Scroll To Top

efforts to get gay vote get him in trouble

efforts to get gay vote get him in trouble


A gay campaign group blunder has become a key issue in the racketeering trial of former Illinois governor George Ryan.

It began with an embarrassing blunder. A memo describing behind-the-scenes efforts to win the gay vote for George Ryan in his 1998 race for Illinois governor was supposed to have been for internal campaign use only. But through an incredible error it was accidentally faxed to a Champaign radio station. Soon the details it contained were blaring across the airwaves. The memo suggested that the then-secretary of state's employees were campaigning for the Republican on state time. Before the dust settled, state police were called in to investigate. Seven years later, the Ryan campaign's low-key, half-hidden efforts to win the gay vote without triggering a conservative backlash are still touching off fireworks--this time at the former governor's federal racketeering and fraud trial, heading into its 10th week. Ryan, 71, and his lobbyist friend Larry Warner, 67, are charged in a 22-count federal indictment with racketeering, mail fraud, and other offenses. Among other things, Ryan is accused of using state employees to do campaign work while they were being paid by taxpayers. Prosecutors say the memo about the gay vote proves it. Ryan and Warner say nothing they did was illegal. U.S. district judge Rebecca R. Pallmeyer was expected to decide as soon as Monday how much of the memo's story can be told in court. Ryan's attorney, Bradley E. Lerman, also wants jurors to hear Ryan's record in favor of gay rights or hear nothing at all. "I don't want politics in the record unless we can't tell the story without them," Pallmeyer said last week before the trial broke for Thanksgiving. The memo outlined a campaign of guest editorials, ads, and letters to the editors of gay newspapers putting the spotlight on his Democratic rival's record of opposing gay rights bills. It also said that an employee in the secretary of state's office "has asked permission to establish a committee to give this drive more legitimacy." Prosecutors say that after the campaign, Warner tried to slip money quietly to leaders of a group called Progressives in Politics, which had been formed to mobilize gay voters for Ryan. Prosecutors say the group wound up $2,000 to $3,000 in debt after the campaign and went to a Ryan aide for reimbursement. According to prosecutors, he sent them to Warner, saying Ryan's old lobbyist friend would pay them. Warner offered them a check, prosecutors say. Lerman said the story makes it look as if Ryan were sneaking away from his association with gay voters. Defense attorneys have another problem with the story too. The group wouldn't take Warner's money. After thinking about it, the members tore up the check, took up a collection among themselves, and paid off the debt. Warner attorney Edward M. Genson said it would be unfair to place suspicion in the minds of jurors by saying the check was torn up or that anyone was afraid to take his client's money. (AP)

Advocate Channel - The Pride StoreOut / Advocate Magazine - Fellow Travelers & Jamie Lee Curtis

From our Sponsors

Most Popular

Latest Stories

Outtraveler Staff