Ken Mehlman, Peter Thiel, and Paul Singer Host Manhattan Fundraiser for Team Challenging Proposition 8

Guestblogger COREY JOHNSON

Tonight I attended a highly anticipated fundraiser for the American Foundation for Equal Rights (AFER) in New York City at the Mandarin Oriental in the Time Warner Center. The fundraiser was co-chaired by former Republican National Committee Chair Ken Mehlman, Paypal Co-Founder Peter Thiel and Elliott Management hedge fund CEO Paul Singer.

Mehlman The fundraiser was initially supposed to be held at Singer's home but had to be moved to accommodate a crowd of over 120 people. It was announced by Mehlman that more than 1.2 million dollars was raised tonight. The energy in the room was hopeful, enthusiastic and celebratory even in the face of yesterday's setback on Don't Ask, Don't Tell.

The crowd was a diverse mix of Wall Street titans, Republican establishment figures, LGBT community advocates and politicos (partial list below after the jump). Barbara Bush, President George W. Bush's daughter attended the event — which was a surprise to people in the room.

Mehlman opened the event by speaking about the importance of achieving marriage equality and explained how he came to be involved with AFER. He acknowledged and thanked people who helped raise money for the fundraiser and also different members of the LGBT community. Mehlman said that this is just the beginning of his involvement and that he regretted that he hadn't gotten to this place sooner.

Said Mehlman: "As someone who regrets very much not being involved, and not being on the right side of this important effort until recently, let me just say this. This will be my first but not my last event and I hope you will stay involved too."


Aferinvite Mehlman introduced Peter Thiel, a gay conservative who is hosting an event for GOProud at his New York home this fall. Thiel was brief and spoke about how marriage equality should not be a partisan issue.

Mehlman then introduced Paul Singer, a titan in finance and former Chair of the Giuliani for President Campaign in 2008. Singer gave a very moving speech about why equality for gay and lesbian people mattered so much to him. He spoke about his openly gay son and his son-in-law and how personal the issue was to him. He received a loud, standing ovation after his remarks.

A video was played that showed all of the media coverage from the very beginning of the Proposition 8 lawsuit, chronicling all of the events leading up to Chief Judge Vaughn Walker's decision declaring Proposition 8 unconsitutional. The video was inspirational and uplifting, serving as a crescendo to the introduction of Ted Olson and Chad Griffin.

AFER_panel CNN's Campbell Brown then came on stage with Olson, one of the lead attorneys' in the case, along with Griffin, the President and Founder of AFER. Brown interviewed Olson and Griffin on topics ranging from how they came to meet each other, what the next steps are in the appeal process, whether or not Olson was optimistic about the outcome and how this case fit into past marriage decision at the Supreme Court.

Olson's clear and unvarnished optimism was outwardly apparent in all of his remarks and answers to questions from Brown and also from the audience.

OlsonOlson said that he was confident with the case, plaintiffs, witnesses and evidence that opponents of Proposition 8 provided during the trial last January and that he believes that the case will ultimately land at the Supreme Court of the United States with a successful result.

Chad Griffin said this about tonight's fundraiser: "Tonight represented much more than .2 million to fight Proposition 8 in the 9th Circuit and the Supreme Court. This unprecedented gathering of bipartisan political leaders and Wall Street titans demonstrates the shift of momentum that's possible when it becomes clear that marriage equality isn't a special interest issue, but rather one of fundamental American values. That has been the focus of the American Foundation for Equal Rights, and while there is certainly a tremendous amount of work to be done, it is gratifying to see such progress."

After a difficult and painful day in the United States Senate yesterday, the palpable optimism at the fundraiser was unmistakable and welcome for the attendees.

Watch VIDEO of Mehlman, Thiel, and Singer (apologies, we were only able to grab a partial portion of Singer's speech), AFTER THE JUMP



Kohlberg Kravis & Roberts (KKR)
Henry Kravis
Sir Deryck Maughan (former Vice Chairman of Citibank and Salomon Brothers)
Alex Navab
Scott Nuttall
John Pfeffer
Lewis Eisenberg
David Sorkin

