Bil Browning

The Scandal Grows: Gay AT&T Lobbyist's Role Exposed

Filed By Bil Browning | June 21, 2011 10:15 AM | comments

Filed in: Media, The Movement
Tags: AT&T, charitable donation, GLAAD, LGBT media, T-Mobile

The GLAAD/AT&T scandal continues to grow as it engulfs other civil rights organizations and media outside of the LGBT community have started to take notice of the role of one specific gay lobbyist.

AT&T-no-service.jpgHere's a quick roundup of some of the best stories out in the past 24 hours. Several include new information not previously reported - especially about the role Troup Coronado, a not-so-former AT&T lobbyist and bigwig with many LGBT groups, has played in the unraveling scandal.

Michelangelo Signorile has doggedly continued digging into the GLAAD president's finances and discovered more payments made to Jarrett Barrios' longtime aide from his campaign funds. While I was able to account for $7500 paid out in 2009, Mike has found even more payments in "GLAAD, AT&T, Barrios: The Fallout Continues."

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 committee's 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.

Several others after the break - including all the shocking news about Troup Coronado.

coronado.jpegPolitico is starting to focus on Troup Coronado, the GLAAD and Equality California board member who's a former lobbyist for AT&T and actively sought LGBT support for the merger.

Gay rights activists argue that GLAAD had no place offering a position on the deal and the organization needs to reassess its policies.

But the real brouhaha centers around allegations that Barrios backed AT&T's bid to win support from GLAAD board member Troup Coronado -- a former executive and one-time registered lobbyist for AT&T. Some gay rights advocates are also calling for Coronado to step down from the board as well.

[GLAAD's board co-chair Roxanne] Jones declined to comment on the allegations about Coronado and whether the board is discussing if he should leave the organization.

In one of the best pieces of reporting to date, Chris Geidner of MetroWeekly examines Coronado's role in securing support from the queer community for AT&T's anti-net neutrality stance. One short blockquote isn't nearly enough to do this article justice. You have to go read the entire piece.

...a GLAAD board member, Troup Coronado, served as AT&T's vice president for external affairs in Los Angeles until about six months ago. And, according to National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Executive Director Rea Carey - herself very familiar with Coronado's LGBT lobbying - Coronado continues to serve as a consultant to AT&T through his current business, Troup Consulting Group Inc.

In his various roles, Coronado has served as the LGBT organizational liaison for AT&T in recent years. In addition, he has served as a board member for the Equality California Institute and GLAAD, a member of the Human Rights Campaign's Business Council until March 2010, the dinner co-chair for the National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC) in 2009, and as the spokesman for AT&T when the company received an award from The Trevor Project in 2009.

Most recently, however, Coronado was the consultant helping AT&T get LGBT support for its proposed merger with T-Mobile. In part, he succeeded. GLAAD submitted a letter to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in support of the merger that was similar to letters of support sent by other organizations, including NGLCC and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).

In fact, the directors of multiple LGBT organizations report that Coronado requested that their organization sign a letter - referred to by NGLCC president Justin Nelson as the ''LGBT sign-on'' - supporting the merger. The Task Force's Carey said that her group was approached by Coronado but turned down the request. An HRC spokesman also said that AT&T - but not Coronado - had asked HRC to send a letter supporting the merger but that the organization declined to do so.

Michael Triplett, a board member for the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, weighs in for Mediate with praise for the LGBT blogosphere and confirms that AT&T has been actively courting LGBT groups - including hosting a gathering for top AT&T officials and LGBT org leaders. Coronado, of course, organized the luncheon.

The significant role the LGBT media played in Barrios' downfall is reflected in the Politico story analyzing Barrios' resignation, where technology reporter Jennifer Martinez prominently quotes Aravosis, Signorile, and Bilerico's Bil Browning. This was a story largely driven by LGBT bloggers and online media, as well as Signorile (who works online and at Sirius/XM). The story had a crowd-sourcing feel to it, with many journalists and activists pouring over letters to the FCC, GLAAD and AT&T financial records, and other data in order to determine what happened between AT&T and GLAAD.

