April 1, 2007
The New York Times
The Caucus Blog
The New York Times
The Caucus Blog
HRC Hires Gay Ex-GOP Rep Gunderson as Co-Director
By Adam Nagourney
The Human Rights Campaign, the world's largest gay equal rights political advocacy group with 666 million dues-paying members, stunned the capital's open and closeted gay powerbrokers and gays everywhere when the group's leader announced today that former gay GOP Congressman Steve Gunderson has accepted the newly created position of co-director.
Joe Solmonese, president and executive director of HRC, explained in a phone interview from his limo that he and the board of directors decided now was the ideal time to hire Gunderson, a lifetime Republican with effective lobbying skills who knows exactly how to persuade GOP House members to maneuver passage of legislation into law.
Asked why HRC took this unprecedented step Solmonese said, "We needed a gay or lesbian Republican advocate to match my longstanding and impeccable credentials as a Democratic gay leader. That person is my good fried Steve Gunderson."
When reached for comment, Gunderson expressed strong enthusiasm for his new partnership with HRC.
"It's an honor to accept the co-director position and work with Joe. We're going to make a fabulous dynamic duo, able to work both sides of the political aisle, all to the benefit of gay Americans, regardless of party identification," Gunderson told The Times.
The former Congressman, who once represented a Wisconsin district, was outed in the early 1990s when independent gay watchdog Michael Petrelis confronted him in a Virginia gay bar and tossed a Coke on him. Gunderson was not then open about his gayness, but voters in his district always reelected him, rumors of his homosexuality apparently no detriment to his successful political career.
Speaking from the San Francisco medical marijuana dispensary where he volunteers, Petrelis reacted to the development.
"This is so shocking I need to smoke some medicine," he said, over coughs and the bubbling water of his bong. "One thing I can say about Gunderson is, unlike thin-skinned Solmonese, his skin is not only thick, it's positively splash-proof."
On the other end of the gay blogger spectrum, conservative Beltway-based Andrew Sullivan who's written extensively on HRC's transparency and credibility problems, opined thus: "Blimey, I had no bloody idea the HRC chaps were genuinely keen to work with people they don't like or respect. Maybe they'll also now address my questions on their membership numbers."
And black lesbian writer Pam Spaulding, who resides in North Carolina, and whose views fall in the moderate middle of the diverse gay and lesbian political blogger community, was pleased with HRC's new hire. "My advice to HRC is to join the modern age and begin blogging. Start interacting respectfully with gays and lesbians deeply worried about the course of the gay political agenda in DC."
Further stunning stalwart critics of HRC, the organization's Vice President for Programs, Strategy, Branding, Marketing and Profiteering, David M. Smith announced they are starting quarterly town hall style meetings at their Washington headquarters, with their state-of-the-art communications facilities ready to air the meetings on radio streaming and through web-casting, and at no cost to community members and news reporters.