Des Moines Register

Mar 5, 2011

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5 potential GOP candidates to converge at forum

8:31 PM, Mar. 5, 2011

Written by Jason Clayworth

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A high-profile forum in Waukee on Monday will mark the unofficial start of the run-up to the 2012 Iowa presidential caucuses.

Potential candidates who are absent may stunt their eventual campaigns, some Republican strategists said, while also acknowledging that it’s early, and there’s time to make up ground.

Two of the biggest names who aren’t scheduled to attend: Sarah Palin and Mike Huckabee.

“They are losing out because it reinforces the talking point that they’re not running,” said Chuck Laudner, former executive director of the Republican Party of Iowa. “Every day that somebody comes to the conclusion that Palin or Huckabee or whoever isn’t going to run, then they start lining up behind these other candidates.”

The Iowa Faith & Freedom Coalition’s annual spring event will feature five Republicans eyeing a run for president in 2012: former Godfather’s Pizza CEO Herman Cain; former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich; former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty; former Louisiana Gov. Buddy Roemer; and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum. Each is to be allowed 10 minutes to speak.

National news coverage is expected at the event at Point of Grace Church, and more than 600 GOP activists have made plans to attend, including Gov. Terry Branstad and Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds.

The coalition is a conservative group headed by Republican National Committee member Steve Scheffler of West Des Moines. It invited about 15 potential candidates, including Palin, the former Alaska governor, and Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor. Scheffler has pitched Monday’s event as “the largest gathering of pro-family, values-minded voters in the spring of 2011.”

The group gained attention for one person who was excluded from the invitation list: Fred Karger, a gay man and longtime Republican activist from California who has formed a presidential exploratory committee.

Scheffler and Karger butted heads last year when Scheffler sent an e-mail telling Karger: “I will work overtime to help ensure that your political aspirations are aborted right here in Iowa.”

Karger has filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission, saying Scheffler is unfairly promoting other candidates. Karger acknowledged that FEC action against caucus debate sponsors is rare. The coalition would face fines or possible loss of its nonprofit status if the FEC were to investigate and rule in Karger’s favor.

Scheffler did not return a phone call Friday, but the coalition’s organizational director, Drew Klein, said sexual orientation was not a criteria for the invitations. He declined to specify why Karger wasn’t invited.

Karger, 61, said he wants to help transform the GOP into a more welcoming and tolerant political group from the inside out. He said he will not attempt to crash Monday’s event.

“It’s very disturbing,” Karger said of Scheffler and the group’s decision. “He’s so blatant and so nasty about his approach, saying I’m a single-issue candidate, which is code for: ‘He’s gay.’ ”

Laudner noted that in previous years, hundreds of people have filed paperwork to run for president, and that someone like Karger, who has slim name recognition, isn’t a viable candidate.

Bob Haus, a Des Moines Republican who managed caucus campaigns for Fred Thompson, Steve Forbes and Phil Gramm, said Karger has been able to gain attention by not being invited. Ultimately, however, the forum is about the most serious candidates, Haus said.

Haus said it’s possible that those who skip the event may hurt their long-term viability as candidates. However, any candidate could quickly regain ground in Iowa with hard work and one-on-one meetings with the party’s core voters, he said.

Nonetheless, he called Monday’s event “a pretty big deal.”

“I think many are on their own time frame, and they’re going to figure out when and if they want to get in according to their own schedule,” Haus said.

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Daily Caller

Mar 4, 2011

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Upcoming Iowa presidential forum excludes Gay Republican candidate

by Amanda Carey, 3/5/11

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The Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition (IFFC) plans to host a presidential forum on Monday, March 7. As presidential forums go, this one is considered a big deal. It’s the first time prospective 2012 Republican candidates will appear together and it takes place in the great state of Iowa – home to the Iowa caucus.So far, Rick Santorum, Buddy Roemer, Herman Cain, Tim Pawlenty and Newt Gingrich have signed on to attend. Haley Barbour, Mitch Daniels, Mike Huckabee, Sarah Palin, Ron Paul, Tim Pawlenty, Mike Pence, John Thune, Gary Johnson and John Bolton were all also invited.

