From Karen Ocamb’s LGBT POV:

GOProud, Tammy Bruce Break the Manchester Hyatt Boycott Saturday – A Closer Look

GOProud, the Washington D.C.-based conservative gay Republican group, is holding a private reception Saturday at the Manchester Hyatt hotel, which has been the target of a boycott by the LGBT community and the UNITE HERE! Labor union since July 2008.

The LGBT/labor coalition Sleep With The Right People plans to protest the event starting at 4:30 at the Manchester Grand Hyatt, 1 Market Place in San Diego. The GOProud event runs from 5pm to 7pm.

Cleve Jones, friend of Harvey Milk and founder of the NAMES PROJECT AIDS Memorial Quilt, is a UNITE HERE organizer trying to remedy the drastic conditions for workers and lack of job security at the hotel. Cleve says:

“The solidarity between the labor movement and the LGBT movement is a powerful coalition. In San Diego, the owner of the Manchester Grand Hyatt—the second largest Hyatt in North America—gave $125,000 to put Proposition 8 on the ballot. Our union and the LGBT community are boycotting the Manchester Grand Hyatt, because there is power in the union and there is power in coalition.”

Pause for a second and consider this: ManchesterÂ’s $125,000 came in February 2008 at a time when the antigay campaigners did not have enough money to put the measure on the ballot. That money not only paid for the signature-gathering campaign but also gave the then-lackluster Gail Knight-led ProtectMarriage fiscal viability that brought in new money and support. Equality for All countered with a Decline to Sign effort.

Equality for All was non-partisan and reached out to gay Republicans and independents, as well as progressives to fight Prop 8. Political consultant Scott Schmidt of the Los Angeles chapter of the Log Cabin Republicans, later created Republicans Against Prop 8 to specifically target Republicans after the measure qualified. Log Cabin has also honored the boycott.

So why is GOProud holding their Tea Party-sounding “Don’t Tread on Us” reception at the Manchester Hyatt hotel? I don’t think it’s because they need the (CORRECTION) $16,000 ($6,000 was cash from Manchester Financial Group and $10,000 was hotel credit from Manchester Grand Hyatt) to break the boycott and fund their 527.

I think this is a PR move aimed at a larger, conservative audience – not the LGBT community. Indeed, this is the gay version of the fight within the Republican Party itself between the ultra-conservatives, exemplified by Dick Armey, Karl Rove, and Mike Pence – and more moderate conservatives such as Arnold Schwarzenegger, Chris Shays, Allan Simpson and Christie Todd Whitman. In Whitman’s wrote a book “It’s My Party Too,” she explains: “The trend we’re seeing in my party, in particular, is the growing influence of people who want to define what it means to be a good Republican in an ever-narrowing way.”

Bottom line: Log Cabin Republicans are Republicans in the traditional sense – focus on the individual, lower taxes, limited government, national security, keep the government out of the bedroom. But LCR is also focused on LGBT equality – the best example of which is their go-alone, six-year federal lawsuit to have Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell declared unconstitutional.

GOProud, on the other hand, is a more currently conservative GOP group with an agenda that strongly mirrors the ultra-conservative Congressional Republican agenda – though GOProud supports repeal of DADT and opposes a federal constitutional marriage amendment.

Reporting on the split among gay Republicans after executive director Patrick Sammon left in January, PoliticoÂ’s Ben Smith on April 10, 2009 quoted Christopher Barron, a former Log Cabin political director who broke with LCR:

“Essentially, there’s no voice for gay Republicans or gay conservatives in particular in D.C. right now. Log Cabin has been completely and totally absent here in D.C. for months and months,” Barron said.?”It has simply moved way too far to the left and is basically indistinguishable from any other gay left organization.”
“If your main issue is hate crimes or [federal anti-discrimination legislation] or marriage, you’re probably not a Republican,” Barron said, saying that while he backs gay groups on those other issues, they shouldn’t be federal priorities.”

Ironically, as Kerry Eleveld noted in her reporting for The Advocate for May 19, the accusation about LCR being weak in DC came around the same time as their national convention at which Republican presidential nominee John McCain’s daughter Meghan and his campaign manager, Steve Schmidt, came out in support of marriage equality. Although the revelations, Eleveld wrote, “may fall short of a conservative revolution, I dare say it’s the first salvo in a battle for the soul of the party.”

But, Eleveld wrote:

“even with the advent of this new conservative gay group, the state legislatures will be the sole domain of Log Cabin. GOProud will focus on federal issues, Chris Barron said at their Wednesday press conference. Their 10-point legislative agenda did not, however, include hate crimes, employment nondiscrimination, or relationship recognition. Barron — who was a political director for Log Cabin and worked on hate crimes and ENDA legislation — called those “laudable goals” but, added his counterpart Jimmy LaSalvia, “there are two dozen groups downtown already working on ENDA and hate crimes.”

But employment nondiscrimination? What a loss — for a Republican who knows the issue inside and out — not to be lobbying GOP members of Congress on behalf of LGBT people who work in 30 states across the country with no legal protections.”

I asked LaSalvia about the 14-month old organization and the boycott. He said GOProud is starting to hold events around the country to “raise awareness” about the group.