Garrett Moran

Third Point Capital
Daniel Loeb

Jay Sammons

Elliot Management
Paul Singer
Sundar Srinivasan
Dan Senor
Terry Kassel

Evercore Partners 
Charles Myers

Clarium Capital 

Peter Thiel

Goldman Sachs
Todd Malan

Lincoln Park Capital
Mark Cozzi

Nick Stone


Former Republican Governor William Weld from Massachusetts
Former Republican Governor Christie Todd Whitman from New Jersey
Former Clinton White House Chief of Staff, Obama Advisor and head of Center for American Progress John Podesta
Former Republican National Committee and McCain finance chairman Lew Eisenberg
Former McCain for President Chief Strategist Steve Schmidt
Former House Majority Leader Dick Gephardt (Democrat)
Former Bush Federal Election Commission Chairman Michael Toner
Chairman of the Manhattan Institute and former Chairman of the Giuliani Presidential campaign Paul Singer
Former Bush White House Communications Director Nicolle Wallace
Former Bush Deputy Ambassador to the United Nations Mark Wallace
Former RNC Chairman and Bush Campaign Manager Ken Mehlman
Former Advisor to Presidents Nixon, Ford, Reagan and Clinton David Gergen

LGBT Community Members

Activist and Author David Mixner
Freedom to Marry Executive Director Evan Wolfson
Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation President Jarrett Barrios
Board Chair of the Empire State Pride Agenda Frank Selvaggi
Human Rights Campaign New York Marriage Director Brian Ellner
Former Chief of Staff to Minority Leader Dick Gephardt and Deputy Campaign Manager to John Kerry for President Steve Elmendorf
Senior Vice President for External Affairs at the Center for American Progress Winnie Stachelberg
Democratic National Committee Treasurer Andy Tobias
Former Clinton White House Advisor Richard Socarides
Academy Award Winning Producer and AFER Board Member Bruce Cohen
Gill Action Fund Executive Director Patrick Guerrero
Gill Action Fund Deputy Executive Director Bill Smith

Towleroad News #gay

—  John Wright

Former LCR Head: Mehlman an ‘Unhelpful’ Closeted Gay Republican

Rich Tafel, former head of the Log Cabin Republicans, lays into former RNC Chair Ken Mehlman in an interview with the Washington Blade:

Tafel “It pisses me off that people will put their ambition ahead of the truth, and then, when it’s convenient, play the gay card and hope that everybody [can] raise money and get money and then expect everybody to say, ‘Everything is great,’” Tafel said.

Tafel says Mehlman lacks moral courage and was an "unhelpful" kind of closeted gay Republican, rather than the covertly "helpful" kind:

Tafel said Mehlman’s decision to come out after working for campaigns that promoted anti-gay initiatives “sends a lousy message.”

“You do have to show moral courage in coming out when you work in politics,” Tafel said. “And if the message is stay ambitious, and stay in the closet, even work with anti-gay stuff, and then come out and everybody’s supposed to forgive him — I’m just not there.”

Tafel said Mehlman was unhelpful in those years, even as others who were closeted and held high-level positions within the Republican Party provided assistance to Log Cabin. Tafel counted Dan Gurley, a former field director for the Republican National Committee, as among those who were helpful even though he was closeted as a Republican Party operative.

“I would say there are two types of people in the closet,” Tafel said. “There’s one type of people in the closet who were extremely helpful to me, and then there were the other ones who weren’t. Ken was in the very small category of people who weren’t.”


“Most people actually tried to help … wherever they were in their life,” Tafel said. “They tried to help you, but he really never lifted a finger for us. Things got pretty hostile with myself and the Bush campaign. He was unhelpful. So, it was a pretty unhappy relationship. It was nothing positive.” Tafel said the Bush campaign in 2000 was “coming after” him personally and threatening to create another gay organization while saying “get in line or we’re going to put you out of business.”

More at The Blade, including a defense of Mehlman from current LCR Executive Director R. Clarke Cooper.

In related news, former Log Cabin Republican head Patrick Guerriero has left the Republican Party to become an Independent

"Primarily I have always looked at myself as being a public servant and I have found that bipartisanship is more important than party affiliation. I feel it’s always been a better way to get the job done—to look at the real issues and not concentrate on any one party’s agenda. I think a lot of people are frustrated with the political system and I am interested in making good policy rather than protecting party identity."

Towleroad News #gay

—  John Wright

The AFA and The Peter go off the rails over Mehlman and GOP ‘secret homosexuals’

Join the pity party with Joe Farah at WorldNetDaily boys! One News Now’s Chad Groening composes what has to be one of the most hilarious keyboard protection first grafs ever.

A pro-family activist who is working to expose the truth about homosexuality finds it absolutely appalling that former Republican National Committee (RNC) chairman Ken Mehlman was able to “beat back” Republican efforts against homosexual “marriage” while hiding his own homosexual lifestyle.

