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2008. (By contrast, anti-Prop 8 orces raised$64 million.)But i the opponents o gay marriagewon the battle, they also ensured them-selves a big headache. In Karger, they gal-vanized an adversary who has now dug into ght or the long haul—and who bringsa dramatically dierent skill set than therest o the marriage-equality movement.As Karger notes, most o the prominentgay-marriage advocates are, well,
people: risk averse and unschooled in thepolitical dark arts. “I’m a dierent kind o gay activist,” he says. “I’m a little wilder.”
a little more, well, Republican.At 14, growing up in Glencoe, Illinois,Karger took the train to Chicago to work phone banks or Nelson Rockeeller. Hewas deputy campaign director or ormer Caliornia governor George Deukme- jian and spent 27 years with the DolphinGroup, one o the country’s most sought-ater Republican consulting rms. The rmdid a lot o work with Lee Atwater, the latebad boy o Republican politics. As part o Atwater’s most inamous play, during the1988 campaign against Michael Dukakis,Karger personally tracked down the victimso urloughed murderer Willie Horton andtook them around the country or pressevents. “We made a huge splash,” he notes.“This is kind o my niche.”Another o Karger’s specialties at Dol-phin was setting up Astrotur groups onbehal o corporations like Philip Morris—aphony restaurant trade group, or example,that lobbied against indoor smoking bans.Dr. Stanton Glantz, director o the Center or Tobacco Control Research and Edu-cation at the University o Caliornia-SanFrancisco, helped expose Karger’s rontgroup, which he recalls slowed down smok-ing bans signicantly. “Anybody who doesthat kind o work is a bad guy,” he says.“It’s deceitul.” But he concedes that inthe secretive gay-marriage oes, Karger hasound the perect oil. “He’s very well posi-tioned to out these guys because he knowshow they work it.”I Glantz thinks o this kind o covertwork as sleazy, Karger views it as a wholelot o good un. Movie-star tan and bu enough to proudly go shirtless at 60, he hasan expansive sense o humor about poli-tics that masks just how ocused he is ongetting results. (He’s been known to handout three-dollar bills with pictures o Rick Warren, or photos o himsel dressed as theLone Ranger.) A earless and inveterate gate-crasher, Karger isn’t araid to pull o nervystunts, like masquerading as a restaurantlobbyist. In 2006, he waltzed into
’s exclusive Academy Awards party witha ake Oscar statue and our hot chicks he’dmet on the street, claiming to be part o the
special eects team.Karger says he honed his creative, cha-meleonlike qualities early in lie out o necessity—to hide his sexual orientation.As a young man, being gay was his “deep-est, darkest secret. I grew up thinking I wasmuch less o a person than my riends andcounterparts. Twenty-seven years ago, noone was out. Growing up I had two choic-es: I was either going to be like Liberace or like Paul Lynde [a.k.a. Uncle Arthur on
and a regular on
].Neither was out.” He did have long-termrelationships, including one that lasted 11years. But his partner had to hide all thephotos and fee the house when Karger’samily came to visit.His ather, a Chicago stockbroker, hadexpected him to work in the amily rm,but Karger—iguring his secret wouldget out eventually i he stayed in town—moved to Los Angeles. Through contactshe made at the 1972 Academy Awards(which he’d crashed as part o a rat und-raiser), he ended up appearing in commer-cials, including a amous shaving cream addirected by the late John Hughes. He ap-peared in ’70s shows like
Owen Marshall:Counselor at Law
and was on the verge o minor stardom when he won a top role inthe pilot or a spin-o o
Welcome Back, Kotter
. But the show was canned, so Karger ound work on a political campaign anddiscovered his true calling.
there was never conlictbetween his sexual orientation and hiscampaigning or Republicans. The Dol-phin Group, he says, worked mostly withsocially moderate candidates. Even RonaldReagan, he recalls, had an inner circle thatwas “very gay. Nancy was very gay-riendly.He was a wonderul politician, a wonder-ul man.”
