Archive for the ‘Five for Fred’ Category

We’re Changing Our Name

Thursday, July 8th, 2010

It’s been just two years since a small group of friends and I started Californians Against Hate to draw attention to the mega-donors to California’s Proposition 8 campaign. It’s been a busy 23 months.

We began on July 18, 2008 by helping to assemble a coalition of LGBT organizations and labor in San Diego to boycott Doug Manchester’s three hotels. Doug Manchester had contributed $125,000 in very early money to quality and pass Proposition 8, which took marriage rights away from millions of Californians. Why should we support his three hotels, only to have that money used against us?

The Manchester Hotels boycott exceeded our wildest expectations. According to their own admission, the boycott is costing the Manchester Grand Hyatt Hotel alone approximately $1 million per month. This is due to dozens of canceled large meetings and conventions at Manchester’s flagship property, and thousands of individuals and businesses who refuse to cross our picket line.

Manchester also sold his Idaho hotel, and now rumors abound that his brand new $400 million Grand del Mar Resort in San Diego is in receivership. It has recently been reported that Global Hyatt Corporation may be buying a majority interest in his Manchester Grand Hyatt. The sale was just approved by the San Diego Port Commission.

We have led three other boycotts against the biggest donors to Proposition 8. We have settled two; one against Bolthouse Farms and another against Garff Automotive Group. Both had family members who contributed $100,000 to pass Prop 8. Now both companies are generous supporters of a variety of LGBT organizations.

Our one remaining boycott is against Terry Caster’s A-1 Self Storage Company. Terry Caster and his family gave a whopping $693,000 to Prop 8. Caster was even quoted in the San Diego Union-Tribune saying that gay marriage “would create a sick society.”

During the summer of 2008, we discovered the active involvement of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon Church) in Prop 8. The Mormon Church had taken over virtually every aspect of the Yes on 8 campaign.

Mormon families contributed approximately $30 million of the $40 million raised, the Church produced 27 slick commercials, put up an expensive web site, bussed in thousands of volunteers from Utah, had massive phone banks yet only reported a mere $2078 in non-monetary contributions three days before the election. Two weeks later I filed a sworn complaint with the California Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) against the Mormon Church for not reporting its vast financial involvement in the campaign.

The Commission prosecuted the case, and conducted an unprecedented 19 month investigation of the Salt Lake City based Church’s finances. Three weeks ago the FPPC found the Mormon Church guilty of 13 counts of late reporting and they were fined $5539. That was the first time a religion was found guilty of election irregularities in the 36 year history of the FPPC.

I also have done battle with the Mormon Church’s front group, the infamous National Organization for Marriage (NOM). I have challenged all of their false and misleading actions for the last two years. It was all of their arrogant and illegal campaign activities last fall in Maine that was the final straw.

NOM contributed over $1.9 million to take away that state’s recently passed right to marry for all, and completely disregarded Maine’s long-standing election law in the process. NOM was required to report all its contributor names of $100 and more to election officials. NOM refused, and continues to refuse to turn over their records, even after being ordered to do so by three federal judges and the Attorney General of Maine. I have attended three separate Commission meetings in Maine to make sure they comply with the Maine election law.

As a result of all my efforts, I was subpoenaed by the National Organization for Marriage last September as part of their federal law suit, ProtectMarriage.com v. Bowen. That law suit was filed in California by the official Yes on Prop 8 committee and NOM to invalidate all campaign reporting laws in California. They subpoenaed me strictly to harass me and make me spend a lot of money. Thanks to the generous support of so many of you who contributed to my legal defense fund, Five for Fred, most all of the legal costs have been covered.

Now as we take on new challenges and go in new directions, we have passed a Board resolution to officially change our name. From this day forward, Californians Against Hate will be known as Rights Equal Rights.

Our new name reflects our new direction and makes us more national in scope.

Rest assured, that I have never been more determined and motivated to help lead the LGBTQ community in our fight for full equal rights in this country.

Younger people who begin to realize that they might be lesbian, gay, bi-sexual transgender or queer will soon be afforded all the same rights as their brothers, sisters friends and neighbors.
That is what our founding fathers had in mind when they wrote in the Declaration of Independence, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.”

We will settle for nothing less.

Best regards,

Fred Karger
www.RightsEqualRights.com

News Coverage: Ex-Political Pundit Embraces Gay Rights Activism

Thursday, January 14th, 2010

From The Laguna Beach Independent:

Ex-Political Pundit Embraces Gay Rights Activism

Fred Karger’s activism blossomed in the fight to preserve the now-defunct Boom Boom Room, seen here in an informal memorial garden for AIDS victims near the nightclub.

By Jennifer Erickson

Laguna Beach resident Fred Karger’s fight against the 2008 California ballot initiative to make same-sex marriage illegal has transformed him into a nationally known gay advocate as well as a target of a daunting lawsuit.

Yet, Karger, 59, had not even come out publicly until 2006 when beginning a local campaign to “Save the Boom,” the legendary gay Laguna Beach nightclub that closed in 2007.

