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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, May 13, 2011 - Volume 39 Issue 19
LGBT cash flowing to 2012 Obama campaign
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LGBT cash flowing to 2012 Obama campaign

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Only a year ago, the LGBT community was seething with discontent over the perception that President Obama was dragging his feet on Gay rights issues. Today community money is flowing to Obama's re-election campaign.

'It's ironic - a year ago there was no constituency more unhappy. There was a sea change,' said veteran Gay activist David Mixner. 'You not only will see a united community that will contribute to Obama, but they will work their asses off.'

Mixner said that White House actions during the past year, especially the all-out push to repeal Don't Ask Don't Tell, had won over restive Gay donors.

According to Politico's Ben Smith, Obama campaign officials are surprised by the level of LGBT support.

The campaign has also recruited LGBT staffers to help capitalize on the change in opinion. In 2008, Obama's finance committee included one Gay man. There are 15 this year, a source said.

The Obama campaign's finance director, Rufus Gifford, was a top California Gay fundraiser; the DNC treasurer, Andrew Tobias, is Gay; and the White House social secretary - traditionally a key, if unofficial, fundraising job - is also a Gay man, Gifford's partner Jeremy Bernard.

A series of policy shifts in 2010 was reportedly the hook for increased LGBT enthusiasm and support.

Along with the high-profile repeal of DADT, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder recently announced that the president had concluded DOMA is unconstitutional and his department would no longer defend it in court.

The administration has also taken a number of smaller steps - recognizing same-sex domestic partners of federal employees, for example, and making it easier for Trans people to get correct gender ID on passports.

These administrative changes are concrete and important steps that simply were not made during the Bush administration.

'He's coming back up in the estimation of the Gay community pretty rapidly, and I think justifiably,' said Ethan Geto, a New York lobbyist and key figure in Howard Dean's 2004 fundraising campaign.

Geto said many LGBT supporters had assumed DADT would be repealed during the president's first year in office.

'When things didn't happen in [that] time frame and on the track that Obama had held out hope for, people got very disillusioned,' said Geto. 'This was the time to strike.'

While the Obama administration has been producing solid - if somewhat delayed - results, Republicans have taken an increasingly hostile line on LGBT rights, making many fearful of losing the gains that have been made.

'Our community has tasted change, and it's hard to conceive of going backward,' said HRC communications chief Fred Sainz. 'It's hard to conceive of that coming to a screeching halt or reversing, and so it's a subject of great energy for members of my community and especially those with great resources.'

'Any reservations that a significant number of donors might sit this out have been answered by Donald Trump and the fools in the Republican Party,' said Mixner. 'They have become so vehemently anti-Gay.'

LGBT support is particularly important to Obama this year.

His 2008 campaign raised huge sums from the very rich, just as it did from smaller donors. Now, some key supporters are reportedly disenchanted with the president's performance.

Liberal mega-donors, including George Soros, are said to see Obama as hopelessly compromised and have lost their enthusiasm for him.

Some Wall Street executives resent the increase in federal regulation resulting from the recent financial scandals, and have switched sides to support the GOP.

Some pro-Israel Jewish donors, a mainstay of Bill Clinton's fundraising, dislike Obama's pressure on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to freeze West Bank settlement construction.

On the other hand, politically active Gay men in particular are less likely to have children who would consume their disposable income, and have long been key to Democratic Party fundraising.

Howard Dean's 2004 ascendancy, for example, has been attributed to his early blockbuster fundraising from Gay donors who appreciated his support for civil unions, then a cutting-edge policy.

'There's much more receptivity and openness toward the president now,' said Jeff Soref, a wealthy Gay donor and activist. 'It stands to reason that the Gay money will be committed to the president's reelection.'

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