Alfie Pettit’s Response to LA Weekly’s article, “Mission Drift at Gay INC.”
This is Alfie Pettit's response to excerpts from LA Weekly's article, "Mission Drift at Gay Inc."
Link to the full article is at the bottom of this page.
August 11, 2019
EXCERPTS FROM AN LA WEEKLY ARTICLE ON GEOFF KORS
For the purpose of comment, criticism and reporting by Alfie Pettit Candidate for City
Council, District 3.
MISSION DRIFT AT GAY INC.
PATRICK RANGE MCDONALD
JANUARY 6, 2011
Two weeks before Christmas, Geoff Kors lingers over the finishing touches to an op-ed piece
he's writing for The Bottom Line, a gay magazine based in Palm Springs. Dressed in black
jeans, a dark-gray sweater and black-leather shoes, he sits in his small, two-window office in
San Francisco and stares intently at a wide screen. The founding executive director of Equality
California wants people to know exactly what he has accomplished in nine years.
A practice he is known to use is to take credit for efforts others have made. This is
demonstrated over and over again when you read excerpts from this 2011 article written for the
As in his farewell op-ed in The Bottom Line, Kors has been quick to take credit, sending out a
crush of press releases and e-mail blasts often accompanied by a plea to contribute money to
Equality California — a Kors technique that has made the organization cash-rich.
Kors has repeatedly focused on the money machine and not the grassroots organizations that
have helped build Equality California.
Yet as he prepares to leave, Kors and the group are drawing criticism from surprising quarters.
Former state senator Sheila Kuehl, the first openly gay person elected to the California State
Legislature, who worked on many gay rights bills until she was termed out in 2008, tells L.A.
Weekly, “Equality California never really convinced legislators on their own [to pass a bill], but
inevitably something would pass — and they'd send out a press release taking all the credit. I
never thought they were team players. They would take credit, and it was more credit than they
Sheila Kuehl, now a member of the Los Angeles Board of County Supervisors for District 3, was
one of the first to publicly comment on the headline grabbing and self serving efforts of Kors.
Those press releases and e-mails touting Equality California as a supremely effective lobbying
team have meant great riches for the group,... Equality California receives millions of dollars
from the gay community each year.
But Kors has become a controversial figure. He played a key, and widely criticized, role in the
failed campaign to stop Proposition 8, California's 2008 anti–gay marriage ballot measure. A top
player on the No on 8 campaign's executive committee, Kors strongly influenced TV ads and
field operations as polls showed the measure to block gay marriage was foundering. After
voters turned tables and approved the gay marriage ban, the group's campaign decisions were
roundly attacked for being created in isolation by Kors and other gay rights insiders.
Kors leadership failure on the No on 8 campaign has clearly been forgotten by all of the
distractions he creates with his self congratulatory style. He even took a long vacation during
the summer of 2008 just months prior to the election, evidently miscalculating the trajectory of
the No on 8 campaign.
In particular, they failed to detect or address strong anti–gay marriage sentiment among Latino
and black voters in big, Southern California cities like Los Angeles, and in working-class inland
counties such as San Bernardino and Riverside.
L.J. Carusone, a gay rights activist who worked with Kors at Equality California, describes the
executive director as a “tyrant.” “It's funny how strong and forceful he can be,” Carusone says,
“but when it comes to people, he lacks people skills.”
Kors behavior on the Palm Springs City Council has continued to prove this statement is still
accurate, in particular how he has treated Mayor Robert Moon. From calling Moon “just a ribbon
cutter” to aggressively removing the limited powers of the Mayor like committee appointments in
various Coachella Valley organizations, to ultimately orchestrating the dissolution of the elected
Mayor at large by the voters of Palm Springs, Kors has maintained an aggressive vendetta like
posture with a Moon. Certainly Ginny Foat has been cheering Kors on after losing the race for
Mayor to Moon. Kors and Foat and their spouses have a friendship relationship that has been
going on for years.
Critics charge that Kors, intent on building an empire, makes a critical error by snubbing the
smaller, grassroots gay rights organizations that bring new blood, ideas and contact with
ordinary people. For critics, Equality California,...some derisively call “Gay Inc.” — a handful of
gay rights groups that operate as self-focused money machines.
Kors only gives lip service to the disenfranchised and marginalized members of our community.
Like running to the “cooling center” at Demuth Park when it opened, for a quick photo op with
the local television news reporters.
In 2008 Kors' approach backfired when the No on 8 campaign spent enormous sums yet failed
to tap grassroots activists and organizers to supply troops for an effective field operation to
reach uneasy voters, particularly blacks and Latinos.
Critics suggest Equality California does only what's best for Gay Inc. “Equality California works
in a reactionary way,” says gay rights advocate Robin McGehee, a gay leader who works on
difficult turf in conservative Fresno. “So if someone is doing something good, Equality California
finds a way to get connected to it and raises money from it. But the engagement is not
Authenticity is what I have been looking for from Kors and it has been truly lacking. There
seems to be one agenda and that is to hang on to power and money at the expense of others.
