Jun 26 2011

 

 

Empire 
 You mention Ken Mehlman's name in the progressive community and you are sure to solicit a chain of heated various opinions about this former Bush operative. However what no one can argue is that Ken Mehlman has played an extraordinary important and decisive role in both the DADT and New York Marriage Equality victories. As Samuel P. Jacobs writes in "The Daily Beast", the openly gay Republican strategist played a key role in bring marriage equality to New York State. One key liberal insider in the battle bluntly told me that this wouldn't have happen without Mehlman's participation.

Jacobs writes:

On May 6, Mehlman traveled to Albany to attend a meeting with the leaders of New York’s GOP-controlled legislature, and make his pitch. “There’ s a strong Republican and conservative case to be made in favor of the right to marry,” Mehlman told the room. “If we are all endowed by a creator with unalienable rights including the pursuit of happiness, how can that not include marrying the person you love?” And like any good campaign strategist, he buttressed his argument with poll data: nearly 60 percent of New Yorkers said in recent polling that they support same-sex marriage. The GOP should not, he hinted, wind up on the wrong side of history.

On June 6, two weeks before the legislative session was officially set to end, Mehlman was back in the state capitol to drive his argument home. He met one-on-one with 13 lawmakers, including the four Republican state senators who eventually voted in favor of the bill. Mehlman took pains not to draw too much attention to his efforts. As his friend, Bill Smith, political director at the Gill Action Fund, a gay-rights organization that orchestrated the conservative lobbying in New York, puts it, “he has been careful not to leave many fingerprints, like people who are looking for credit.” But the four Republican votes ended a deadlocked legislative session and made New York the sixth, largest, and most influential state to adopt same-sex marriage.

New York was not his first gay-rights campaign. Last fall, Mehlman teamed up with the White House and progressive lobbyists to press Republican senators considering voting to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” the policy to that forced gay members of the U.S. military to hide their sexuality. Mehlman lobbied 10 GOP senators. Eventually, six Republicans voted to repeal the 17-year-old policy.

 The article continues:

The key to Mehlman’s newfound clout has been bringing his old friends—and their formidable wallets—to the gay-marriage crusade. Shortly after coming out last August, Mehlman organized a fundraiser in New York at the swanky Mandarin Oriental hotel in New York for the American Foundation for Equal Rights, the gay rights group headed up by the political odd couple of David Boies and Ted Olsen. (Mehlman joined the board, agreeing to raise at least $1 million for AFER.) The evening was part Wall Street get-together and part reunion for the Bush 2004 campaign team. More than $1 million was raised. Many of those same donors resurfaced for the gay-marriage push in New York, giving around another $1 million.

“Ken is my kind of fundraiser,” hedge fund manager and major Republican donor Paul E. Singer said at the fundraiser last fall. “There’ s no amount that anyone gives that’s enough. In certain circles, I’m known as a fundraising terrorist, but Ken applies finesse to it.”