In the end, the attention from inside and outside the LGBT media became too much and Barrios resigned despite signals 24 hours earlier that he wasn't going to. There are now calls for the resignation of Troup Coronado-who has worked for AT&T as a lobbyist and has long ties to both AT&T and the LGBT movement-from GLAAD's board.

(Full disclosure: I attended, on behalf of NLGJA, a 2010 luncheon organized in Washington by Coronado on behalf of AT&T in order for a top AT&T official to meet with the leaders of LGBT organizations and discuss their outreach to minority groups, including the LGBT community. NLGJA, as an organization representing journalists, has not been asked and has not taken any position on the merger or net-neutrality.)

Last but not least, The Wrap, a site known for reporting Hollywood news. I'm quoted in this piece pointing out that the issue is much larger than just GLAAD. It's called, "GLAAD Burned By Blogosphere in AT&T Scandal."

Yet, some activists and bloggers believe that under Barrios, GLAAD was doing more to move outside the Capitol Hill back rooms and corporate boardrooms and into the digital age.
That sure grasp of how to use the internet to advance GLAAD's agenda was noticeably absent in the way Barrios' tried to control the AT&T scandal. Barrios could never adequately explain why GLAAD strayed from its mandate to police popular representations of gays and lesbians, and instead initially denied knowledge of one of the letters to the FCC regarding net neutrality and tried to shift blame to subordinates.

Had Barrios owned up to the group's controversial behavior earlier, instead of offering half-truths and shirking responsibility, it's possible he might have survived the blogo-blood bath that he unwittingly helped inspire.

(Photo of Troup Coronado via MetroWeekly. Stock photo imgsrc)

Catch up on the controversy with additional coverage from The Bilerico Project:

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I'm so proud of our community -- our very own GLAAD-gate.

I read through your list. As strenuous as your efforts have been to build this story into a "scandal", I don't think it is there (yet).

This isn't really on the big radar screens. It's a weak station at the end of the dial.

The actual center of the story is Troup Coronado—whose name in and of itself is delicious—and whether or not he is guilty of inappropriate action on behalf of AT&T. People are chosen to be on boards because they bring a dowry of some sort. Sometimes money, sometimes power, sometimes influence, sometimes fame. In the reporting on this story I sense some resentment for Troup Coronado because he has a dowry of some sort. This is amateur reporting, and I would be dismayed if you went in that direction.

Also, the muckraking about what Barrios paid or didn't pay an administrative assistant seems not to be related to the story. Am I reading Bilerico or a tabloid in a supermarket check-out line?

Is it foolish for me to hope for better, more level-headed reporting? I know you could do it. If you wanted to.

Father Tony,

I disagree with your implication that Bil is trying to "turn this into" a scandal. He's not performing any kind of sensationalistic journalism here. For the record, this has been picked up heavily in our local media (print and broadcast) in the Boston area etc.

Having read your comments on multiple posts on the Barrios issue, I suspect they are primarily indicative of personal relationships within the community. Although I fully concede I may be wrong.

I don't deny Jarrett has paid his dues in the movement. I'm a 7 year Bostonian who worked professionally and in a volunteer capacity incredibly closely on the marriage equality fight here. I know well the good work he has done politically and otherwise. That said, there's no denying that from the get go this was a questionable hire. Jarrett received this job over at least 2 that I am personally aware of more well credentialed candidates.

The reality is that this is the most egregious in a series of really questionable leadership moves in his tenure at the organization. I'm fully in agreement that if he had come clean from the outset and tried to rectify this rather than lying and covering things up, this may not have been such a mess. Similarly, he has attempted to throw at least one staff member under the proverbial bus in this most recent AT&T issue. These are more than questionable or shaky decisions. They show a real lack of leadership capacity and judgement necessary to run an organization like GLAAD. Do I think that there are deeper issues on the GLAAD board and elsewhere that need to be looked at with scrutiny? Yes.

Did the media play a role in his resignation? Yes, they did. However, a good, solid leader without anything to hide or a badly embattled track record, generally doesn't fold so quickly.

Hello Heidi Ward,

Your suspicion is incorrect. I have associated with the folks at GLAAD only at the events they sponsor. Beyond those occasions, I have had no interaction or relationship with any of them.

I admire good reporting and good writing.