Today Karger considers himsel a“Schwarzenegger Republican,” noting thatthe Caliornia governor supports gay mar-riage, “unlike President Obama.”Still, it was only ater leaving Dolphinin 2004 that Karger became involved ingay causes—or, to be precise, the cause o a historic gay bar in Laguna Beach, theOrange County surer town where helives part time. In 2005, billionaire StevenUdvar-Hazy was seeking to shut down the43-year-old Boom Boom Room to build aluxury hotel. Karger thought it might beun to try to save the Boom.It wasn’t an easy decision—he’d onlybeen out to amily and close riends, andby joining this ght he’d announce hissexuality to the world. Still, ater somesoul-searching, he threw himsel into theproject with the fair o an actor and thechops o an oppo-research man.He took out a
ad appealing toGeorge Clooney and Brad Pitt to save theclub (the actors had been rumored to be in-terested in buying it) and picketed their ap-pearances at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre. Tohelp engage the locals and raise a little mon-ey, he ran a male calendar contest, using La-guna Beach’s primary natural resource: hotyoung guys. He delivered wheelbarrows ullo petitions to the City Council and nallywon its support or the campaign. In theend, the Boom ended up closing anyway,but Udvar-Hazy’s hotel plans have stalledand the building is up or sale, leaving thepossibility o a resurrection.The Boom campaign taught Karger anunexpected lesson. Ater years o depend-ing on gobs o money and powerul alliesor his campaigns, it turned out that all hereally needed was the Internet. “I didn’thave to raise any money! Which is o course the least enjoyable part o politics,”he says with a laugh.A ew months later, Karger read a news-paper story about the push to put Prop 8 onthe Caliornia ballot. A couple o wealthySan Diego businessmen had contributeda lot o money to
, the Mormon-connected group that had been largelyresponsible or gathering the signatures toqualiy the initiative. One o them, TerryCaster, who the paper reported had givenmore than $160,000 to the eort, said that“without solid marriage, you are going tohave a sick society.”For Karger, who’s happily single, gay mar-riage is a bit o a theoretical concept. But hethinks a lot about the hurtul messages gaykids hear growing up, and Caster’s commentmade him mad. So he red up his laptopand launched Caliornians Against Hate, a
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one-man shop dedicated to publicizing thenames o major Prop 8 donors. “I wanted tomake it socially unacceptable to take awaythe rights o a minority,” he explains—to, asit were, push such behavior into the closet.In July 2008, he held his rst rally in ronto a San Diego hotel owned by Prop 8 do-nor Doug Manchester, calling or a boycott.It caught on, and soon major clients weremoving their meetings away rom Man-chester’s properties. By last spring the hotel’snew, gay PR guru let it be known that Man-chester would be donating $25,000 in cashand up to $100,000 in hotel credits to any
group that applied. (Few takers so ar.)As the battle over Prop 8 raged, Karger continued to expose donors and work thepress. He tipped o the
Wall Street Journal
about the Mormons’ involvement, and inSeptember 2008 the paper broke the story.And he kept nding new ways to hound hisadversaries: In monitoring post-electioncampaign nance reports, he noticed thatthe Mormon church was only reporting$2,078 in nonmonetary contributions tothe Prop 8 eort. That didn’t square giventhat the church had mobilized a huge num-ber o volunteers (many o them ormer missionaries with ample door-knocking ex-perience), brought in busloads o support-ers rom Utah, arranged satellite broadcastso church leaders, and produced a host o slick ads plus a top-notch website.Karger led a ormal complaint with theCaliornia Fair Political Practices Commis-sion, a move that prompted a spokesmanto claim that the church had spent “zerodollars” on Prop 8. Two months later thechurch led a new report saying it hadgiven $190,000 worth o nonmonetarycontributions in the ew days beore theelection (ater the ling deadline or theearlier report). Caliornia election ocialsare continuing to investigate.As he made a name or himsel in theProp 8 ght, Karger began getting anony-mous tips about the church leadership. Oneo those tips led him to a treasure trove o internal church documents that laid out aremarkably organized campaign to ght gaymarriage nationwide. The church, Karger realized, had been involved in this ght—quietly, but very eectively—or much lon-ger than he’d thought.