He’s talking about Peter LaBarbera of course. And The Peter doesn’t disappoint:

“The most troubling thing about Mehlman is that he reveals in his interview with The Atlantic magazine that he was subverting the fight to preserve marriage as the head of the RNC,” notes Peter LaBarbera, founder and president of Americans for Truth About Homosexuality (AFTAH). “He admits that he was working in private conversations with senior GOP leaders against the federal marriage amendment.”

LaBarbera adds that he cannot understand why current RNC chairman Michael Steele has been so accepting of Mehlman’s lifestyle. “There are so many great stories of people who left lesbianism, who left homosexuality,” he points out. “We should not accept that this homosexuality is part of Ken Mehlman’s identity. And shame on Michael Steele for [almost] celebrating Ken Mehlman’s homosexuality.”

And in a moment of revelation and admiration for the work of Mike Rogers, LaBarbera calls for outing “secret homosexuals” in order to cleanse the GOP of “homosexual activism.”

And the hat tip goes to former AFA staff attorney Joe Murray. 🙂
Pam’s House Blend – Front Page

—  John Wright

Boston Globe editorial on Mehlman: ‘Now, clean out the closet’

They’re asking him to clean out the closet:

[I]t would be wrong to brush off Mehlman’s appeal for compassion. The coming out process can be complex and painful, especially for those who experience it publicly. To his credit, Mehlman has already begun to throw his weight behind gay causes. This year, he offered fundraising and strategic advice to the American Foundation for Equal Rights, the group that supported the legal challenge to California’s ballot initiative against gay marriage. As a high-profile, openly gay Republican, Mehlman is in a unique position to advance gay rights within his party. He might consider working to overturn some of the anti-gay measures he supported in the past. Then he could more credibly ask for the understanding — and support — he desires.


—  John Wright

Ambinder says he would have outed Mehlman earlier, if he had the proof

Very interesting. You don’t normally fid this attitude in the media.

Marc Ambinder, the political junkie who writes for the Atlantic, says he suspected, like lots of insiders, that Ken Mehlman was gay.

In fact, years before the former Republican Party chairman acknowledged his sexuality to Ambinder in an interview published Wednesday, the reporter tried to find out. And, says Ambinder, he would have outed Mehlman if he had evidence.

“I would have reported it because he was in power at a time when the Republican Party was whipping up anti-gay sentiment to get votes,” Ambinder says in an interview. “I’m very squeamish about outing anyone. That squeamishness certainly would have gone into the equation. But there would have been a clear and compelling reason. Even though outing would have encroached on his personal dignity, which would have made me uncomfortable, it would have been the right thing to do to hold someone in power accountable.”


—  John Wright

Ken Mehlman, Do Something Useful: Speak Truth to Power.

I'm not privy to what Ken Mehlman did or did not do secretly while working for the Republican Party and the White House.  Nor am I privy to his soul.  And I'm not privy to hearts of those he caused agony, suffering, depression and anxiety to, or to those were were fired or beaten up partly as a result of the campaigns he waged.  And I have no idea what, if anything, he could possibly do for those hearts to forgive him.

Still, Mr. Mehlman claims that “he wants to become an advocate for gay marriage.”.  That's pretty vague, and seems to consist of doing a fundraiser to support further litigation in the Proposition 8 trial.  Kerry Eleveld and I have a better idea.  As she put it on Friday:

… instead of crucifying Mehlman, let’s hand him a pickax and a shovel and let him get to work on dismantling the hate he and his cronies helped heap upon a vulnerable and undeserving minority.

Or, in my less eloquent opinion, if Ken Mehlman really wants to demonstrate a commitment to equal rights, he should forecefully employ the political talents he is famous for.

Below the fold for my two ideas.

Mr. Mehlman was the Chairman of the Republican National Committee from 2005 to 2007.  He was also a very important political operative working in the Bush White House before that.  Hell, the American Association of Political Consultants named him the Campaign Manager of the Year in 2005. He's given large sums of money to various Republicans who currently hold positions of responsibility.  It's safe to say he knows lots of Republicans.  Very Important Republicans.  In Washington and everywhere.

The battle for equal marriage rights in California isn't going to be won or lost because Ken Mehlman does or does not co-host a fundraiser.  The arguments have been made, the Ninth Circuit and perhaps ultimately the Supreme Court will render their verdicts.  But there are two hugely important political battles that Mr. Mehlman might, just might, be able to effect to the point that he could actually change the outcome.  What might those be?

The Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA):  It's not marriage equality, true.  But it's as fundamental to full equality.  ENDA is nearly dead, largely because there aren't enough votes in the Senate to invoke cloture (there are at least 51 votes for passage).  Could Mr. Mehlman convince two or three Republicans other than Senators Snowe and Collins (who are sponsors of the bill) to support it?  Hell, he doesn't even have to do that.  All he has to do is convince a few Republicans to vote for cloture.  They don't have to vote for the bill itself. If there were five Republicans ready to do that, might Harry Reid just get a spine, round up the 55 Democrats he needs, and push it through?

Marriage equality in New York State:  At some point in the not too distant future, the New York State Senate is likely to again take up marriage equality.  Last year, in a truly dismal result, the Senate voted 38-24 against, with all Republicans voting nay (the Assembly had passed the bill by 89-52).  But there were indications that some Republicans (and some Democrats) might have been willing to vote in favor of the bill if their vote meant it would pass.

With a newly elected Senate in 2011, and with it a different cast of characters, could Ken Mehlman (now a New York State resident) employ his considerable political savvy to convince some Republicans in the Senate to support a bipartisan effort to pass marriage equality in New York State?

I have no idea whether someone of Mehlman's stature could pull off either of these.  Perhaps Republicans in office are unmovable on these issues.  Perhaps he has become persona non grata to the very people he would need to influence.  But if Ken Mehlman was truly thrown from his horse expensive automobile on the road to Damascus Chelsea, wants to do something important, and wants to have a real impact, these two battles might be good place to start.

And, if he's successfu at the latter, he could get married…
Pam’s House Blend – Front Page

—  John Wright

MEHLMAN REDUX: FL Gov. Charlie “Closet Case” Crist Supports A Federal Anti-Gay Marriage Amendment

In a transparent ploy to appeal to the teabaggers backing his GOP Senate opponent Marco Rubio, Florida Gov. Charlie “Closet Case” Crist today told CNN that he supports amending the U.S. Constitution to ban same-sex marriage.

“When it comes to marriage, I think it is a sacred institution, I believe it is between a man and a woman,” Crist said, “but partners living together, you know, I don’t have a problem with it.” “It’s just how I feel,” Crist added. Anti-gay activists have repeatedly pushed Congress to consider a Federal Marriage Amendment, but it has never gathered enough support to pass. The amendment was a central issue in the 2004 presidential election.

Of course, Dubya’s mouthpiece on the Federal Marriage Amendment was Quisling Ken Mehlman. Sometime around 2016 we’ll see Closet Case Charlie come out a la Mehlman, telling us that he was secretly working from the inside to keep the anti-gay GOP at bay.

Joe. My. God.

—  John Wright

Eleveld on marriage and Mehlman

Kerry Eleveld in the Advocate:

I fully understand that Mehlman’s revelation this week picked the scab off a wound that runs deep throughout the LGBT community, and I’m not absolving anyone of anything. But nor do I think it’s my place to stand in judgment.

Every morning newsprint slaps my coffee table with a mountain of injustice that often rims my eyes with sadness and occasionally rushes my heart with rage. And I would much rather train my sights on creating a future of fairness than stay mired in yesterday’s despair.

So instead of crucifying Mehlman, let’s hand him a pickax and a shovel and let him get to work on dismantling the hate he and his cronies helped heap upon a vulnerable and undeserving minority.

And who knows, maybe even President Obama and his advisers will get a whiff of the fact that spring is on its way.


—  John Wright

Ken Mehlman Has Not Had Sex With Anyone, Ever

People were suspicious of Mehlman's sexuality for years. Who knew? The people who "knew" are the people who Ken had sex with. But Ken says he had sex with no one, and told no one, because he didn't want to tell anyone, because he was uncomfortable with that part of his life. I don't doubt that Bill Maher thought that Ken was gay, but how could he know? I haven't found a single person who says that Ken outed himself to them earlier. I've found several people — including reporters who asked him — who Ken lied to about his sexual orientation. Gaydar exists. It's possible, and probable, that many gay people (and straight people) pegged Ken as gay before Ken was willing to face up to the fact himself. But that's a far cry from saying that anyone "knew" anything and covered it up. If I outed everyone I suspected was gay, I'd be a bad person, firstly, and very very busy, secondly.

The Atlantic's Marc Ambinder on the sex life of his interview subject [via]

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—  John Wright

Olbermann and Dan Savage on Mehlman


—  John Wright