"I no longer feel comfortable being allied with the people running the Prop. 8 campaign ... I have made a tentative decision not to publicize the disturbing information that caused me to end my promotion of man-woman marriage in the United States. But there is very little that I know about those subjects that a journalist, blogger, or activist cannot find out through diligent googling ..."
-- former proprietor of the disturbing blog "Gays Defend Marriage," David Benkof to Truth Wins Out's Wayne Besen, July 14
A journalist, blogger or activist I may not be, but a googler? Pardon me, but as Harvey Lime might say ... googling is my forte.
Benkof has taken down his I'm-gay-and-voting-yes-on-Prop-8 website, announced that he's taking his ball and going home, and declined to explain the reasons behind his abrupt exit, other than to suggest that they'd become apparent to anyone willing to undertake a little diligent googling of his erstwhile allies.
So, first stop, we find out who the folks are running the Yes on 8 campaign in California, and from there, our googly
Easter Rotten Egg hunt gets under way, as we set out to speculate on the specifics of Benkof's "disturbing information" ...
The coalition behind the campaign have hired Schubert Flint Public Affairs to handle Prop 8 PR. Setting aside the question of who's funding the coalition, let's take a look at Schubert-Flint, since they seem to be the people getting paid to coordinate and deliver the Yes on 8 vote.
At SF we've got the two principals, Frank Schubert and Jeff Flint, and their new hire, Jennifer Kerns, who's recently been brought on as Communications Director for SF's Prop 8 effort. These three names strike me as perhaps the most useful terms for getting our google on. Let's go ...
Before I start googling for dirt on Frank, I need to thank him for his assist with the title of this diary:
But getting back to our googling, perhaps Benkof was a big fan of Proposition 86, and having learned of your role in that initiative battle, wanted nothing to do with your Prop 8 campaign?
The price that campaigns are willing to pay became apparent to Los Angeles actor Rico Simonini. Like most actors, he has a side job, but not as a waiter. He is Dr. Americo Simonini, a Beverly Hills cardiologist with privileges at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.
When a casting call went out for a doctor-actor to read a commercial, Simonini auditioned and the producers liked what they saw. But then Simonini realized what he'd be doing: siding with the tobacco industry.
Like many healthcare experts, Simonini believes the tobacco tax, being pushed mainly by hospitals, would dissuade some people — particularly children — from smoking.
"I'm a cardiologist. I can't do this," Simonini said.
When he politely declined the work, he said he was told the $5,000 fee could double if the initiative's proponents could use his name and identify him as a physician. If the ad ran for the duration of the campaign, the pay would multiply accordingly.
Simonini still has student loans to repay. But it wasn't worth it.
"It would have been a feather for them to have a doctor come on board," Simonini said, but he felt there was no choice. "There are people working very cleverly to achieve their ends, to undermine what is good for us. Why? ... So much is at stake."
Frank Schubert, who is overseeing part of the No-on-86 campaign, said that although he has no idea how much money Simonini was offered, the campaign would have paid the doctor only a modest sum, for the time taken away from his patients.
Schubert added: "He would have had to have agreed with the script. We never got to that point."
So, was it disappointment with Frank Schubert's role in defeating Proposition 86? Somehow I doubt it, but I enjoyed the story of the conscientious cardiologist so much, I just had to include it here. Moving on ...
Admittedly, I didn't find much on Jennifer, other than some contact info and an example of the stellar work she's begun doing on behalf of Yes on 8 ...
Here's how to reach Jennifer:
K Street Communications
4071 S. Land Park Dr.
Sacramento, California 95822
Otherwise, you can reach Jennifer on her alternate email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
And I'd suggest you might want to use both when contacting Jennifer, and that you might want to make your message a double-barreled LOL in her direction, for coming off the starting blocks at her new job in such fine form with this doozy:
One of our campaign cornerstones will be the fact that if the initiative [to ban gay marriage in California] doesn't pass that public schools will be forced to teach the difference between gay marriage and traditional marriage.
Because, you know, if Prop 8 were to pass in California, it would enable us to prevent our kids from ever finding out that gay marriage actually exists in other countries. And even if they were to somehow become aware of that unfortunate reality all on their own, at least we'd be able to explain to them that it's not something we talk about in this country ...
In any case, Jennifer, you're new on the job. No matter how inane your recent pronouncements, I kinda doubt they're what pushed Benkof over the edge. Moving on ...
Where to begin with Jeff? How about in no particular order? OK? Great, let's go:
Did Benkof lose faith when he realized that Jeff will work both sides of an issue if the pay is right? Just follow the link and scroll down to The Bad Guys (Lobbyists and California Consultants).
Or perhaps Benkof learned that Jeff helped get Curt Pringle elected, then turned around and worked for EarthLink as a consultant in the sale of their Muni WiFi scheme to Pringle's office? Maybe he was mostly disappointed in how poorly the scheme served the citizens who paid for it?
