Gold’s Gym spokesman: Rowling doesn’t see any profits and San Francisco franchisees are lying

This morning we put a call in to Gold’s Gym’s gayest location in Dallas, at 2425 McKinney Ave. in Uptown, to find out whether management there had any thoughts on the controversy over Robert Rowling’s $2 million in contributions to American Crossroads, the Karl Rove co-founded group that is working to help elect several anti-gay candidates across the country this election cycle.

Rowling, a Highland Park billionaire, is the CEO for TRT Holdings, which is the ownership group for both Gold’s Gym and Omni Hotels. And his contributions have led to a petition calling for Gold’s Gym to stop supporting anti-gay candidates.

We ended up talking with Brad Bean, who happens to be the district manager for Gold’s Gym’s four corporate-owned locations in Dallas. The company’s other six locations in Dallas are franchises, Bean said.

“From a corporate perspective, diversity is a core part of our organization, and we don’t discriminate,” Bean said. “We have zero tolerance. We’re not a political organization, and we don’t use our revenue source to fund political organizations.”

Bean’s statement is essentially a shortened version of the one released by Gold’s Gym International on Monday, which we’ve posted below. A copy of the statement was sent over this morning by Dave Reiseman, vice president of communications for Gold’s Gym International, which happens to be headquartered at 125 E. John Carpenter Freeway in Irving.

We also spoke with Reiseman briefly this morning, and he stressed that Rowling is not the CEO for Gold’s Gym; he is the CEO for TRT Holdings, which is the ownership group.

“Not a nickel of Gold’s Gym’s money, from our members or our franchisees or our employees, went to American Crossroads or any other political organization,” Reiseman told Instant Tea. “Gold’s Gym is an apolitical organization, and we do not donate to political causes or candidates of any kind.”

But doesn’t the company generate a profit for Rowling, who could then have given that money to American Crossroads?

“I think one day if the company is ever sold, he may make a profit there, but right now they just re-invest all the profits back into the business,” Reiseman said. “Needless to say, the LGBT community is hugely important to us. We’re proud to have a strong membership base. A lot of our employees are part of the LGBT community, and so are a lot of our employees here at the corporate office and our franchisees.”

And speaking of franchisees, Reiseman says two of them in San Francisco were flat out lying when they announced Monday that they’re leaving the brand over Rowling’s American Crossroads contributions. Rather, discussions about termination of their franchise agreements for unrelated reasons began months ago, Reiseman said. This statement is below as well.

—  John Wright

Gold’s Gym franchises respond to Bob Rowling’s donations to group backing anti-gay candidates

Earlier we told you about the LGBT community’s apparent outrage over Highland Park billionaire Robert Rowling’s contributions totaling $2 million to the Karl Rove co-founded American Crossroads, which is working to help elect several anti-gay candidates this election cycle. Well, the reaction has been swift from four Gold’s Gym franchises in the San Francisco area, which announced today that they’re severing ties with the brand over the contributions. Via The Huffington Post, here’s a statement from Don Dickerson, director of operations for Gold’s Gym Bay Area:

We were as surprised by [CEO] Mr. [Robert] Rowling’s action as anyone but because our company believes in and lives up to the ideals of equality for all we are going to take the following actions:

1: Our contractual obligation with Gold’s Gym expires on September 15th, 2012 and on or prior to that date (our legal counsel is reviewing our options) we will leave the Gold’s Gym brand. It is a major initiative to create a new brand and leave Gold’s Gym which has been our identity for over 20 years but we will begin that process today.

2: For every dollar we pay Gold’s Gym in franchise fees we will donate an equal or greater amount to LGBT charities. While we donate much more than this to charities and community groups that support the LGBT community we want to make a commitment to match or exceed this amount until our relationship with Gold’s Gym can be severed.

3: Our management and staff will continue to support LGBT causes in every way possible and we will use our business as a platform to fight for change and equality for everyone. We have always taken great pride in being a leader in the LGBT community and we will continue to.