“We wanted to hold an event this summer in Southern California, and we chose to do our first event in California in San Diego because of its large population of conservatives. You probably know that that there are very few properties in the world of the stature of the Manchester Hyatt, so it would be an obvious place to consider for an event in San Diego.

As far as the boycott goes, Mr. Manchester has apologized for his support of Proposition 8, and has generously offered financial support to the LGBT community.”

Well, let’s look at that for a moment. Even the San Diego Union Tribune suspected that Manchester’s throwing of a “serious chunk of change at gay and lesbian causes” was nothing “but an attempt to derail that pesky boycott…. The $125,000 total matches what he gave to Proposition 8. So it would be even-steven.

“He’s trying to clarify his views,” Kelly Commerford, director of marketing for the Grand Hyatt, one of the largest hotels on the West Coast, told the paper. “He’s not discriminatory. He’s supportive of this community. He realizes he offended people.”

Commerford confirmed the money to me, though he would not discuss whether Manchester is trying to sell the Hyatt. He wrote via email:

Doug Manchester offered a $125,000 donation ($25,000 in cash and $100,000 in in-kind services) to LGBT organizations as tangible proof of his regret for his original donation and as a re-commitment to the LGBT community in San Diego and beyond. An application and selection process was put in place, to which several organizations applied. This pledge has been fulfilled.”

Indeed, a website was set up especially to present the apology, the application and other PR overtures from Manchester. Some thought the apology was “hollow.”

But in talking about the boycott, LaSalvia moves into what language more closely associated with Dick Armey, who called openly gay Rep. Barney Frank “Barney Fag:”

“We lost the Prop 8 battle in California, and if we ever want to win then our community needs to be in the business of making new friends not enemies. The reason the boycott is still in effect is because of unrelated issues raised by labor unions. Unlike other gay organizations, GOProud does not take its marching orders from union thugs. (Emphasis LaSalvia’s)

Mr. Manchester has generously offered financial support to a variety of LGBT organizations, including GOProud. I couldn’t care less if others accept the support or reject the support.”

LaSilvia also said:

“Our mission is to represent gay conservatives and our allies. The traditional “gay agenda” has been defined by the left and treated as if it’s the top priority for all gay people. We work on a much broader agenda and that conservative policies are good for all Americans, but especially gay and lesbian Americans.”

Potential gay GOP presential contender Fred Karger, who founded Californians Against Hate – which just changed its name to Rights Equal Rights – thinks thatÂ’s just spin:

“GOProud should not even be considered a gay Republican group, and should not be called so. They are a Republican ultra conservative group, apparently made up of only a handful of members. They don’t even support pro gay Republicans. In California last month they endorsed the same candidate in the U. S. Senate race as the most anti-gay organization in the country, the dreaded National Organization for Marriage, against former Republican Congressman Tom Campbell, who supports full LGBT equality.

They instead should be called GOEmbarrassment.”

Karger notes that while the California Republican Party is holding its semi-annual convention at the Hyatt the end of August, “California Log Cabin is for the first time not holding their reception at the host hotel, but has moved it to another property in San Diego, and thus honoring the boycott. They of course endorsed [pro-gay US Senate candidate]Tom Campbell and gave him money, I believe.”

Karger helped organize the boycott:

“The Boycott Manchester Hotels, organized 2 years ago by numerous LGBT groups and our labor allies, has been so successful, that Manchester’s own estimates are that it is costing his Manchester Grand Hyatt property alone $1 million per month in lost business. All real LGBT organizations including HRC and Equality California have turned down any money from Manchester, and many other LGBT and allied organizations have endorsed the boycott including the Courage Campaign and the Equality Federation.”

So why break the boycott? While everyone is focusing on the rivalry between GOProud and LCR, I started thinking about openly gay radio talk show host and author Tammy Bruce, who chairs GOProudÂ’s Advisory Council. My hunch is that this stunt is a way for GOProud to prove to the Tea Party and other ultra-conservatives that they are more Republican than gay.

Tammy Bruce is something of a star on the conservative right wing C-List, introducing herself as a gay, gun-owning former liberal Democrat who bucked the oppressive liberal political correctness and now makes money talking about it. Judging from her website, sheÂ’s also a big Sarah Palin fan.

Tammy used to be the head of the NOW chapter in Los Angeles in 1989/early 1990s, when she worked in coalition with progressive LGBT groups. I covered her at that time and watched as she used her celebrity status as a local radio show host to help raise money for HIV/AIDS organizations and other causes.

But by the mid-90s, she had become a controversial lightening rod. In 1995, NOW President Patricia Ireland condemned Tammy at a news conference for making insensitive remarks during the OJ Simpson trial. Tammy said she was trying to keep domestic violence instead of race in the spotlight. Marc Lacey reported in the LA Times Dec. 7, 1995:

“Bruce was quoted in an Associated Press report as saying she did not want to discuss the O.J. Simpson case on a TV program because she did not want “to argue with a bunch of black women.” Bruce later said she had been misquoted on the matter.

Ireland said the comments caused grave concerns among many black women in the organization and raised the false impression that NOW does not regard racism as a problem.

