Experiencing the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, with its art installations, big name music artists, and thousands of attendees, has become one of the bucket-list-big-ones for many festival-goers since the events birth in October of 1999.
Last year’s attendance peaked record levels with more than 198,000 tickets sold, according to Billboard’s 2015 article, proving that popularity continues to grow with each passing year.
Yet as thousands will decidedly flock to Indio California this year, sporting their flower crowns, high-waist shorts, and glitter hair, many others are choosing to stay away as allegations of Coachella’s support of anti-equality groups rears its head above the cool Coachella surface.
With the festival raking in a staggering $84,264,264 in 2016 from a fan-base largely devoted to acceptance, love, and a healthy environment, it’s no wonder Coachella attendees are up in arms over the claim that Philip Anschutz, CEO of the Anschutz Entertainment Group and umbrella owner of Coachella, has allegedly donated to anti-LGBTQ groups, again.
Though no official 2015-2016 IRS records to corroborate or dismiss the new allegations have been released, tension remains as old wounds inflicted by Anschutz’s 2013 donations to “anti-equality groups” remain.
Past press from Freedom For All Americans (FFAA), and The New Yorker showcase both Anschutz’s financial support of the anti-progressive groups, and talks about Anschutz’s character history.
FFAA found that between 2010 and 2013 the Anschutz Foundation donated approximately $190,000 to financially aid groups which work to overturn established LGBTQ rights. These contributions supported the Alliance Defending Freedom, the National Christian Foundation, and the Family Research Council. Each seeks to push back against LGBTQ rights with lawsuits and lobbying.
The New Yorker’s character profile from 2012 talks about Anschutz’s history, but also features his support of anti-LGBTQ initiatives like proposition 8, and his tendency to try to avoid paying his taxes. It also highlights that Anschutz lobbied for the Koch brothers, oil tycoon billionaires who back Americans for Prosperity, which “lobbies for reducing oil industry regulations” and are global-warming deniers.
Chill vibes, incredible art, and awesome lineups can only go so far in the face of suspicion. Many are concerned that Coachella’s profits may be used to support anti-equality and global warming denying groups.
Although Anschutz vehemently denies it, in a statement responding to Fader’s article titled, “Coachella’s Owner is a Republican Mega-Donor Who Has Funded Anti-LGBTQ Hate Groups,” Anschutz not only dismissed the allegations as “fake news,” but goes on to say that he and the Anschutz Foundation have “immediately ceased all contributions to such groups” upon discovering that the groups supported such causes.
“Recent claims published in the media that I am anti-LGBTQ are nothing more than fake news—it is all garbage. I unequivocally support the rights of all people without regard to sexual orientation,” Anschutz said,
“Neither I nor the Foundation fund any organization with the purpose or expectation that it would finance anti-LGBTQ initiatives, and 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 such causes, we have immediately ceased all contributions to such groups.”
Anschutz seems confident in this statement that more contributions haven’t been made to anti-LGBTQ groups.
And with so many eyes waiting to follow the money on this one, two things are decidedly clear – first, Philip Anschutz’s days of staying out of the public eye in order to privately support his values (even if they aren’t consistent with the brand he’s selling) are over. Second, Coachella’s community of progressives will either have to accept that this festival’s fees could very well go towards highly unfavorable causes, or they’ll have to abstain from the long running festival altogether in order to truly stand by their values with their consumer dollars.
A community ripe with acceptance, like Coachella, is a place where intolerance usually takes a backseat to progressiveness; but with the evidence stacking up against Anschutz – attendees can’t be sure that the cost of a ticket isn’t contributing to losing some ground in the LGBTQ fight for equal rights, or in the ongoing struggle for the safety of our planet.