Also, Gold’s Gym International released a statement to The Huff Po saying Rowling’s contributions were totally independent from the company. Rowling serves as CEO of the ownership group for Gold’s Gym, TRT Holdings, which also, as we noted before, owns Omni Hotels. Below is an excerpt from the Gold’s Gym International statement, which you can read in its entirety here:

Gold’s Gym did not make a donation to American Crossroads (or any other political organization) and in no way supports anti-gay causes. Quite the contrary, the Gold’s Gym family has been strong supporters of the LGBT community over the years. This includes supporting PRIDE events, sponsoring LGBT media outlets and donating to various LGBT charities in the communities we serve.

Clearly these folks recognize that their customer base is heavily LGBT, and they’re worried about the response to Rowling’s donations. Stay tuned. On Tuesday, we’ll see if we can talk to some representatives from Gold’s Gym locations in North Texas. Who ever said boycotts, or at least the threat of them, doesn’t work? Are you listening, Mr. Rowling?

—  John Wright

Is Gold’s Gym the new Target?

Robert Rowling

A few years back we wrote about how, unlike the vast majority of lodging chains, Omni Hotels doesn’t offer domestic partner benefits to its employees.

Our reporting prompted the Irving-based company to agree to offer DP benefits at the city of Dallas’ new convention center hotel, which is being built by the city and will be operated by Omni. It remains to be seen whether Omni makes good on this promise, which didn’t come directly from the company but was communicated through city officials who were trying to get voters to sign off on a bond issue to finance construction of the hotel.

Anyhow, in our initial story, we told you a little about the owner of Omni parent company TRT Holdings, Highland Park billionaire Robert Rowling. Rowling is a big-time Republican donor who’s contributed funds to some virulently anti-gay politicians over the years, including former Pennsylvania Congressman Rick Santorum.

So it wasn’t overly surprising to learn last week, via Politico, that Rowling is among the leading donors to American Crossroads, the new group co-founded by Karl Rove. As Change.org notes, American Crossroads is working to help elect some of the biggest bigots on the ballot this year, including Nevada Senate candidate Sharron Angle.

Rowling has kicked in $2 million to American Crossroads, which puts him behind only fellow Texan and Houston homebuilder Bob Perry, who’s contributed about $7 million. Bob Perry, of course, is best known to the LGBT community for helping to bankroll, to the tune of $100,000, the state’s constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage in 2005.

In fact, Rove has drawn heavily on his Texas buddies in general to fund American Crossroads, as other major donors include Trevor Rees-Jones, president of Dallas-based Chief Oil and Gas; and Dallas billionaire investor Harold Simmons, of Swift Boat and Bill Ayers fame.

But none of the contributions to American Crossroads has drawn as much attention from the LGBT community as Rowling’s, which appears to be generating a virtual firestorm in the gay blogosphere. That’s because in addition to Omni Hotels, Rowling’s TRT Holdings owns Gold’s Gym, and apparently the only thing we hold more sacred than shopping at Target is working out.

Change.org has launched a petition, which now has more than 1,700 signatures, calling on Gold’s Gym to stop supporting anti-gay politicians, and the story was picked up by Towleroad, Joe.My.God. and The Advocate over the weekend.

In other words, it looks like Gold’s Gym is the new Target, so to speak, and aren’t we lucky to have the owner living right next to our gayborhood in Highland Park? But if Gold’s Gym is really the new Target, shouldn’t Omni Hotels be the new Best Buy?

—  John Wright

Broden’s campaign literature includes anti-gay buzz words but not his party affiliation

Pastor Stephen Broden with Karl Rove

This morning I had campaign literature for Pastor Stephen Broden hanging on my front door when I left the house. He’s running for Congress against incumbent Eddie Bernice Johnson. (I include the title “Pastor” in his name because he does so in the literature.)

I assume Broden is running on the Republican ticket, because his yard signs are red and Johnson is a Democrat. But in his campaign literature he never mentions the R word. Understandable in the heavily Democratic Oak Cliff and Oak Lawn district. But on his website he does mention Tea Party.

