Politics

Mysterious LGBT “Group” Pays For Ad Opposing Chuck Hagel

A liberal who has clashed with Obama about the pace of action on LGBT rights says the group behind “Use Your Mandate” ad is “chicken” for not revealing the funders’ names. The ad is scheduled to run on several Sunday news shows.

Video available at: http://youtu.be/8FDjFWS_Ang.

WASHINGTON — People associated with two prominent LGBT organizations — one loyal to President Obama for the most part and the other one of his loudest critics on the left — disclaimed any knowledge Saturday of the funding source for a TV ad opposing former Sen. Chuck Hagel’s nomination for defense secretary that is scheduled to run during multiple Sunday morning news shows.

The Huffington Post reported that the group placing the ads is calling itself “Use Your Mandate” and stated that the group is “made up mostly of Democrats and independents” who are “choosing to stay anonymous” for now.

The ad attacks Hagel as “anti-woman, anti-choice, anti-Israel, anti-gay and pro-assault weapon” and is reportedly scheduled to run on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” CBS’s “Face the Nation” and ABC’s “This Week.” The Huffington Post based the report on “a source close to the group who declined to be named in order to speak openly.” To that end:

The source close to the group said that for now, those involved are choosing to stay anonymous because they are allies with the Obama administration and hesitant to criticize the president publicly or fear retribution or pressure from the White House. The source characterized members as a “concerned group of people who … have some questions about Chuck Hagel,” including individuals who have “fought for LGBT rights for a long time.”

A spokesman for the nation’s largest LGBT organization and the person who helped organize the funding for the direct-action, liberal group that most often challenged President Obama’s first-term efforts on LGBT issues both told BuzzFeed Saturday that they had no knowledge of the ad prior to the Saturday report and also said they were unaware of who was funding it.

Paul Yandura, who worked with Jonathan Lewis to secure funding to start Get Equal — the liberal organization that led civil-disobedience actions against President Obama at the White House and against Democrats in the Capitol in 2009 — said he had “no idea” who is behind the ads.

Get Equal already has gone on the record in opposition to Hagel for his LGBT record and his larger civil-rights record, and Yandura was incredulous that the funders of the new ad campaign are attempting to not reveal who is behind the group.

“It’s laughable that they want to stay anonymous because they are too chicken to criticize the president since they are his supporters. Either this is a serious enough issue to call out the president or not,” he added.

HRC vice president for communications Fred Sainz said he had not even heard of the new group or the group’s ad.

SUNDAY UPDATE: OutServe-SLDN, which had initially questioned Hagel’s potential nomination, criticized the ad Sunday. Executive director Allyson Robinson said in a statement:

“At OutServe-SLDN, we are disappointed to see this kind of dirty politics make an appearance in the debate about who our next Secretary of Defense should be. Senator Hagel has appropriately apologized and has taken steps to build trust with our LGBT military families – specifically, by committing to extend the benefits that may be made available to them even while the so-called Defense of Marriage Act is still on the books. Much remains to be done – and we still look to Senator Hagel to speak out on other issues important to LGBT service members and their families – but anonymous, unaccountable attacks do nothing to move the ball forward for our brave LGBT men and women in uniform.”

UPDATE: A New York political consultant who has worked across party lines, Bradley Tusk, said his firm is “coordinating the ads and activities for Use Your Mandate.”

“I get why our donors don’t want to alienate the White House but it’s not a particular concern of ours,” he said in an email.

“There’s a mix of people involved. A lot on the LGBT side but also Israel and the other topics you saw in the ads,” he said.

Tusk is a political independent and former aide to Mayor Mike Bloomberg whose other clients include the education policy lightning rod Michelle Rhee, Walmart, and the taxi service Uber.

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Chris Geidner is the legal editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in Washington, D.C. Geidner covers the Supreme Court and also reports extensively on LGBT legal issues around the country. Geidner won the 2014 National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association award for journalist of the year.
Contact this reporter at chris.geidner@buzzfeed.com
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