Mehlman Draws Fire, Praise



While some gay advocates joked that one of the worst-kept secrets in Washington was out, others welcomed the news with open arms — on both sides of the aisle.

Ken Mehlman, campaign manager for President George W. Bush in 2004 and former chair of the Republican National Committee, came out as gay in an interview with The Atlantic posted Wednesday afternoon.

Though many bloggers seethed with anger at the fact that Mehlman presided over a campaign that strategically pushed anti-gay marriage amendments in 11 states in 2004 (Joe.My.God’s Joe Jervis called Mehlman a “Quisling Homophobic Scumbag” among other choice epithets), one of the movement’s most prominent marriage equality advocates sang his praises.

“I have spent no time thinking about where Ken was four to five to six years ago. I’m just thankful that he’s with us today,” said Chad Griffin, cofounder of the American Foundation for Equal Rights, the organization that’s solely funding the legal challenge to California’s Proposition 8 in federal court brought by former Bush solicitor general Ted Olson and progressive legal eagle David Boies.

“He is one of the most brilliant political strategists from the Republican side of the aisle,” said Griffin, “and he is also a master fund-raiser and brings contacts and relationships to bear that are comparable to almost no one.”

Indeed, Mehlman’s first act as an out gay man will be hosting a fund-raiser of the foundation next month to help support the case, which likely carries a price tag in the millions of dollars (the group has declined to disclose exactly how much).

Although the invitations have yet to be mailed, Mehlman told The Advocate Wednesday evening that just through pre-selling the event, organizers had already helped to raise about $750,000.

The lineup of heavy conservative hitters hosting the event includes people such as Christine Todd Whitman, the former New Jersey governor and administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency; Lew Eisenberg, former Republican National Committee finance chairman and national finance chairman for Sen. John McCain; and Mark and Nicole Wallace, former United Nations ambassador and White House communications director under Bush, respectively.

“A lot of different people have come together to make this a success, but the one who has been the most generous and who is hosting it is Paul Singer,” said Mehlman, referring to the wealthy GOP donor and hedge fund executive. But Mehlman added that he and his colleagues were merely building on the efforts of "a lot of people who have worked hard on these issues for a number of years."

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