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We Have Our First GOP Presidential Candidate

Jason Linkins   |   March 23, 2011    7:31 PM ET

Ladies and gentlemen, pop the champagne, because the 2012 race for the GOP nomination finally has an officially declared candidate. It's Fred Karger! Can you feel the excitement? Probably not, because the media has pretty resolutely refused to take Karger very seriously. But the truth is, Karger has been deep into this running for President game, from way way back in the day (the "day" being July of 2010). Of course, if you read the Speculatron, you're already in the know.

In his press release, Karger makes note of all of the "firsts" that the media has thus far straight up ignored:

Karger was the first to announce he was seriously considering running for President on April 10, 2010 at the Southern Republican Leadership Conference in New Orleans and the first to establish a Presidential Exploratory Committee on July 18, 2010. He was the first to run commercials in New Hampshire right after Labor Day last year, the first to run an Iowa commercial right after the November midterm elections and the first to hire a State Director in Iowa on December 1, 2010. So it only stands to reason that Karger would be the first to file for the Republican nomination for President. Oh, yeah, Fred would also be the first openly gay candidate to run for President in history.

Karger comes to the table with some serious bona fides, having served as a consultant for Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush. He gets written off because he presents himself as a single issue candidate -- a conservative gay rights activist:

After a 30 year career in politics, Karger retired in 2004 and became an LGBTQ activist. During the summer of 2008, he discovered the Mormon Church's complete control of California's Proposition 8 and filed a sworn complaint with the California Ethics Commission against the Mormon Church. The Salt Lake City based Church was prosecuted, investigated, found guilty and fined after an 18 month investigation.

Karger also filed the successful complaint against the National Organization for Marriage for alleged money laundering with the state of Maine's Ethics Commission. That investigation is ongoing after 16 months.

But as with his exploratory committee, his campaign ads, and his formal announcement, Karger's from-the-right defense of LGBT rights is similarly ahead of the curve.

Anyway, write it down -- FRED KARGER: FIRST IN, IN 2012!


Here's Brian Stelter and Megan Liberman talking about the Tim Pawlenty video. It's a video! And it's on the internets! And it's really interesting because Pawlenty is sort of a boring guy but he's got this exciting video, and the only thing that could vitiate the excitement of this video is another video where we have a boring discussion of things that would be obvious if you only watched the video itself. But: videos! They are important! Maybe other candidates will make videos! Maybe this video will "go viral!" Maybe our video will "go viral!" Maybe a video of this video discussing Pawlenty's video will be even more viral! Viruses, I guess? [The Caucus]

Rand Paul for President? Okay, whatever, it's not like I had anything planned for this evening. [Wonkette]

Last week, conservative intellectuals made a big deal about expressing their feelings about Sarah Palin's inadequacy as a presidential candidate. This week, that's been modified somewhat -- now the presidency is entirely beneath Sarah Palin, who at this point, should just wait to become Starfleet Commander or something. [TPMDC]

Lewis Black on Donald Trump, ladies and gentlemen:

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Maggie Gallagher and Brian Brown: the Anita Bryant and John Briggs of 2011

  |   February 17, 2011   12:24 AM ET

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Pass the 28th Amendment -- Lower the Voting Age!

  |   February 8, 2011    8:21 AM ET

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President Obama, Evolve Already

Fred Karger   |   December 24, 2010    5:35 PM ET

WASHINGTON, DC - Like millions of Americans, I was so happy to see the president's bill signing ceremony. Don't Ask, Don' Tell created nearly 18 years of government sanctioned and enforced discrimination. Now that it is on its way out, the president seemed genuinely happy for the first time in months.

See how great it can be to do the right thing. All that excitement and emotion at the signing ceremony was seen and heard around the world.

Barack Obama was probably one of the first prominent Americans to support gay marriage way back in 1996 when he was first running for state office in Illinois.

