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Out NYC Owners Raise Thousands for Antigay Wisconsin Senator

Out NYC Owners Raise Thousands for Antigay Wisconsin Senator


U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, no supporter of LGBT rights, is facing a challenge from his predecessor, longtime ally Russ Feingold.

Antigay U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin has received at least $10,600 from an April fundraiser hosted by gay hoteliers Ian Reisner and Mati Weiderpass, New York's Gay City News is reporting.

Reisner and Weiderpass, whose company owns the gay-focused Out NYC Hotel, received much criticism last spring for hosting a meet-and-greet with ultra-homophobic U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, who is seeking the Republican presidential nomination. At the time it was pointed out that Cruz wasn't the only antigay candidate to benefit from the hotel operators' largesse and connections, with some reports noting the Johnson fundraiser, which like the Cruz event was held at a Manhattan penthouse owned by Reisner and Weiderpass.

But now the numbers are in for Johnson, a Republican who is facing a challenge in 2016 from Russ Feingold, a Democrat, longtime LGBT ally, and former senator who lost to Johnson in 2010.

Reisner donated $2,700 to Johnson, the maximum allowed under federal election law, Gay City News reports. Former Republican National Committee chairman Ken Mehlman, who is gay, also gave the maximum, as did Sam Domb, who owns the real estate occupied by the Out NYC. Jonathan Canno, a founding trustee of amfAR, the Foundation for AIDS research, contributed $1,000, and entrepreneur Tzvi Odzer donated $1,500, the paper reports, noting that other attendees at the event may have given money to Johnson's campaign as well. Reisner, Weiderpass, and their guests cited Johnson's support for Israel and views on Middle East policy as reasons for backing him.

On LGBT issues, though, Johnson has a zero rating on LGBT issues from the Human Rights Campaign during his first term. Feingold, by contrast, had ratings in the 80s and 90s during his time in the Senate.

Johnson voted against the Employment Non-Discrimination Act in 2013 and has a record of opposing marriage equality, although, as Gay City News notes, he has softened his rhetoric as public support for equality has increased.

"I'm pretty traditional guy, almost 60 years old," Johnson said on CNBC in 2014. "I think marriage is between a man and a woman. But again, if the voters decide that they want gay marriage, I'm not going to oppose it."

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