The forum isn’t a debate. Rather, it’s a meet-and-greet, where potential candidates will give a 10-minute pitch to the nation’s first voters.

Steve Scheffler, president of the Coalition, recently commented on the event, saying the 2012 election has the “most wide-open field in 50 years.” And according to a December 2010 Wall Street Journal story, Scheffler said invitations to the forum had been sent to “anyone who has expressed the slightest interest in the 2012 Republican nomination.”

But one potential candidate is being kept out of the forum.

Fred Karger, the openly gay Republican from California who was among the first to launch a presidential exploratory committee and run in ads in Iowa and New Hampshire, has been barred from participating in the event.

The reason? According to Karger, it’s because he is gay.

“There is no specific political criteria used like other sponsors of debates and forums use,” said Karger in a statement. “[…] By excluding one possible candidate, he [Scheffler] is in fact making an ‘in-kind’ contribution to all those who are participating.”

According to Karger, Scheffler also sent him a ‘disturbing” email last May, in which he wrote, “[you and the radical homosexual community want to harass supporters of REAL marriage. I am the Republican National Committeeman for Iowa … I will work overtime to help ensure that your political aspirations are aborted right here in Iowa.”

As a response, Karger filed an official complaint with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) just last week, arguing that Scheffler was violating campaign finance laws. He even launched a website, LetFredIn.com, where supporters can sign a petition supporting Karger’s participation in the forum.

When contacted by The Daily Caller, Karger said “No, I’m not going to go if I’m not invited,” but he wasn’t going to give up on getting an invitation.

He even has back-up plane reservations to Iowa Sunday night. Just in case.

When asked by TheDC, why Karger was being excluded from the forum, Scheffler simply said, “Look at our quote on the Iowa Independent.”

Presumably, Scheffler meant this quote that was in the Independent on Feb. 24: “Potential candidates were invited based on an objective criteria of viability, fundraising ability, and prior electoral success with advice from legal counsel. We are in full compliance with federal campaign regulations governing such events.”

Karger told TheDC the FEC did acknowledge receiving the complaint, and the agency promised to issue “some kind of statement” within days.

So far, none of the other participants in Monday’s forum have expressed support for his efforts, said Karger, though Republican Rep. Ron Paul of Texas was also excluded from the event four years ago.

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The Hill

Mar 2, 2011

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Former Louisiana Governor to Launch White House Bid

By Shane D’Aprile, 3/3/11

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Former Louisiana Gov. Buddy Roemer (R) is set to announce the formation of a presidential exploratory committee, making him one of the earliest entrants into the 2012 Republican field.

Roemer is a Democrat-turned-Republican who served in the House and for one term as Louisiana governor, but hasn’t served in elected office for close to 20 years.

With the formation of the committee, Roemer would become the first former governor to officially jump into the 2012 field and join two largely unknown Republican contenders who have already formed exploratory committees — conservative talk-show host Herman Cain and gay rights activist Fred Karger.

From The Associated Press:

A former congressman out of elected office since the early 1990s, Roemer served one term as governor, from 1988 to 1992, switching from the Democratic Party to the GOP while running for re-election.

He lost his re-election bid after his “Roemer Revolution” of promised reforms failed to materialize amid disputes with lawmakers and allies of Democratic former Gov. Edwin Edwards, who preceded and succeeded Roemer in office. Roemer didn’t even make the runoff election, squeezed out by Edwards and former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke.

Most recently, Roemer has built and run a Baton Rouge-based bank that serves commercial businesses. He endorsed and campaigned for Republican U.S. Sen. John McCain for president in 2008.

Roemer will travel to Iowa next week to take part in an event hosted by the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, former Sen. Rick Santorum and Cain will also be in attendance.

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Guardian Story on Fred: February 13, 2011

Feb 13, 2011

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Gay rights champion aims to become Republican presidential candidate

Fred Karger has already launched a campaign for the nomination in the key states of Iowa and New Hampshire

Paul Harris, New York

The Observer, Sunday 13 February 2011

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Fred Karger, a gay candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, campaigns at a town hall meeting in Keene, New Hampshire Photograph: Matthew Cavanaugh

Fred Karger walked into a coffee shop in Manhattan looking every inch the sort of man who wants to be a Republican presidential candidate.