"I favor legalizing same-sex marriages, and would fight efforts to prohibit such marriages," Obama wrote in the typed, signed, statement 14 years ago.

Then he switched his position, to opposing gay marriage, when he ran for the U.S. Senate in 2004.

The president is undoubtedly the only person to ever change his position on gay marriage the wrong way. Every day, gay marriage opponents are switching their positions and supporting full marriage equality, but no one has ever gone the other way.

Now President Obama says that he is "evolving" (again) on gay marriage.

I hope that the president will continue to evolve and help our community end all the hate and discrimination that is hurled at us. There are way too LGBT Americans who do not feel equal. I know. I felt that way for far too long.

The lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender community is at least 21 million strong in this country, and we will no longer be second class citizens.

Gay marriage sends a very loud and clear message to LGBT youth that they are equal. When gay marriage is the law of the land, that will become our civil rights bill. What a strong message to younger people when that day comes.

Like the president said in his speech yesterday, "We area a nation that believes that all men and women are created equal."

President Obama, please come back to the right side of history and lead. Support full marriage equality for everyone in this country, and let's repeal the Defense of Marriage Act next year!

Fred Karger, Openly Gay GOP Activist, Gets Out An Early 2012 Campaign Ad

Jason Linkins   |   December 2, 2010   12:53 PM ET

Is it too early to start watching 2012 presidential campaign ads? Sweet fancy Moses, yes. Yes it is. But what the heck! Here's Fred Karger, self-styled "independent Republican," feeling out Iowa to see if his long shot has some legs.


Why is he a long shot? Well, first, in all likelihood, you've never heard of him. But he's also an openly gay candidate who's been an activist for LGBT civil rights in conservative circles. However, as the New York Times's Jane Lorber points out in her essential backgrounder on Karger, the "a long-time political operative" and former Reagan aide is "hardly a political neophyte":

He worked alongside the famed Republican strategist, Lee Atwater, to derail Michael Dukakis's 1988 presidential campaign against George H.W. Bush. He was an outspoken critic of the Mormon Church for backing the 2008 ballot measure outlawing same-sex marriage in California. The liberal magazine Mother Jones described Mr. Karger as one of the G.O.P's "top dark-arts operators" in a profile last spring.

As Karger tells Lorber, his larger ambitions here are "to be a participant in those Republican debates." And while today's DADT debate is largely going to dredge up the memory of GOP-LGBT relations from 17 years ago, as we've noted here, there's been some thawing in that frost recently, and it's all been exacerbated by President Barack Obama's lukewarm stance on issues that matter to the LGBT community.

Nevertheless, Karger remains an outlier candidate. This is probably best exemplified by this post in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Early Returns blog, which glides over the entirety of Karger's candidacy in order to make the some issue out of the fact that Rick Santorum, a more established would-be presidential candidate, makes an appearance in the ad. This is, by their reckoning, embarrassing for Santorum. Santorum shows up in the ad toward the end -- blink and you'll miss him entirely.

Gay 'Progressive' Republican on Air in Iowa [New York Times]
Santorum in gay activist's ad [Early Returns @ Pittsburgh Post-Gazette]

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An Apology Now, Mike Huckabee?

  |   November 28, 2010    6:48 PM ET

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Where Have All the Moderates Gone?

  |   November 15, 2010    4:03 PM ET

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Maggie Gallagher, Stop the Bullying!

  |   October 5, 2010    9:01 AM ET

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Mormon Church Tries to Resurrect Its Image, Spends Millions to Repair Prop 8 Damage

  |   September 27, 2010   10:30 AM ET

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Is Mike Huckabee Nuts?

  |   August 31, 2010    9:56 AM ET

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Sock Puppets and Sugar Daddies: NOM and GOProud Go Hand in Hand

  |   July 31, 2010    1:19 PM ET

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We're Changin Our Name

Fred Karger   |   July 9, 2010    2:22 PM ET

As we take on new challenges, go in new directions and become more national in scope, we are officially changing our name. We are very excited to announce, that from this day forward, Californians Against Hate will be known as Rights Equal Rights.