It might be that Benkof resents Jeff's work to defeat Proposition 89, which was designed to get corporate $$ out of California initiatives.
Then again, it could also be Jeff's work for the Small Business Action Committee. If, like me, Benkof favors unions over tobacco companies, I understand his concern. For sure, Jeff is no friend of unions.
Or maybe it was just something that Jeff did during any one of these campaigns: Pringle '98, Hatch '00, or Ose '08?
Respondent Curt Pringle ... was a candidate for State Treasurer ... in the ... 1998 general election ... Respondent Jeff Flint was the paid campaign manager ...
In the campaign statements filed for the 1998 calendar year, Respondents failed to disclose subvendor information for payments totaling $1,629,292, in violation of section 84211, subdivision (j)(6), and section 84303 of the Government Code. Of the subvendor expenditures not disclosed, approximately $1,590,800 was for payments to Russo Marsh & Raper, Inc., to purchase broadcast advertising, and approximately $38,491 was for payments to Flint Nelson Associates and Linda Kasem, for travel and office expenses.
... the evidence in this case establishes that Respondent Jeff Flint is primarily responsible for the occurrence of the subvendor reporting violations.
Hatch's friends and supporters back in Utah say they know who's to blame for this mess ... Some Hatch intimates are involved, but too many people who care about Hatch have been pushed to the periphery, replaced by highly paid lobbyists and consultants.
"The only people with their sleeves rolled up for Orrin are people whose incomes are directly affected by his race," the Utah Hatch insider says. "Like the lobbyists back in D.C. who -- whether he's president, which he's not going to be, or chairman of Judiciary -- they make a lot of money."
... "outsiders" running the Hatch campaign are Sal Russo of Russo Marsh, who's running the national operation, and communications director [Jeff] Flint, both of whom are located in Sacramento, Calif. -- 650 miles away from Salt Lake City.
When asked why the spokesman for a presidential candidate who shuttles between Utah and Washington, D.C. is headquartered in Sacramento, Flint says, "This is where our company is based."
"It's a cash cow for them," says one Washington pol. "The only reason the operation keeps going is because the paychecks keep coming in and they say, 'Yeah, Orrin, yeah, Orrin, you can do it, Orrin, just wait until Bush stumbles and you'll be the nominee, Orrin.'"
Just when I thought that Doug Ose's pitiful campaign could not sink any lower, they managed to find a way. Ose actually dug past the proverbial bottom of the barrel right into that wastewater that he keeps talking about in every debate!
To the shock and disgust of everyone present, Ose actually brought the parent of a baby who had been shaken to death by a babysitter to speak in favor of -- you guessed it -- Doug Ose's miserable campaign for Congress. The bereaved parent said Tom McClintock had voted against funding a special government program to inform parents not to shake their babies to death, so now he was supporting Ose. It was really a pathetic speech to hear and I felt sick to see Ose sink so low ... If Doug Ose gets elected, I guess he wants us to believe that he will use earmarks to get federal funding for a program telling parents not to throw their babies from airplanes, feed them ground glass, shake them unmercifully, strangle them, or whatever.
Which leads me to wonder if maybe Benkof's retreat isn't really about Frank Schubert, or Jennifer Kerns, or Jeff Flint ... maybe it was simply the looming prospect of losing bigtime that finally sapped the joy out of Benkof's crusade? Did he happen to read that letter to the LA Times from a Republican strategist that suggested that "political mistakes have put the proposed same-sex marriage ban on the rocks" ??
Putting Proposition 8 on a high-turnout November presidential election ballot is dumb. Trying to pass it once same-sex marriages have become a legal, daily occurrence throughout the state is dumber. And now, if Californians vote it down, conservatives can't blame judicial tyranny for imposing same-sex marriage on the unhappy masses ...
Will Californians now vote to render those marriages invalid? I don't think so.
Maybe Benkof finally figured out that he didn't think so, either. Whatever his reasons, I appreciate Benkof's invitation to google away on this topic, but must say it's been enough googling for one day. Cheers.
July 15th update: My wild guess is that Obama's gonna win big in California this November. If I'm right about that, I have to wonder what Jeff Flint, co-campaign manager for the California Protection of Marriage initiative (the Yes on 8 side), thinks he's accomplishing by posting comments like these over at his place at the Red County blog:
I'm for change....blah blah blah...I's for bringing people together...blah blah blah...let me quote Obama some more....blah blah blah....
As a partner at Schubert Flint Public Affairs, and as "one of the most widely respected public affairs and political professionals in the state of California" (according to the Schubert Flint website), you'd think he'd be savvy enough to avoid
a) pissing off California's Obama supporters, and
b) sounding like a 12-year-old Al Jolson.
If this is the best PR that the ProtectMarriage.com coalition money can buy, well, then it's already time to put a fork in Yes on 8, because it's done.
July 28th update: I'd like to thank Art over at the OJ Blog for helping bring attention to "Googling Gay Marriage" ...
Thank you, Orange Juice Blog!