Obama's Power Gays



On Monday, President Barack Obama is West Coast bound, where his schedule includes remarks on a new mortgage refinancing initiative and a meeting with homeowners in Las Vegas, the nation’s continued foreclosure capital. Also on the agenda are three campaign fund-raisers, including two in Los Angeles likely to draw LGBT donors — a burgeoning source of campaign cash for the president's reelection bid.

LGBT people now account for nearly one in five “bundlers” who have raised at least $500,000 for the Obama for America and Obama Victory Fund (a joint account for the presidential campaign and the Democratic National Committee), according to recently released figures for the months of July, August, and September. LGBT-specific fund-raisers for the campaign are currently being planned for Chicago, Boston, Miami, and North Carolina.

“LGBT fundraising efforts are organized in a different way than in 2008,” says Jamie Citron, director of the Obama campaign’s LGBT Leadership Council and LGBT Vote. For 2012, “We grew our leadership to reflect the regional way that the Obama team has always fundraised, which means we have LGBT raisers working together to engage LGBTs across the nation, but also working within the leadership of their regional teams, doing good work in that way too.”

The list of major fund-raisers is a mix of behind-the-scenes players and public figures, including Chad Griffin, board president for the American Foundation for Equal Rights. “There’s no president in the history that has done more for LGBT people,” Griffin says of Obama. “We don’t have full federal equality, but we’re a hell of a lot closer than we were four years ago.” 

Here are 10 notable LGBT major fund-raisers for the Obama campaign as well is a list of known LGBT bundlers for Obama:

Laura Ricketts

Amount raised (range): $100,000–$200,000
Occupation: CEO of Ecotravel.com; co-owner, Chicago Cubs
Other political campaigns donated to this year: Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Ill.), Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.), Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), Tim Kaine (former Democratic Virginia governor, now running for retiring U.S.senator Jim Webb’s seat)

Ricketts became the first openly gay co-owner of a Major League Baseball team when her family bought the Cubs and Wrigley Field in 2009 from the Tribune Co. for $845 million (Ricketts’s father, J. Joseph Ricketts, is the founder of Omaha-based TD Ameritrade). A member of Lambda Legal's national leadership council, she lives with her partner, Heidi Grathouse, in Chicago. Last year, Ricketts gave birth to a daughter, the couple’s first child. "I came out to my family I would say early to mid 30s,” she told the Windy City Times in a 2010 interview. “I think for a long time I wasn't really out to myself growing up in Omaha, Nebraska, to a Catholic conservative family. ... I think that [coming out] really couldn't have been a better experience.”  


Michael S. Smith and James Costos
Los Angeles

Amount raised (range): $500,000+
Occupation: Smith is an interior designer; Costos is an HBO executive

Smith is the current White House decorator, lauded by first lady Michelle Obama for a “family friendly” sensibility that appears to simultaneously attract a Hollywood royalty/media mogul clientele: He has also worked with Steven Spielberg, Rupert Murdoch, Dustin Hoffman, and Michelle Pfeiffer, according to The Washington Post. Costos is vice president of licensing and retail at HBO, where an expansive stable of True Blood merchandise is under his purview, among other items tied to the network's programming. In June the couple hosted a fund-raiser for the campaign, attended by Mrs. Obama, at their Bel-Air home (featured here in Elle Décor).

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