition has more tha 4,300 signatures.
The petition also accuses Anschutz, as have various other reports, of being a “drill, baby, drill” supporter of climate-change denial groups. Anschutz initially built much of his fortune in the oil industry before expanding into entertainment, and he continues to own Anschutz Exploration Corporation, an oil and gas company that sued a town in upstate New York in 2011 in a failed attempt to overturn a fracking ban.
Last week, Anschutz issued a statement through an AEG Live representative to L.A. Weekly and other publications, in which he called the reports of his support for anti-LGBTQ groups “garbage” and “fake news.” “I unequivocally support the rights of all people without regard to sexual orientation,” he said in the statement. “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 [anti-LGBTQ] causes, we have immediately ceased all contributions to such groups.” (He has yet to comment regarding his stance on climate change.)
According to public-record tax filings, the Anschutz Foundation donated $10,000 in February 2014 to the Family Research Council, whose stance on homosexuality, as stated on its website, is that it is “by definition unnatural” and “harmful to the persons who engage in it and to society at large.” FRC also supports so-called “conversion therapy” and state and federal efforts to legally ban gay marriage. “We oppose the vigorous efforts of homosexual activists to demand that homosexuality be accepted as equivalent to heterosexuality in law, in the media and in schools,” FRC's website declares.
Because no more recent tax filings from the Anschutz Foundation are publicly available, it is difficult to verify Anschutz's claim that his foundation no longer supports anti-LGBTQ groups such as the Family Research Council and the Alliance Defending Freedom, a legal organization behind many of the nation's recent anti-transgender lawsuits and legislative efforts. However, given that a staunchly anti-LGBTQ agenda is at the core of both groups’ missions, it's hard to believe that Anschutz and his foundation's managers were unaware that their money was going toward efforts to curtail basic rights of gay, lesbian and transgender Americans.
The paydays for this year's Coachella headliners have not yet been reported. But given that Guns N’ Roses may have received as much as $8 million last year (according to Billboard), it's safe to say that if all three donate even a portion of their performance fees to pro-LGBTQ groups such as the Trevor Project, Trans Lifeline and the Human Rights Campaign (as suggested by the petition), it could easily add up to more money than Anschutz has given to groups like the Alliance Defending Freedom.