The long-time “Grand Old Party” operative, who has served three different Republican presidents, had close-cropped grey hair and wore a sharp blue business suit. He clutched a folder of campaign literature and handed out a T-shirt emblazoned with “Iowa 2012″. But one key detail made Karger a little different in a Republican field swirling with names like Jeb Bush, Mitt Romney, Sarah Palin and Mike Huckabee. On his suit lapel Karger wore a badge pairing the Stars and Stripes with the rainbow colours of the gay rights movement.

Karger, 61, whose 2012 presidential exploratory committee is perhaps the furthest advanced of any potential Republican candidate, is openly gay. When he officially declares his run, he will not only be the first gay Republican presidential candidate but also the first such candidate from any political party in American history. “I am a fighter and I am trying to change the Republican party and to open it up to everybody. If every gay person left the Republican party and went to the Democrats, that would be stupid. I believe in smaller federal government and personal responsibility just like my hero, Ronald Reagan,” Karger said over a chicken salad sandwich and a cola.

There is no doubting Karger’s Republican credentials. He has spent his life working for the party’s cause as a top strategist. Like Karl Rove, he was a disciple of the controversial Republican tactician Lee Atwater. Indeed, Karger played a key role in publicising the “Willie Horton” adverts that destroyed the Democratic candidate Michael Dukakis in 1988. Horton was a jailed murderer let out on a Dukakis-backed weekend release programme in Massachusetts who committed armed robbery, assault and rape while at large. Karger toured the country with relatives of Horton’s victims, dealing a fatal blow to Dukakis’s image. He does not regret it for a moment. “No, not in the least,” he said with a smile.

But there is, obviously, doubt over Karger’s chances in a field likely to be dominated by people with higher name recognition who are heterosexuals in a party with a dominant social conservative wing. Yet Karger is already at work in Iowa and New Hampshire, the key first states in the nomination process. He has visited Iowa five times and New Hampshire 11 times in the past year. He has had aired TV adverts (the only potential candidate to do so) and held town hall meetings, attracted volunteers and even hired staff.

He is bluntly honest about the fact that he is a virtual unknown. His campaign slogan adorning the T-shirts, badges and frisbees he gives out asks: “Fred who?” Yet it’s a strategy that has earned him a wave of positive press coverage, including a profile in the Washington Post. Karger knows that winning the 2012 Republican nomination as a proud proclaimed gay man is a long shot. But getting in the televised candidate debates might not be. By the spring he will probably have a ground operation, a media presence, campaign funds in the bank, a staff and a headquarters. That will allow Karger to put gay rights, including gay marriage, on the table in a party that usually contents itself with bluntly dismissing them. To say the least, it will make interesting viewing and unsettle the big names. “I will take the gloves off if necessary,” he said. He believes his campaign can raise $5m.

Since coming out several years ago, Karger has been a vocal campaigner for gay rights and a high-profile critic of organisations, especially the Mormon church, that oppose gay marriage.

Perhaps, then, it is no wonder the Republican establishment is trying its best to exclude him. Last week’s meeting of the influential Conservative Political Action Committee in Washington did not invite Karger to speak, though Karger used the snub to generate media attention to his cause. “I cannot help but think that I have been excluded solely because I happen to be gay… I am not some two-headed monster. I want to squash the anti-gay rhetoric,” he said.

During his trips to Iowa and New Hampshire, often speaking to gay student groups, Karger noticed that he was getting a lot of emails from young gay people saying his ambitions had helped their lives where they faced prejudice and bullying. Karger remembered feeling isolated when he was closeted for most of his life and does not want others to go through that experience. Having an openly gay man run for the presidency is vital, he believes, even if he fails.

He says the symbolism of paving the way is important, just like it has been with pioneering but ultimately unsuccessful women such as Hillary Clinton and black candidates like the Rev Jesse Jackson. Somewhere in America, Karger hopes, a young gay person will see his run and think: I can do that, too, one day. “I am doing this for younger people,” says Karger. “I am fine now. I am happy in my skin. But when I was growing up it was hell. I don’t want anyone to go through that. That is what motivates me to make my voice heard. No more Mr Nice Gay.”

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