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Coachella's parent company is donating major cash to an anti-abortion political organization
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June 24, the day the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, the Republican Attorneys General Association reached out to its supporters with an urgent plea for money: “[E]very donation will help Republican Attorneys General combat the Democrats’ pro-abortion agenda and stand tall for life.”
Several days later, on June 29, according to a filing submitted to the IRS in July, the Anschutz Corporation — a massive holding company that famously owns the live music giant AEG Presents, the parent company of several major festivals, including Coachella — made a donation of $75,000 to RAGA. The money from Anschutz Corporation comes as RAGA gears up for election season with the aim of installing Attorneys General who will enforce and champion anti-abortion laws in key states where abortion rights remain in limbo, such as Wisconsin, Michigan, Arizona, Ohio, and Florida.
The Anschutz Corporation denies that it or its owner received, saw, or was aware of the RAGA fundraising solicitation, noting in a statement to Rolling Stone and Popular Information that they have been donating to RAGA since 2014 and that “[a]s a personal matter, Philip F. Anschutz believes in a woman’s right to choose and did not support the reversal of Roe.”
RAGA's opposition to abortion rights is well-established. Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch, a member of RAGA, was in charge of the legal strategy to eliminate the constitutional right to an abortion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, the Supreme Court case that overturned Roe. In July 2021, 24 of the 26 other members of RAGA submitted an amicus brief in support of Fitch. "The Court’s abortion precedent is erroneous, inconsistent, uneven, and unreliable," the Republican Attorneys General wrote. "Roe and Casey should be overruled." (The only current members of RAGA that didn't sign the brief were New Hampshire Attorney General John Formella, who assumed office in April 2021, and Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares, who was elected after the brief was signed.)
AEG Presents and its subsidiary, Goldenvoice (which presents Coachella and Stagecoach), are just a couple of stars in the massive galaxy that is Anschutz Corporation’s holdings. Still, it is notable that Anschutz revenues will be used by RAGA to support these efforts, when part of that revenue is driven by ticket sales to concerts and festivals headlined by major artists who have been fiercely critical of conservative attacks on reproductive rights.
After a draft opinion of Dobbs leaked back in May, at least 15 artists who performed at Coachella this year — including Billie Eilish, Megan Thee Stallion, and Phoebe Bridgers — signed a full-page ad in The New York Times condemning the Court’s actions. “Our power to plan our own futures and control our own bodies depends on our ability to access sexual and reproductive health care, including abortion," the artists said in the ad. "We will not back down — and we will not go back."
After the actual ruling was handed down, Harry Styles, another Coachella 2022 headliner, wrote on Twitter that he was “devastated” by the decision. Eilish, who performed at Glastonbury in the U.K. the day the decision was announced, told the crowd, “Today is a really, really dark day for women in the US.” And Megan Thee Stallion also used her Glastonbury platform to proclaim, “And I want to have it on the motherfucking record that the hot boys and the hot girls do not support this bullshit that y’all campaign for. My body is my motherfucking choice.”
Other Coachella 2022 performers who spoke out against the Dobbs ruling, or have supported pro-choice efforts in the past, include Maggie Rogers, Finneas, Arcade Fire, and Kim Petras. Beyond Coachella, the outspoken artist Maren Morris also played the AEG/Goldenvoice country festival Stagecoach this year (Brandi Carlile, who criticized the Dobbs decision, was scheduled to play Stagecoach too, but had to cancel due to Covid-19). And politically-minded acts like Halsey, Green Day, Dua Lipa, Charli XCX, Yungblud, and Willow are playing AEG’s Firefly Festival in Dover, Delaware in September.
Reps for Styles, Eilish, Finneas, Megan Thee Stallion, Arcade Fire, Morris, Carlile, Halsey, Green Day, Dua Lipa, Charli XCX, Yungblud, and Willow did not immediately return requests for comment; Petras, Rogers, and Bridgers were not immediately available for comment, according to their representatives.