Having worked as a political consultant in Los Angeles for 27 years, Karger’s activism was public, but his sexual orientation was very private. “I was scared to death of being found out,” said Karger of his years of secrecy. “Looking back, it’s hard to even imagine what I went through, the fear of being discovered for so many years…”

Karger’s involvement in politics began at the tender age of 10, attending a press conference with his grandmother in the suburbs of Chicago where he grew up. “I just always loved it,” he said, adding that he used to ride his bike to the local campaign headquarters of various politicians.

But political activism was a volunteer activity for Karger, who moved to Los Angeles after graduating from college in 1973. He didn’t consider it a career option and instead worked as an actor for three years. When his work became politics, Karger’s acting took on a more personal dimension.

After volunteering for the campaign of a state senator, Karger was hired by a political consulting firm run by Bill Roberts, who became his mentor. Their first major client was a state senator from Long Beach, George Deukmejian, then running for attorney general. The firm helped Deukmejian’s subsequent race for governor.

Karger worked for Roberts until his untimely death in 1988. By then, Karger was a partner in the firm, which would shift to corporate clients from politicians over the next decade.

Until his retirement to Laguna Beach in 2004, Karger successfully played the role of a straight man. “My acting background probably helped me put on a good act for a long time,” he said, admitting to an 11-year relationship with another man that neither his employer nor family knew about.

In Laguna, the tables turned. Instead of hiding his orientation to save his job, Karger’s self-appointed job is now to “save” gay rights.

“This is a very powerful story, because it is a story that is replicated all over the country and the world, the story of a man growing up who is gay and unable to deal with it for lots of reasons,” said Bob Gentry, Laguna’s first openly gay mayor, whom Karger considers his hero.

That Karger’s activism dovetailed so seamlessly with his coming out should be no surprise, Gentry said, since newfound freedom is empowering.

Saving the Boom saved Karger. He lamented the closing of gay bars in Santa Barbara, and was afraid that Laguna’s fate might be the same. He looked to Gentry for advice. “He gave me a pep talk and said ‘Don’t be afraid, you’re doing the right thing. Be proud of what you’re doing.’”

The Boom effort won him recognition in the gay community and proved the perfect segue into a far bigger battle.

Karger’s years of experience in politics attuned him to the need to question the role of big donors in the anti gay marriage Prop. 8 campaign. He looked at similar battles in other states and found that no one was challenging major donor opponents there either. Karger decided to take up the gauntlet, though it made some uneasy.

Since establishing Californians Against Hate in July 2008, Karger has strived for full disclosure of the people and organizations financing the campaign against gay marriage rights. “I wanted to make it socially unacceptable for people to give massive amounts of money to take away the rights of a minority,” said Karger. And despite voter approval of Proposition 8, he believes that has been accomplished, though not without personal cost to him.

Californians Against Hate filed a complaint with the state Fair Political Practices Commission against the Mormon Church in November 2008 for failing to report numerous non-monetary contributions to ProtectMarriage. com, a coalition formed to support Prop 8. The enforcement division of the FPPC subsequently opened an investigation of the allegations made in the complaint.

When gay marriage opponents began supporting an initiative last year in Maine to overturn same-sex weddings, Karger called for another investigation, writing Maine’s Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices and its attorney general, detailing alleged election law violations by Stand for Marriage Maine.

Karger’s activism in September led to his entanglement in a federal lawsuit. He was served a subpoena by the National Organization for Marriage, organized to oppose same-sex marriage in state legislatures, in its suit against top California state officials over public records.

Karger anticipated what he believes is retaliation. The subpoena compels him to produce a daunting amount of records for Californians Against Hate since January 2008. He retained Stevens, O’Connell and Jacobs to represent him.

Gentry believes that Karger’s fight for transparency is fundamental to suppressing oppression of gay and lesbian people. Gentry is convinced that Karger’s opponents are trying to silence him since “they do not want our voice because our voice is a voice of honesty and transparency. Their voice is a voice of innuendo, prejudice and bigotry.”

It turns out, the subpoena held a silver lining, literally and figuratively. Last month, under both the emotional and financial strain, Karger set up a legal defense fund, “FiveforFred.com,” requesting five-dollar donations from supporters in an email plea. He discovered just how many people are already behind him.

He’s received more than $18,000 from people all over the country, much of it in five-dollar contributions. “The fact that I’ve gotten this huge amount of support is so meaningful and gratifying. Quite frankly it makes all the difference,” he said, and will help pay for the latest invoices from his attorneys.

According to Gentry, Karger “is becoming a hero to thousands of people who hear about him, because he gives them the strength to be themselves.”

Michelangelo Signorile on Five for Fred

Monday, December 28th, 2009

Michelangelo Signorile can be heard on Sirius OutQ 109

Click the arrow above to hear Sirius XM Satellite Radio talk show host Michelangelo Signorile talk about the FiveForFred campaign.

The Michelangelo Signorile Show broadcasts Monday through Friday, 2-6 p.m. ET (11-3 PT), on Sirius OutQ 109, and can be heard across the continental United States and all of Canada. OutQ on Sirius Satellite Radio is America’s only 24/7 radio station from and for the LGBT community. Listen in at any time by getting a free three-day pass.