On his website, among his list of supporters are a number of people marked “precinct chair.” None of them are listed as “Republican precinct chair,” however.

Broden uses anti-gay buzz phrases to boost his conservative cred. He’s “pro-family” as if he’s campaigning against someone who hates her family.

He’s for a “strong national defense.” Is he talking about keeping a gay translator like Lt. Dan Choi in the military or would that weaken defense? He can’t be talking about Johnson’s House vote for the huge defense appropriations bill that failed to make it through the Senate yesterday because of a Republican filibuster. Note to Broden: Waterboarding might make prisoners talk, but it doesn’t make them talk in English.

He’s for vouchers, so he can send his children to schools that won’t allow gays and lesbians to send their children to those schools. Funny, a few years ago, most Texas schools would have kept his kids out.

His No. 1 reason under “Why I’m running” is “Concern over the turn from founding principles & Judeo-Christian values to socialism.” But he never says which “Judeo-Christian” principles those would be. Probably not the Judeo ones that are quite Socialist. Like commandments about caring for the poor, the sick and treating others as you would be treated — you know, equality.

On issues, he’s pro-10th amendment. That’s the states’ rights amendment. The one that was used to justify slavery is some states since the federal government didn’t prohibit it. The one used to deny blacks the right to vote, since how to register voters was not enumerated in the Constitution and so it was left to the states. Interesting position for an African-American candidate to take.

But I found his omission of affiliation with his party the most interesting part of his door hanger and website. An Independent would actually have a better chance to win that district, but he is the Republican candidate in House District 30.

I’m glad Johnson has an opponent. I’ve lived in her district since she was my Oak Cliff state representative. But no one should be running unopposed. They should have to stand up and defend their record. But candidates should be honest and list their party. Using red ink on printed materials is a wink, wink.

More information you won’t find on his website. Yesterday, Sarah Palin endorsed Broden. On her Facebook page, Palin wrote:

It’s an honor to support Stephen Broden to represent Texas’ 30th Congressional District. As a teacher and pastor he has made it his life’s work to support the good people of the Fair Park and South Dallas areas in the beautiful Lone Star State.

I’m not sure what good a Palin endorsement will do someone in a district that was packed more than 80 percent Democratic in the last redistricting. A better question might be: Why was I reading Sarah Palin’s Facebook page?

—  David Taffet

When will Ken Mehlman stop funding anti-gay politicians like his old boss Kay Granger?

Congresswoman Kay Granger

Change.org has a piece up about how despite his pledge to support gay rights, former Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman — who came out of the glass closet on Wednesday — has continued to give money to decidedly anti-gay politicians.

One of those anti-gay politicians is Mehlman’s one-time boss, Republican Texas Congresswoman Kay Granger. According to OpenSecrets.org, Mehlman gave $2,400 to Granger in December 2009.

Mehlman served as Granger’s chief of staff in the late 1990s. That’s where Mehlman met Karl Rove, who worked as a campaign consultant for Granger. Of course Mehlman and Rove would both later go on to work for President George W. Bush. (Remarkably, despite all these Texas ties, the state’s major newspapers said very little about Mehlman’s coming out in today’s editions.)

Granger, whose district covers the western half of Tarrant County as well as Wise and Parker counties, has consistently received a zero on LGBT issues in the Human Rights Campaign’s Congressional Scorecard. Most recently, Granger voted against DADT repeal this year and against LGBT-inclusive hate crimes legislation in 2009. Here’s a snippet of Granger’s prior voting record on gay rights from OnTheIssues.org:

• Voted NO on prohibiting job discrimination based on sexual orientation. (November 2007)

• Voted YES on Constitutionally defining marriage as one-man-one-woman. (July 2006)

• Voted YES on Constitutional Amendment banning same-sex marriage. (September 2004)

• Voted YES on banning gay adoptions in DC. (July 1999)

It’s great that Mehlman has agreed to host a September fundraiser for the American Foundation for Equal Rights, the group that’s fighting Prop 8 in court. But it’s difficult to even begin to forgive him for all harm he’s inflicted on the LGBT community when he’s continuing to help inflict it by supporting our enemies.

