Chick-fil-A: No, we didn't promise the Chicago alderman we'd stop giving to anti-SSM groups

Help me figure this out. Two days ago, the local ward boss in Chicago declared victory in getting Chick-fil-A to agree not to donate to groups opposed to legalizing gay marriage as a condition of granting them a permit to open a new franchise in his district. Quote:

As a result of the negotiations, Mr. Moreno received a letter signed by John E. Featherston Jr., a senior director of real estate for Chick-fil-A, stating, “The WinShape Foundations is now taking a much closer look at the organizations it considers helping, and in that process will remain true to its stated philosophy of not supporting organizations with political agendas.”

Mr. Moreno said in an interview Wednesday that he believes the company will stop “using money to fund groups that have antigay causes. They have committed in writing they will not do that.”

Yesterday, Chick-fil-A released the following statement:

“For many months now, Chick-fil-A’s corporate giving has been mischaracterized,” executives said in today’s statement. “And while our sincere intent has been to remain out of this political and social debate, events from Chicago this week have once again resulted in questions around our giving. For that reason, we want to provide some context and clarity around who we are, what we believe and our priorities in relation to corporate giving.

“A part of our corporate commitment is to be responsible stewards of all that God has entrusted to us. Because of this commitment, Chick-fil-A’s giving heritage is focused on programs that educate youth, strengthen families and enrich marriages, and support communities. We will continue to focus our giving in those areas. Our intent is not to support political or social agendas.

“As we have stated, the Chick-fil-A culture and service tradition in our restaurants is to treat every person with honor, dignity and respect — regardless of their belief, race, creed, sexual orientation or gender. We will continue this tradition in the over 1,600 restaurants run by independent Owner/Operators.”

Hmmm. Not clear where they stand? Then maybe today’s statement, posted on Mike Huckabee’s site, will set you straight:

“There continues to be erroneous implications in the media that Chick-fil-A changed our practices and priorities in order to obtain permission for a new restaurant in Chicago. That is incorrect. Chick-fil-A made no such concessions, and we remain true to who we are and who we have been.”

What wrinkle here am I missing? Note that in the letter to Moreno, the Chicago alderman, they never explicitly said they’d stop funding anti-SSM groups; they merely said that they’d “take a much closer look” at the groups they were donating to. Yesterday’s statement seems to draw a subtle distinction between groups with “political agendas” and programs that “strengthen families and enrich marriages,” as if there’s no overlap potentially between those concepts. Essentially, as I read it, they’re suggesting that their donations to groups opposed to legalizing gay marriage aren’t really “political” donations but merely funding for “stronger families.” Is that the loophole they had in mind when they wrote to Moreno, or is there some other nuance here that’s escaping me? And if they planned to thwart Moreno all along, why reveal the plan so soon when he can still block their new franchise? Better to either string him along for awhile until the new business is up and running or just sue him outright and demand that the city protect their First Amendment rights to support the causes they favor.

Or is there an entirely different loophole at work here, with Chick-fil-A now determined to continue steering money to anti-SSM groups but not through their own charity? Slate notes that CFA’s latest charity event includes registration forms that ask donors to send the money directly to the organization being sponsored rather than to Chick-fil-A’s charitable foundation. They’re still raising money for their cause, in other words, they’re just not acting as a direct financial conduit. Problem is, that contradicts today’s statement insisting that the company hasn’t changed its practices at all. What am I missing here?