In a statement to Rolling Stone and Popular Information, AEG responded as follows: "AEG, AEG Presents, Goldenvoice and its other subsidiaries, as one company, stands firmly in support of a woman's right to choose. As owner and producer of many of the most inclusive festivals and venues on the planet, we have taken strides to make our position on this clear. On June 28, in the wake of the troubling overturning of Roe v. Wade and with the full support of The Anschutz Corporation, we informed all our employees that we will be covering travel and lodging expenses for women who need to leave their home state for reproductive health services including abortion. We remain, as ever, committed to choice, freedom, and access to full reproductive health options for women."
In March 2022, records show that the Anschutz Corporation also contributed a combined $750,000 to the Senate Leadership Fund and the House Leadership Fund — super PACs seeking to put Republicans back in control of the House and Senate. Senator Mitch McConnell has said that, if his party regains control of Congress, he would consider a national abortion ban.
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That the Anschutz Corporation donated $75,000 to RAGA, and larger amounts to other Republican committees, should not be a surprise. The company — which is owned by 82-year-old billionaire Philip Anschutz — has garnered plenty of attention and notoriety in the past for donations to right-wing groups, though his representatives have noted that he has also given to many other groups and tell Rolling Stone he does not "review or support each of the positions" taken by these groups.
The Anschutz Corporation’s statement, in full, reads: “As a personal matter, Philip F. Anschutz believes in a woman’s right to choose and did not support the reversal of Roe. Neither The Anschutz Corporation (TAC), or Mr. Anschutz, received, saw or was aware of a Republican Attorneys General Association (RAGA) fundraising solicitation based on the reversal of Roe v. Wade. TAC has contributed to RAGA since at least 2014. No contribution to RAGA by TAC or Mr. Anschutz has been based upon, informed by, or motivated by any RAGA position on Roe or abortion. Mr. Anschutz makes contributions to numerous organizations, usually for specific reasons. He does not review or support each of the positions taken by such organizations."
In 2017, Anschutz was criticized after his foundation reportedly donated to anti-LGBTQ groups including the Alliance Defending Freedom, the National Christian Foundation, and the Family Research Council. Anschutz denied accusations that he was anti-LGBTQ, calling the claims “fake news,” and adding, “I unequivocally support the rights of all people without regard to sexual orientation.”
At the time, Anschutz said he would stop funding any groups involved in anti-LGBTQ activities. And while contributions to the aforementioned groups did stop, Pitchfork reported in 2018 that Anschutz was still giving money to smaller organizations with a history of anti-LGBTQ statements and activities. Among them were the popular Christian youth ministry Young Life which, as of last year was welcoming LGBTQ youth, but not allowing them to serve as volunteers or staff members. (Following Pitchfork’s report, a lawyer for Anschutz said, “We are proud of the progress we have made in this regard, but there is always room for improvement.”)
Like many corporations after the Dobbs ruling, AEG promised last month to cover travel and lodging expenses for employees whose access to reproductive healthcare is under threat. "We understand that the issue of reproductive rights is deeply important to our employees, and we are committed to supporting you and your family with healthcare that continues to provide medical and prescription coverage for reproductive health services including abortions," the company wrote in an email viewed by Rolling Stone.
The upcoming election in Wisconsin is a clear example of how critical Attorneys General races will be in a post-Roe world. The state’s current AG, Democrat Josh Kaul, has said he would “not investigate or prosecute” anyone in violation of the state’s 1849 law banning abortion, which remained on the books, but was not enforced, after Roe was decided in 1973. Kaul also recently sued to block the ban after it was triggered by Dobbs.
The three Republicans aiming to unseat Kaul this November have all said they would enforce the state’s abortion ban if elected. And regardless of who wins the Republican primary for AG next month, the Republican Attorneys General Association will be ready to provide help, having already reserved $682,250 in TV ad time for spots opposing Kaul to run in October and November.