o a persecuted people, manyo whom starved to death on their trek to Utah, Mormonism has always empha-sized the role o marriage and childbearing(hence its early practice o polygamy) toboost its numbers. Mormons must marryand have children to achieve the highestlevels o divinity. There’s not much roomin that scheme or same-sex marriage, atleast not among a leadership dominatedby men in their 70s and 80s. In 1995, thechurch made its position ocial by issu-ing a proclamation carrying the weight o scripture that declared marriage between aman and a woman the bedrock o society.Even beore that, the church had beenworking behind the scenes to block gaymarriage nationwide—and aligning itsel with the Catholic Church, which, eldersnoted in internal memos, had “more re-spect” than the Mormons. To execute thatvision, the church used its public aairscommittee, a body organized much like apolitical consulting rm. Its leadership hasincluded high-ranking church elder Rich-ard B. Wirthlin, a legendary Caliornia po-litical consultant who was Ronald Reagan’spollster. Wirthlin was a major player in theProp 8 ght (some o his relatives even ap-peared in ProtectMarriage.com’s TV ads).The public-aairs committee or decadestracked gay-marriage eorts in every state,almost single-handedly blocked it in Ha-waii in the 1990s, and had a signicant rolein killing it in Alaska.The documents Karger obtained, someo which he has posted at mormongate.org,show that in Hawaii, the church went tothe trouble o creating a ront group tohide its role. Memos detail how the churchlooked or an “articulate middle-age moth-er who is neither Catholic nor
” to rep-resent the organization—which wouldclaim to also ocus on prostitution andgambling, but would, in act, be devotedsolely to abolishing gay marriage.The documents convinced Karger thatthe Mormons had also created a ront groupto ght gay marriage in Caliornia. Thatgroup, he believes, is
, which has alsobeen active on the issue in Massachusettsand Maine, and which was primarily respon-sible or putting Prop 8 on the ballot. Itsboard had deep connections to the church,including a ormer Brigham Young Univer-sity proessor whose amily is part o the topchurch hierarchy.
’s president is MaggieGallagher, the amily-values activist who wasexposed in 2005 or ailing todisclose payments she receivedrom the Bush administration.Karger began hounding
or inormation about its nanc-es, such as the tax orms everynonprot must make available tothe public. He contacted the
oces, even sent an ally to thegroup’s headquarters in New Jersey—where,despite repeated visits, no one answered thedoor. He struck out.Brian Brown,
’s executive director,says Karger is guilty o “religious bigotry.”There is, he says, no actual basis or hisclaims that
is a ront or the MormonChurch. “Fred Karger has a history o be-ing untruthul and making alse attacks on
and in general trying to intimidate andharass [
] supporters. Frankly he’s anembarrassment to those who want to civ-illy debate the same-sex-marriage issue. Hehas no basis in reality. We see Fred Karger as someone who is wasting our time.”Yet Karger’s muckraking has clearlystruck a nerve with
. In January2009, with the help o the Indiana-basedChristian right
law rm Bopp, Coleson &Bostrom, the group sued the state o Cali-ornia, challenging the law that requiresdisclosure o ballot-initiative donors.
alleges that the requirements prompt ha-rassment o donors—in good part, courtdocuments suggest, via lawn-sign thet.
It’s a serious case rom a group o lawyerswho have an excellent track record at over-turning campaign fnance laws. (James Bopp,one o the frm’s name partners, brought theoriginal lawsuit in
Citizens United v.
, theSupreme Court case that in a seismic Janu-ary ruling led the court to throw out ederallimits on corporate
A ll , K l
j lk Wll H l l
G H.W. B.
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