Speaking on behalf of Rick Jacob's Courage Campaign, gay political consultant Steve Hildebrand, put out the usual arguments why absolutely no disclosure would happen regarding their alleged groundbreaking research:
Same sex marriage opponents have proven to do whatever it takes to prevent LGBT people from gaining equality. They have kept a tight lid on their strategy and tactics and it's proven successful. Our side needs to be just as smart and keep strategic data internal to our efforts.
All that is gay-code for the control queens are protecting their turf. Steve's got business interests at play here and we must never lose sight of that as he assumes more of a leadership role in California's gay politics and future ballot prop battles.
One person who didn't buy Steve's thinking was Bob Roehr, DC-based gay and HIV writer Bob Roehr, who offered up his opinion on a listserv I created today:
If [Hildebrand's statement] were legislation it might be named something like "The consultant (fees) protection act of 2009 (and 2010, 2011, etc)," it is that self-serving. The opposition has similar smarts, money, etc. and has done their own polling and amassed a similar knowledge base that shapes their strategy. To assert that you know something that they don't is BS.
"Trust us, we're the experts," has been remarkably consistent in delivering failure. The community is on to that game. In the early rounds there might have been legitimate reasons to say, okay, we didn't have adequate resources, that was why we failed. But both California and Maine were more than adequately funded (California raised more than twice the original optimistic projection of $10-20 million needed).
The community is not going to support a "new" set of faces pushing the same tired bromides. It needs to be engaged in the process of creating the strategy, and it needs to buy into that strategy.
I couldn't agree more with Bob's sentiments. The behavior of Rick and Steve is in need of further of examination. They totally misread the segment of the community that would pounce on any mention of polling and data. Instead of anticipating the demand for the research and finding a way to get out some of the data, they expected blind faith in their word.
Um, Rick and Steve, I'm over being asked to trust any gay leader with a roadmap, polling research or inside baseball knowledge, that just simply can't be shared with the larger and fuller cross-spectrum of the gay community.
If these leaders can't in 2009 determine a way to conduct research, create a gay sunshine panel to review the data, without divulging super-duper top secrets to our enemies, and share some of their damn research, research that is the basis for big decisions, then I hope they fail. No more blind trust from gays for choices made by our un-elected leaders behind closed doors.
Steve played the "criticism of me and Courage equals civil war" card responding to Bob's criticism:
My goals and the goals of the Courage Campaign are likely not different than yours or other people in the gay community. We all want to win equal rights. There are different strategies and tactics to get there and that’s where we disagree. I hope ultimately, we can embrace our similarities and respect our differences. But if the community is at war with itself, instead of being at war with those who hate us, we are not going to win as many battles.
Questioning Steve and Courage is not civil war. It is a small attempt to engage our great Gay Inc leaders with people outside of their tight, closed circles. If Steve is acting like this, three years before a probable 2012 gay marriage prop, getting all imperious, I shudder to think of how he'll behave during that election.
From Los Angeles, longtime lesbian journalist Karen Ocamb, who has an extensive track record working on government sunshine issues, weighed on Steve's withholding of research:
With all due respect, clamping a total blackout on the Courage Campaign's research - which was cited as the reason for deciding not to return to the ballot in 2010 - is really not very helpful.
First of all, David Fleischer, who as you probably know has been working as an independent political consultant researching and field training re the fallout over Prop 8 with the LA Gay & Lesbian Center's Vote for Equality - released some of his research to me, a bit of which I published in this piece.
And you may or may not know that the complete David Binder post-Prop 8 was leaked before parts of it were taken on tour. We debated long and hard individually and amongst ourselves over how much information we should publish. We did not publish information about messaging.
From what I can glean from David Fleischer's research - that Binder poll is already out of date. I would imagine that by the time the LGBT community returns to the ballot box - the current Courage Campaign research would also be out of date.
So I would argue that by releasing the research, you get to test it against folks who might push back and you might receive unexpected help with some issues and barriers that might now seem to hard to overcome.
Additionally by withholding this research - you are making it appear that Courage is now doing what Rick and so many others decried so loudly when criticizing the No on Prop 8 campaign: making decisions in secret.
I replied to the listserv, praising Karen's insight, and bemoaning the control queen patterns of Steve and Rick. Like a prima donna exiting a rehearsal, Steve made an announcement:
I'm done fighting on this issue.
Translation, the queen is being questioned and has no interest in using this mini-crisis to engage with critics, and look for solutions. All Steve want to do is end the discussion, after less than a dozen emails. Such a burden!
And what's most irritating with how Rick and Steve have acted is that it is in direct opposition to what they, and other Gay Inc leader have said is the key component to winning gay marriage rights: Engaging in conversations that are uncomfortable with adversaries who don't see eye-to-eye with you.
If Courage and its hired consultant can't find the time to properly and respectfully communicate with their own community at his early stage of the 2012 campaign, they'll be even bigger problems closer to the election.