As a sign of how the comments were received, Ireland said leading national civil rights leaders contacted her to complain about Bruce’s outspoken views, while white supremacist groups praised the comments in calls to NOW leaders in one rural state.”

Tammy fought back:

“There is nothing to retract. I have made it clear that this issue affects all women, including women of color. Of course, this issue is colorblind.”

Tammy’s biggest contretemps with the liberal and African American communities came in 1998 when she was fired from her radio gig at KFI for making racially insensitive remarks about Bill and Camille Cosby. On July 8, the day after a 19 year old Ukrainian immigrant had been found guilty of murdering Ennis Cosby, USA Today published an op-ed by Camille Cosby entitled “Camille Cosby: America Taught My Son’s Killer To Hate Blacks.” In it she wrote: “After Mikail Markhasev killed Ennis William Cosby on Jan. 16, 1997, he said to his friends, `I shot a nigger. It’s all over the news.’”

Though many of us missed what Tammy actually said, some of the offensive remarks came to light during KFI program director David G. Hall’s profuse apology (using the royal “we”) for what the usually very smart Tammy said in response to the op-ed. This is from the LA Times:

“Noting that Bruce’s opinions began to “overtake the facts,” Hall called various comments by the KFI host “unfounded, mean-spirited and simply inappropriate.”
“Specifically,” Hall said, “Mrs. Cosby was characterized as ‘incredibly unstable, crazy, paranoid, delusional, just nuts’ and the like. It was suggested that Mrs. Cosby seek therapy. We had no information about Mrs. Cosby’s mental health. . . . We wish to apologize.
“Similarly, in challenging Mrs. Cosby’s assertion that her son’s killing was racially motivated, we suggested that Mrs. Cosby caused her son’s death by giving him access to an expensive car. Those comments were remarkably insensitive. . . . Ours were cruel statements to make to parents whose son had recently been murdered.”

Hall said Tammy’s statements about Bill Cosby were “false, offensive and unnecessarily hurtful. And they too need to be retracted.” Hall cited “our statements” that Cosby had “multiple illegitimate children as a result of multiple extramarital affairs with white women,” and another that he “secretly funded the criminal defense of O.J. Simpson.”

(In 1997, Cosby admitted to one extra-martial affair after a woman tried to extort him for money.)

But as the Daily Howler reported in late 2003, Tammy was out. She re-emerge in 2001 The New Thought Police in which she wrote that Rosa Parks had “pushed us into the maze of Thought Police totalitarianism that we face today.”

In The Death of Right and Wrong, Tammy writes that Bill Cosby and Kweisi Mfume are Black Elitists —people who are “motivated, whether consciously or unconsciously, by a deep-rooted hatred for their country and themselves, which leads them to attempt to destroy the future of their own people and, indeed, everyone else.”

You get the gist. After her run-ins with Patricia Ireland and being called a racist by the Cosbys (a charge with which I publically disagreed-thinking Tammy insensitive but not a racist) – Tammy launched a new lucrative career as a conservative darling.

I asked LaSalvia to put me in touch with Tammy to ask why she was breaking the boycott – but she never contacted me.

So standing back to look at the two organizations – GOProud made headlines at the recent CPAC convention, may make headlines breaking the boycott and is now associated with the policy leadership of Tammy Bruce. LCR, on the other hand, has a new executive director, former diplomat and soldier R. Clarke Cooper, who expressly wants to reconnect with the National Republican Committee. Along those lines, LCR announced that conservative Texas GOP Sen. John Cornyn is attending the LCR PAC reception prior to their big dinner in September. Cooper himself outlined the distinctions last June:

“LCR has a political action committee (PAC) to support Republican candidates. GoProud does not have a PAC. LCR has member-run chapters throughout the United States. GoProud does not have a membership base. LCR has an office with full time staff. GoProud does not have a fixed address. LCR has in-house registered lobbyists with Hill experience. GoProud does not have any presence on Capitol Hill. Finally, LCR has active litigation challenging the Obama Administration to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”. GoProud does not have a presence in the courts.
“By virtue of our lobbying activity, growing relationship with the RNC, and regular contributions from our PAC, LCR is the influential entity on the Hill.”

Charles Moran, Vice-Chairman, Log Cabin California, was less diplomatic:

Log Cabin Republicans was asked to apply for some of the food & beverage credit being offered by Mr. ManchesterÂ’s hotel. Log Cabin Republicans declined the invitation to apply. Log Cabin Republicans understands the profound impact that Mr. ManchesterÂ’s financial contribution made to the Prop 8 campaign. Mr. ManchesterÂ’s right to make that contribution is just as valid as our decision to not patronize his hotel and encourage our members to make the similar decision. As good Republicans, we financially support those who support us.

GOProud is its own organization with its own set of goals and values.

Given that they openly support and endorse candidates who support criminalization of sodomy and believe banning gays and lesbians from teaching in public schools, their decision to take Mr. ManchesterÂ’s money
comes as no surprise.”

We’ll see what happens. Just as with the Democratic political and lobbying groups – the proof is in what is accomplished. Which raises the question: what, exactly, does breaking the boycott accomplish?