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The Weiland donation

Not too often do you see a single donation that realistically could become a significant political game changer. But the Seattle Times has a story today about one such that could have real impact over time.

The background to that is the heated political battles over gay rights issues, from anti-discrimination to same-sex marriage to other matters – a hot political topic.

The news is a donation from Ric Weiland, who was one of the first five employees at Microsoft and consequently, wound up with a lot of money. After his suicide in 2006, most of his estate, $160 million, went to charities. (Most of the time since has been spent in sifting through the many legal details.) More than $19 million is going to a group based in Seattle called the Pride Foundation.

The Pride Foundation works in the Pacific Northwest, based around Washington, Oregon and Idaho (and somewhat beyond); its website says it “connects, inspires and strengthens the Pacific Northwest Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community in pursuit of equality. We accomplish this in rural and urban areas by awarding grants and scholarships and cultivating leaders.” It has done this actively, apparently, but on midest scale; it operates in part off a $3 million endowment. Up to now, that has made it not so different from a range of many other social interest organizations.

Weiland’s donation increases that endowment to $22 million – an order of magnitude at least. As for how the money will be used, the Times summarizes, “The money will support anti-discrimination campaigns and programs to help youths, develop future leaders and provide scholarships.”

This not a small deal. And it will have an effect on politics, gradually but clearly over time, all over the region.

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