Plaintiffs speak to a local Denver NBC affiliate.
Wednesday, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) filed a federal lawsuit against Eugene Delgaudio and his organization the so-called Public Advocate of the United States, seeking "declaratory relief, compensatory damages, costs and attorneys’ fees, as well as any other relief to which they may be entitled" in a case of copyright infringement. Delgaudio also serves as the Republican county supervisor for Loudoun, Virginia, and is also experiencing potential trouble related to allegations he participated in illegal on the job fundraising in that position (more on that later).
This is an update on a story I posted about in July, here is the original diary for more complete background. The short explanation is Delgaudio used the engagement photograph of a New Jersey same-sex couple, Brian Edwards and Tom Privitere, in a political attack direct mailing in Colorado, without permission from either the couple or the photographer.
SPLC sent a cease and desist letter in July requesting Delgaudio respond. He never did, and also refused to comment to media outlets after the filing of this suit.
“This was just a cheap way for Public Advocate to avoid having to pay for a stock photo to use in their hateful anti-gay attack ad. It was nothing short of theft.”“I cringe every time I look at what once was one of our favorite photos,” Edwards said. “All I see now is the defiled image used to attack our family and our community. All we want is justice for the pain that Public Advocate has caused us.”
The lawsuit also charges that Public Advocate infringed on photographer Kristina Hill’s exclusive right to the photo, which is registered with the U.S. Copyright Office. Unauthorized use of Hill’s work jeopardizes her livelihood as a professional photographer and the satisfaction she receives knowing her clients are pleased and will enjoy her work for years.
“It fuels me as a photographer to know that my photographs will be cherished, that they will hang on walls, be passed around at gatherings, put in albums, and that someday maybe children and grandchildren will display these moments in their own homes,” Hill said. “To see the photo used as an attack ad is heartbreaking for me.”
(Continues under the fold.)
Lest you imagine Delgaudio is just some poor schmuck that made an innocent mistake, he and his group have been on the Southern Poverty Law Center's radar for a long while. SLPC includes this list of previous hateful anti-gay activities that earned Delgaudio and his group a slot on their anti-gay hate groups watchlist:
- A fundraising letter by the group asked readers to “imagine a world where the police allow homosexual adults to rape young boys in the streets.”
- The group compared marriage equality to bestiality through staging a “Man-Donkey Mock Wedding Ceremony.”
- Public Advocate has suggested that permitting gay men to be Boy Scout leaders is “the same as being an accessory to the rape of hundreds of boys.”
- Mischaracterizing federal legislation designed to address anti-LGBT harassment at schools as “requir[ing] schools to teach appalling homosexual acts” and leading to “a new America based on sexual promiscuity.”
Fundraising on the taxpayer's dime?
Meanwhile, the Washington Post is reporting that Delgaudio also is facing legal trouble associated with his elected position as Loudoun County Supervisor.
She worked from a spreadsheet that listed more than a thousand names and the political campaigns to which they had contributed. For weeks earlier this year, she said, she sat in a county office, while on county time, and spent hours calling them, one by one.“It kind of made me feel weird, but I needed the job,” Mateer told the Post. The paper received copies of spreadsheets that documented Mateer's extensive work fundraising on Delgaudio's behalf, while on the county clock. But the investigation seems to have stalled:
The goal was to arrange meetings with the donors and her boss, four-term Loudoun County Supervisor Eugene A. Delgaudio (R-Sterling), one of the region’s most controversial politicians, who is known for his animated diatribes from the dais.
If she was successful, Donna Mateer, a part-time aide, was to list the appointment in a Google calendar titled “Eugene 2012 Campaign Schedule,” she said.
Since then, Mateer came to believe that what she was doing was unethical. She filed a complaint with the county’s Human Resources Department that also alleged a hostile work environment.
Mateer said her complaint has gone nowhere. Loudoun County Board of Supervisors Chairman Scott K. York (R-At Large) initially contacted her to request copies of her records and asked whether she would be willing to come forward, she said. Mateer and one of Delgaudio’s senior aides have since tried to contact York but have not received a response from him or from the county, they said.Hopefully the people of Loudoun County will demand accountability from York (who can be reached here) and demand it at the ballot box in the next election.
In an interview, York said there was nothing that could be done about Mateer’s claims of a hostile work environment; part-time county aides are not protected by the county’s grievance policy.
Blue Virginia reports the Loudoun County Democratic Committee is calling on York to demand Delgaudio's resignation.
Al Nevarez, Delgaudio's Democratic challenger last November, reacted strongly to the Washington Post article: "Confronted with evidence of his repeated misuse of office, staff, and county resources, Eugene Delgaudio complained of being 'micromanaged' and thought it was 'really absurd' to question his actions. It is clear that Mr. Delgaudio believes he answers to no one; that he is unaccountable for his criminal behavior."These anti-gay hate groups like to operate as though they are above the law. National Organization for Marriage has flagrantly ignored campaign disclosure laws in races across the country. This has prompted legal investigations in virtually every state they have operated, culminating in legal defeats in six states. Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council was fined in 1996 for lying to the Federal Election Commission about the source of a mailing list he spent $82,500 to purchase from Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke.
Nevarez stated that "Mr. Delgaudio owes the people of Sterling an explanation: 'Why are you using public resources to conduct your campaign business? What possible explanation could you have for putting the manager of the hate group Public Advocate in charge of County staff? What other illegal activity are you still engaging in that could put county resources and credibility at risk?'"
Certainly these groups and individuals have their First Amendment rights to express their views however repugnant I, or anyone else finds them. But they are also obligated to operate with the law as they do so. There is no "I was doing Jesus's bidding" defense in a court of law, unfortunately for them.
Full disclosure: I do have a strong personal investment in this story and not just because Delgaudio is one of the craziest, most disgusting homophobes in politics (no small feat). The story grabbed me from the start because that park the original photo was taken is steps from my home of 19 years, and among my favorite spots in New York City. I also am proud to say I personally facilitated the introduction between the couple and SPLC, and am glad they're working together.