At Jon Huntsman's Washington Fundraiser, Unorthodox Conservative Positions Welcome
WASHINGTON -- Jon Huntsman is cut from a different cloth. Or so his pre-presidential announcement campaign video would have you think. This isn't a pro forma talking head announcement, nor is it a Michael Bay-style freedom fest. It's a single shot of a helmeted man riding an off-road motorcycle cutting across the wide-open west. He's Evel Knievel, not a maverick. A Republican fluent in Mandarin, who cuts across orthodoxy -- and has served the "worst president in history." We're told that on June 21, Huntsman will become famous for something other than being in a band named "Wizard." This candidate is different.
On the same day Huntsman announced his difference from tradition, the soon-to-be-candidate hosted a decidedly traditional event in Washington. On Wednesday night, Huntsman's political action committee, HPAC, hosted a rooftop fundraiser with lobbyists, consultants and public relations professionals from inside Washington.
An early release featuring names of event co-chairs -- those contributing $1,000 or more -- featured at least 12 lobbyists. The lobbyist co-chairs represented a wide array of interests in Washington.
There was David Black, a lobbyist for Union Pacific Corporation; Rob Chamberlin, a McBee Strategies lobbyist representing everything from General Electric to JPMorgan Chase; Michael Wascom, a lobbyist for American Airlines; Dana Harris, a Sundquist Group lobbyist representing Visa; and David Spooner, a former United States Trade Representative official turned lobbyist for textile and apparel importers.
The event also included some Republican political veterans, including Charles Bakaly, the former spokesman for Ken Starr who was charged with and later acquitted of leaking information to the press during the independent counsel's investigation into President Bill Clinton; and Juleanna Glover, a former staffer to Bill Kristol, Dick Cheney and Rudy Guiliani.
Explaining her support for the former governor and ambassador, Glover, a founding principal of the Ashcroft Group, stated that she has followed Huntsman "for a number of years ... He's very worldly, very, very smart. He's clearly excelled at every level of national service."
Glover further placed Huntsman -- and his seemingly moderate positions on civil unions, climate change and foreign policy -- well with-in the conservative mainstream.
"He's one of the most conservative candidates in the race and can win a general election," Glover told HuffPost. She explained that there is a "wide diversity" of opinion on the issue of civil unions and that "many prominent conservative economists" believe in a pricing structure for carbon emissions when implemented in a "pro-growth" manner.
The same goes for Huntsman's recently stated positions on pulling troops out of Afghanistan and opposing intervention in Libya. "What he's advocated has been well within the standard deviation of where the vast majority of Republicans in the Republican-controlled House have been," Glover said.
Relatively moderate GOP donors like Glover are an untapped well in the Republican primary, which has been veering further and further toward the extreme end of the spectrum. But a sizable portion of the the GOP electorate remains moderate, despite the louder wing. Huntsman's fundraiser indicates he may be able to tap into that current.
While many of Huntsman's more moderate positions are not presently represented in the current Republican field, particularly among the leading candidates, there are conservatives out there who support them and represent that "wide diversity." And they want to support and contribute to a candidate that reflects their positions.
Tim Miller, Huntsman's spokesman, told HuffPost that the fundraiser attendance reflected the wide range of individuals supporting Huntsman, "It's a testament to Jon Huntsman that he could attract an overflow crowd of Republican partisans, conservatives, moderates, disaffected voters, young and old alike."
A GOP strategist told HuffPost that party insiders were buzzing about Huntsman's guest list, which included a number of moderate Republicans and members of the party supportive of gay rights. A look at some of the public statements of some of the fundraisers sent out over social media show support for Huntsman's supposed breaks from conservative orthodoxy.
Tweets from Black, the lobbyist from Union Pacific Corporation, and Kevin Cain, a lobbyist for the University of Vanderbilt, show support for the gay community. On June 11, Black re-tweeted a message posted by Meghan McCain, the daughter of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), stating, "as a Republican, I believe in individualism and true freedom and equality for every citizen in this country. Happy pride weekend!" On June 14, Cain tweeted to a Think Progress article quoting Huntsman affirming his support for civil unions.
Further, the heads of GOProud and the Log Cabin Republicans, the two major Republican gay groups, were in attendance at the Huntsman fundraiser, Politico's Ben Smith also reported.
There are currently no candidates in the Republican primary who support civil unions for gay couples, except for former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson, who was excluded from Monday night's debate.
Another tweet from a co-chair of the fundraiser, Sergio Rodriguerra, endorsed Huntsman's position on Afghanistan with a link to a recent Esquire profile where Huntsman outlined his reasons for ending the now ten year engagement in Afghanistan, "Governor Huntsman with smart strategy on Afghanistan."
Patrick Mara, a former candidate for the D.C. City Council and the only Republican on the board of DC Vote, a pro-DC voting rights organization, tweeted from the event, "Just spoke with Gov. Huntsman. He still supports DC Voting Rights." Mara is listed as a host for the fundraiser, someone raising at least $250.
Huntsman will continue on a fundraising tear over the next few weeks, with his next event in New York on the day he plans to announce his run for the Republican nomination. No word on whether the motorcycle will come along for the ride.
Ryan Grim contributed reporting