Our new web site is launching today, check it out:

Our History

It's been just two years since a small group of friends and I started Californians Against Hate to draw attention to the mega-donors to California's Proposition 8 campaign. It's been a busy 24 months.

We began on July 18, 2008 by helping to assemble a coalition of LGBT and labor organizations in San Diego to boycott Doug Manchester's three hotels. Doug Manchester had contributed $125,000 in very early money to qualify and pass Proposition 8, which took away marriage rights from millions of Californians. Why should we support his three hotels, only to have that money used against us?

The Manchester Hotels boycott exceeded our wildest expectations. According to their own admission, the boycott is costing the Manchester Grand Hyatt Hotel alone approximately $1 million per month. This is due to dozens of canceled large meetings and conventions at Manchester's flagship property, and thousands of individuals and businesses who refuse to cross our picket line.

Manchester sold his Idaho hotel in 2009, and now rumors abound that his brand new $400 million Grand del Mar Resort in San Diego is in receivership. It has recently been reported that Global Hyatt Corporation will be buying a majority interest in his Manchester Grand Hyatt. The sale was just approved by the San Diego Port Commission on Tuesday.

Other Boycotts

We have led three other boycotts against the biggest donors to Proposition 8. We have settled two; one against Bolthouse Farms and another against Garff Automotive Group. Both had family members who contributed $100,000 to pass Prop 8. Now both companies are generous supporters of a variety of LGBT organizations.

Our one remaining boycott is against Terry Caster's A-1 Self Storage Company. Terry Caster and his family gave a whopping $693,000 to Prop 8. Caster was even quoted in the San Diego Union-Tribune saying that gay marriage "would create a sick society." We will continue to let the world know to boycott all 40 locations of A-1 Self Storage in California.

The Mormon Church Was Prosecuted

During the summer of 2008, we discovered the active involvement of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon Church) in Prop 8. The Mormon Church took over virtually every aspect of the Yes on Prop 8 campaign.

Mormon families contributed approximately $30 million of the $40 million raised, the Church produced 27 slick commercials, put up an expensive web site, bussed in thousands of volunteers from Utah, had massive phone banks, yet only reported a mere $2078 in non-monetary contributions just three days before the election. Two weeks later I filed a sworn complaint with the California Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) against the Mormon Church for not reporting its vast financial involvement.

The Commission prosecuted the case, and conducted an unprecedented 19 month investigation of the Salt Lake City based Church's finances. Three weeks ago the FPPC found the Mormon Church guilty of 13 counts of late reporting and they were fined $5539. That was the first time a religious organization was found guilty of election irregularities in the 36 year history of the FPPC.

Taking on the National Organization for Marriage

I also have done battle with the Mormon Church's front group, the infamous National Organization for Marriage (NOM). I have challenged all of their false and misleading actions for the last two years. Their arrogant and illegal campaign activities last fall in Maine that was the final straw.

NOM contributed over $1.9 million to take away that state's recently passed right to marry for all, and completely disregarded Maine's long-standing election law in the process. NOM was required to report all its contributor names of $100 and over to election officials. NOM refused, and continues to refuse to turn over their records, even after being ordered to do so by three federal judges and the State Attorney General of Maine.

I filed the original sworn complaint against NOM that led to the investigation, and have attended three separate Ethics Commission meetings in Maine to make sure that NOM complies with the Maine election law.

I Was Subpoenaed by NOM

As a result of all my actions, I was subpoenaed by the National Organization for Marriage last September as part of their federal law suit, v. Bowen. That law suit was filed in California by the official Yes on Prop 8 committee and NOM to invalidate all campaign reporting laws in California. I believe they subpoenaed me strictly to harass me and make me spend a lot of money. Thanks to the generous support of so many of you who contributed to my legal defense fund, Five for Fred, most all of the legal costs have been covered.