—  John Wright

New gay Dallas artifacts: A letter from Log Cabin to Karl Rove, QL’s kissing booth and these pics

Resource Center’s Rafael McDonnell informs us that RCD has made some notable acquisitions of late for its Phil Johnson Historic Archives and Library. For example, McDonnell said activists Blake Wilkinson and Rick Vanderslice recently dropped off some Queer LiberAction memorabilia, including a megaphone and the group’s patented kissing booth. Also, some recovering ex-Log Cabin Republicans provided a copy of a letter they wrote in the 1990s to Karl Rove, then an advisor to Gov. George W. Bush (we’re dying to read this). And finally, McDonnell sent over the below photos he took of photos that came in from William Waybourn, a pioneering Dallas gay-rights activist who now lives outside of Washington, D.C. Unfortunately, many of these items will have to be placed in storage for the time being due to space concerns. But McDonnell says Waybourn’s pics are slated for display at the Center. After the jump, we’ve posted a few a more of them along with Waybourn’s descriptions.

This is a photograph I took of John Thomas in the mid-1990s. He loved it, saying it captured the essence of who he was. Later, when AIDS began to take its toll on him, John wanted it used as his “official” photo because he was concerned that people wouldn’t remember how he looked before AIDS, and not as someone ravaged by the disease. On a side note, I asked John, Bill Nelson, Mike Richards or others appearing in the media on behalf of lesbian and gay issues to look presentable, e.g. wear coats and ties, etc. John and Charlotte Taft, then Dallas’ most “out” lesbian, were always media outstanding role models, skewing people’s impression of what they thought “activists” looked and sounded like.

—  John Wright

Karl Rove is coming to DFW

Karl Rove, right, and President George W. Bush
Karl Rove, right, and President George W. Bush

Just a little heads up for all our friends out their in Instant Tea Land: Karl Rove is coming to the DFW Metroplex.

The World Affairs Council is bringing the man who was President George W. Bush’s senior advisor and deputy chief of staff to town to talk about his newly-released memoir, “My Life as a Conservative in the Fight.”

Rove will speak at the Hyatt Regency Dallas, 300 Reunion Blvd. in Dallas, on March 15 and at the Fort Worth Club, 306 W. Seventh St. in Fort Worth on March 16. Both programs start at noon.

Tickets are $55 for WAC members and their guests, and $70 for nonmembers, and can be purchased online DFWWorld.org or or by calling the council’s events hotline at 214-965-8412.

I am sure you will all want to get your tickets early. Wonder if he will stay with the Bushes while he’s in town?

—  admin

Karl Rove destroys his marriage

Karl Rove

Karl Rove

The architect of George Bush’s march to the White House and the man who engineered anti-gay marriage amendments in the name of “saving” marriage has gotten divorced.

Again. Yes. His second.

In the announcement, his spokesperson asked for privacy.

Really?

He thinks his marriage is a private matter that the press shouldn’t exploit? He thinks we should keep our noses out of it because a marriage or in this case a divorce — is a private matter? Blow it out your bigoted ear Karl.

This disgusting piece of crap is the person responsible for all of that “marriage hasn’t changed since Biblical times” and “the sanctity of marriage that gay people are trying to destroy” garbage. Something he made up to scare people. To get right wing extremists, bigots and just plain dumb people to the polls. And it worked.

By the way, what makes his exploitation of gays and lesbians so heinous is that he was raised by his two gay dads. And, apparently, he wasn’t rebelling against them. He was close to them.

But now he’s divorced. The judge should never have granted the divorce. He should have told him that in Biblical times, a divorce could only be granted by a religious panel and that there was no such thing as an “amiable” divorce. And he’d like privacy.

—  David Taffet