One harsher assessment, from Scott Schmidt, a gay rights activist and president of the Log
Cabin Republicans of Los Angeles, is: “He's (Kors) a lightning rod. Some people don't want
anything to do with him.”
A sentiment I have been repeatedly hearing while speaking to citizens of Palm Springs when I
was getting signatures to get on the ballot for November 5th. This same unlikability factor of
Kors has been expressed to me while visiting with people at VillageFest on Thursday evenings.
(Harvey) Milk, the first openly gay man elected to public office in the United States, was
assassinated by another elected San Francisco supervisor in 1978, and he's viewed as a gay
martyr and hero….
…Equality California, represents a type of corporatization of the gay rights movement that Milk,
in (Cleve Jones' opinion, would have abhorred: “It's the antithesis of what Harvey stood for,” he
“Gay Inc. are organizations with folks who are more concerned about their jobs than advancing
gay liberation,” says San Francisco blogger and gay rights activist Michael Petrelis, one of the
most tenacious critics of Gay Inc. groups.
Gay Inc.'s brand of activism is polite and, critics say, elitist — the opposite of Harvey Milk's
people-power politics — and it aims to maintain and increase the groups' power and influence to
keep the money coming in.
“They need everyone to be loyal to them and to write checks to them,” says gay rights veteran
Bottini,...“It's all about the money.”
This current Council including Kors is continuing the same power politics driven by money,
elitism and advantage. This is why a grassroots movement must take place in Palm Springs
politics to shakeup the establishment and address the needs and wants of Palm Springs
One thing is certain: Equality California hit the jackpot in 2008, raising nearly $15 million from
private contributors, most of which was spent on No on 8 ...critics say the money spent on the
campaign — some $40 million — was wasted thanks to Kors' decision, two years earlier, to halt
efforts to build a solid grassroots movement in California.
I am sure that Kors will outspend me in this race and the private contributors to his campaign
will keep the status quo money machine flowing. I am determined to be the voice of the people
and not of well oiled political machines. I ask my opponent what is his next step. I am sure this
election is just a springboard to higher office. Look who was in attendance in his backyard
recently at a fundraiser for an event unrelated to this campaign.
Kors concedes Proposition 8 was a “terrible loss” personally and professionally. “You have
10-plus million people voting, and they voted as they voted...
But former state Sen. Sheila Kuehl says it's time the activists shook up their old system. “I
thought for a long time Equality California needed different leadership — it needs to be more
collaborative,” she says.
I have been hearing from so many voters that Palm Springs needs new leadership. Candidates
that are listening to the needs of the community that lives here, not just the ones that do
business in Palm Springs.
In May 2009, Geoff Kors was in Sacramento, lobbying with Mark Leno's help for a bill to
establish a statewide holiday in honor of Harvey Milk. With heavy criticism still coming his way
over the surprise passage of Proposition 8, Kors may have had a motivation beyond honoring
Milk. Consistently described by his admirers and critics as a die-hard political strategist, Kors
also seemed to be in search of an upbeat headline that would take the focus off his role in
Proposition 8's victory.
In the next couple months I expect Kors to use this same tactic of shifting focus from the issues
to his perceived legacy of all the things he has supposedly accomplished. It is going to be the
Kors Me Me Me campaign.
Mark Leno got Milk screenwriter Dustin Lance Black, who had just won an Academy Award for
the film, to testify before the California State Senate committee, with Kors giving him a ride to
After Black gave a short, impassioned speech to the Legislature, Kors tried to introduce the
screenwriter to various elected officials with offices in the Capitol. For Black, that was fine if it
meant getting votes for Harvey Milk Day.
But the two men got the cold shoulder, stunning Black. Legislators refused to see Kors or the
Oscar-winning screenwriter. “I quickly got the impression that Geoff wasn't the most...beloved
figure in the Capitol,” Black says. “To say it was a cool reception understates it.”
At one point, they waited 20 minutes to see a legislator, until Black realized the meeting wasn't
going to happen and told Kors they should leave.
Then, some weeks after Black's visit to Sacramento, a legislator approached him. He
apologized for not greeting the screenwriter the day he came by but said he couldn't stand to be
The remark left Black ill at ease,...“I wanted to like the guy,” Black says, sounding a theme
repeated by many of Kors' critics, “but I've seen a pattern of mistakes.
Just a few years ago I was at an event for Geoff Kors and had a similar reaction of wanting to
like the guy but nothing he has done has ever brought that to fruition.
Two weeks after Black's interview with the Weekly, Kors announced he was stepping down.
Palm Springs voters must vote to symbolically ask Geoff Kors to step down. One term has been
more than enough for Kors. Vote for Alan “Alfie Pettit on November 5th for Palm Springs City
Council, District 3.
A link to the full LA Weekly article is below. Allegedly Kors has used an expensive firm or
Reputation Management Company to scrub the internet of negative news articles. We were
provided access to it by a supporter.