Gay and Lesbian Republicans Seek Political Inclusion

Their campaign contributions go to candidates with varied views on gay-rights issues.

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When former Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman publicly acknowledged his homosexuality last week, the revelation was news because of his leadership role in a political party not known for its affirmation of gay-rights issues.

The Atlantic's Marc Ambinder, who broke the story, called Mehlman the "most powerful Republican in history to identify as gay." Aside from chairing the RNC, Mehlman also managed the successful 2004 reelection campaign of President George W. Bush, which used the issue of state bans on same-sex marriage to draw conservative voters to the polls.

As a prominent member of the GOP, Mehlman has contributed to Republican candidates and political action committees, more commonly known as PACs. In this election cycle, Mehlman has given $45,000 in political contributions. Top recipients include the National Republican Senatorial Committee and Eric Cantor's leadership PAC, the Every Republican is Crucial PAC.

Records also show that Mehlman contributed $1,900 on April 27, 2009, to Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter, who famously changed parties the next day, from Republican to Democrat. Shortly thereafter, Mehlman received a refund from the campaign.

All other recipients of his money have been Republicans, and they represent a wide range of views on gay rights. Mehlman has given $2,400 each to Missouri Rep. Roy Blunt and Utah Sen. Bob Bennett , both of whom have voiced opposition to same-sex marriage. But Mehlman has also contributed to candidates who have a more liberal view on the topic, such as Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown, who has defended his state's legalization of same-sex marriage as "settled law." [See which industries have contributed to Scott Brown.]

Mehlman's self-outing has drawn increased attention to the political activism of gay and lesbian Republicans at a time when the Democratic Party is far more often associated with backing gay rights. The Log Cabin Republicans, a PAC that has since the late 1970s promoted "a more inclusive Republican Party for gay and lesbian Americans," has given financial support to several congressional candidates. [See who receives the most money from Republican/Conservative groups.] 

Topping the list is New York State Assemblywoman Dierdre Scozzafava, who received $3,000 from the Log Cabin Republicans in late 2009 for the special election for New York's 23rd District House seat. Scozzafava withdrew just days before the election, throwing her support to Democrat Bill Owens, who won the seat in a tight race against Conservative Party candidate Doug Hoffman. Scozzafava is a Republican known for her liberal views, including support of same-sex marriage and abortion rights. 

Other top recipients include Rep. Mary Bono Mack, who is fighting off a challenge from openly gay Democrat Steven Pougnet, the mayor of Palm Springs, in California's 45th District. Bono Mack's record on same-sex issues is controversial among advocates of same-sex rights. She drew fire in May, when she voted against the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," the law that prevents homosexuals from serving openly in the military. Louisiana Republican Rep. Anh "Joseph" Cao, one of Democrats' main targets in House races this November, has received $1,500 from the Log Cabin Republicans. Cao was one of the five Republicans to vote for the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." 

Below is a list of the candidates to whom the Log Cabin Republicans have contributed money during the 2010 election cycle. 

NAME

STATE CHAMBER CHALLENGER/OPEN AMOUNT
Dierdre Scozzafava NY H Challenger (lost) $3,000
Mary Bono Mack CA H Incumbent $2,000
Anh "Joseph" Cao LA H Incumbent $1,500
Charles Djou HI H Incumbent $1,250
Ileana Ros-Lehtinen FL H Incumbent $1,000
Judy Biggert IL H Incumbent $1,000
Richard Hanna NY H Challenger $500
Frank Scaturro NY H Challenger $250