We recently passed a Board Resolution officially changing our name.

Rest assured, I have never been more determined and motivated to help lead the LGBTQ community in our fight for full equal rights in this country.

Younger people who begin to realize that they are lesbian, gay, bi-sexual transgender or queer will be afforded all the same rights as their brothers, sisters, friends and neighbors.

That is what our founding fathers had in mind when they wrote in the Declaration of Independence 234 years ago, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness."

We will settle for nothing less.

ReThink Review: 8: the Mormon Proposition -- How Gay Marriage Got SLC Punk'd

  |   June 27, 2010    5:38 PM ET

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James Dobson's Co-Founder Takes Gay Prostitute to Europe

Fred Karger   |   May 6, 2010    2:03 PM ET

Another extremely influential anti-gay leader was caught with a male prostitute on their return from a 10 day European Vacation.

George Alan Rekers, founded the Family Research Council (FRC) with James Dobson in 1993. The FRC is the political arm of Dobson's more famous operation, Focus on the Family. The FRC is run by leading anti-gay advocate Tony Perkins.

Just how many other top, top leaders of the anti-gay movement in this country are big closet cases?

We all know the story of Ted Haggard, who was Senior Pastor at New Life Church and head of the National Association of Evangelicals. Haggard did finally admit to doing crystal methamphetamine with his male prostitute for three years. Haggard at first denied all charges, just like Rekers has done, but later admitted guilt and resigned from his Church and the NAE.

These men of God sure are quick to lie when they get caught.

Dobson was Ted Haggard's best friend until his mega-scandal. Now another Dobson crony is busted doing the same thing. Ummm?

I wonder just how much this trip cost? Let's see 10 days in Europe, first class all the way. I'd estimate at least $1000 per day for hotel and meals - Europe's expensive + business class air fare for two, another $15,000. That adds up to a lot of money.

Wow, wonder how all the hundreds of thousands of small donors to the Family Research Council and Focus on the Family feel about paying exorbitant fees and salaries to George Alan Rekers that he used to fly a male prostitute and himself to Europe for 10 days?

FRC head, Tony Perkins just last month attacked the Republican National Committee on CNN and in a press release, and suggested that RNC donors instead give money to his Family Research Council. Will Perkins now turn down contributions to his tainted organization?

It sounds like these "leaders" should not be bashing, belittling, and demonizing gay people. They will hurt the people closest to them.

Rekers is a father and supposedly a Foster Parent, and he has been the leading advocate against gays and lesbians being allowed to adopt in Florida and Arkansas. How dare he judge others? Just another in a long line of religious-based hypocrites

Today I sent a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder to formally request a full and complete United States Department of Justice Investigation of Mr. Rekers and all his activities. The investigation should include, but not be limited to, the finances and involvement of James Dobson, Focus on the Family as well as and Tony Perkins and the Family Research Council.

There seems to be a pattern here, and with so many problems around the close associates of James Dobson and Tony Perkins, we need to know the truth.

From the Focus on the Family web site: "...We provide help and resources for couples to build healthy marriages that reflect God's design, and for parents to raise their children according to morals and values grounded in biblical principles.

Letter to United States Attorney General Eric Holder

May 6, 2010

The Honorable Eric Holder
U. S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20530-0001

Dear Attorney General Holder:

I would like to request a complete and thorough Justice Department Investigation of the reported questionable activities of Mr. George Alan Rekers.

I also seek a full and complete investigation of his past and current associates including James Dobson and his Focus on the Family of Colorado Springs, Colorado, and Tony Perkins and his Family Research Council of Washington, DC, an arm of Focus on the Family. All three men are very close.

There have been numerous reports of possible illicit activities. Here are just some of the publications that have covered the scandal: Washington Post; New York Daily News; Towleroad and the Miami New Times

Thank you very much.

Best regards,

Fred Karger
Californians Against Hate