Sunday, December 21, 2008

Kors: I Don't Have Authority
to Speak for No on 8

Political artist, and my friend, Clinton Fein sent the following note to Geoff Kors after he read my report on zapping Kors and an angry email Kors sent to me regarding the zap and some of my barbs thrown his way. Clinton's letter was published this week in the SF Bay Times. Click here to read all four of the letters in that paper calling for change from Kors and EQCA.

Kors replied to Clinton, and snippets of the reply, with snark from yours truly, appear below.

Dear Geoff,

You most likely don’t know me, but I am responding to the email you sent last week to Michael Petrelis, after he zapped you at City Hall, in which you tout your appreciation of the First Amendment and your willingness to speak to any activist, reporter or individual willing to engage in an open and constructive discussion.

As an ardent First Amendment supporter (with a Supreme Court victory under my belt), a political artist and photographer and more-than-occasional activist, I do have a few questions that may help shed some light on the misgivings I know I share with many others in addition to Michael.

While Michael and I conduct our activism very differently, and don’t always agree with one another’s methodologies, I am most certainly willing to defend his commitment to free speech.

As President of the Board of First Amendment Project, I would attest that Michael’s creative use of FOIA requests, among other things, demonstrates a healthy understanding and utilization of the First Amendment and his commitment to the gay community tireless.

In the spirit of open and constructive dialog, perhaps you can explain why your organization has been unwilling to hold any kind of public forum to address concerns and anger over the failure to prevent Proposition 8 from passing in California.

I have many friends and colleagues who donated significant chunks of cash to your organization, and who, like me, are astounded at the lack of any meaningful response from your organization following a disappointing but not all that surprising defeat.

Questions like why you chose the campaign strategy you did, why there was so little attention paid to social media, what research was conducted that suggested a closeted television campaign made sense in 2008, what kind of testing yielded a campaign slogan like Unfair and Wrong and a slew of other unanswered missteps that have left many wondering if close to $50 million might have been better spent on something more enduring and beneficial to the community.

Regardless of what your legal obligations are regarding disclosure and transparency, I believe people have a legitimate expectation regarding accountability or at the very least, an acknowledgement that some of the mistakes were strategic enough and damaging enough to warrant some kind of explanation if not an apology.

If Prop 8 was defeated, I’m sure you would have no qualms about commenting on the strategies behind the success. While hindsight is 20/20, and finger pointing is all too easy, an unwillingness to hold a public forum addressing the concerns of members of a community who donated hard earned money and were relying on the expertise of your organization to use it to defend their constitutional rights, suggests arrogance, political tone-deafness or cowardice.

Please help me understand why I may, perhaps, be misinformed or offer me something that alters my perception (and that of many others) that neither you nor your organization recognizes you have an obligation, neither ethical nor moral, to engage in a dialog with the people who supported you – particularly since it may provide a new target to which one’s anger might be better, and more strategically, directed.

Thanks in advance,

Clinton Fein
San Francisco, CA

Click here to read Clinton's thoughtful and provocative blog.

Because Kors' reply to Fein was full of unnecessary cheerleading for EQCA, and was extraneous to the matter at hand - lack of accountability and transparency - I've excerpted only comments of keen interest to me.

If Kors doesn't like this, he can always publish his full email to Fein on the EQCA site, along with my report on zapping him and Fein's letter generated by the zap.

And if he were truly committed to constructive dialogue about the campaign, he'd allow discussion on the EQCA blog about all these issues. Right now, Kors censors any critical public comments anyone may try to post at his site, hardly the best way to communicate with people he disagrees with.

On to excerpts from Kors' email, with remarks from me:

Hi Clinton. Thanks for your work.

There have been town halls and meetings and panels throughout the state and EQCA board and staff, including me, have been to almost all of them and many organizations, including EQCA, asked to partner with MEUSA but they decided to hold them on their own. I confirmed for the original SF town hall which was cancelled (although I read that it happened anyway). I was at an event on Prop 8 that Liberty Hill hosted in LA on the night it was rescheduled ...

Caution: Gay Clintonism at work here.

Yes, there have been groups other than EQCA that have taken the initiative and organized town halls, but all of them have been tightly controlled events not allowing for direct gay public questioning of Kors and staff. I'll give him credit though for meeting the Sarah Palin standard for unfiltered access with regular gay voters and donors.

Notice how instead of simply organizing their own meeting EQCA wants to partner with another agency, an agency that was very disrespected by Kors and the No on 8 leadership during the campaign.

Then that agency, Marriage Equality USA, is seen negatively by Kors for not wanting to partner with those who for months had disrespected them. He also says the reason why he's not appeared at any public meeting in San Francisco is because of the confusion surrounding MEUSA's November 20 town hall, which was scheduled, then canceled but took place anyway. What's stopping him from organizing his own town hall?

Glad he appeared at the Liberty Hall event, which I don't recalled being well-publicized, well-attended or much reported on.

Kors still takes no responsibility for holding his own EQCA town halls, and not just in San Francisco, where he runs his fiefdom from EQCA headquarters at Market and Church Streets, but also in central and southern California.

No on 8, Equality for All is the organization that ran the campaign. EQCA is not. I was one of 18 members, and had one vote, on an executive committee that hired campaign professional (much of the same team that defeated parental notification three times in California) and raised money to defeat the campaign. EQCA did not run the campaign.

I don’t have the authority to speak for that organization as it is a legal entity that I was never paid by, or a titled officer of, as the corporate records will indicate. The Executive Committee did not make key decisions regarding strategy, slogans, ads, field campaign, etc. ...

Bolded emphasis added to an excellent lawyerly defense absolving him of any honest responsibility.

This is a well-written paragraph passing the buck to the No on 8 org and the 18 member executive committee, of which we still don't have the names of all the members who coughed up $100,000 in order to have a seat on the committee. The face of No on 8, probably more so than any other figure, Kors', now doesn't have the authority to speak on the campaign. Who can Kors pass the responsibility to?

That was done by Steve Smith as the lead political consultant from August 2007 and, beginning Oct 1, Patrick Guerrero [sic] became the campaign director. Campaign experts ran the campaign and had decision making authority.

So Kors was just an innocent bystander to all of the decision-making and allocation of $45 million. Gosh, he must be pissed the true culprits of the debacle are not in the hotseat or facing near as much withering criticism as he is, and criticism that just won't let up.

Whether the decision making process was appropriate is a fair question that an analysis will help answer that question ... And I have committed to providing my views to the firm that does the analysis and support sharing that information publicly so we all learn from this ...

Ah, yes, the analysis of the campaign. Let's see if I've got this right. Kors, who was the money man for No on 8, and was integral to the failure to stop the measure, is in charge of hiring the analysts to evaluate the campaign, and the analysts will be paid by Kors and EQCA, and no one know the names of the analysts or the firm that will do the evaluating, while there's nothing in writing guaranteeing the community will be able to read the findings.

Who could object to Kors running the post-election analysis just like the he ran the executive committee and the campaign - with him in control, and withholding names of key players and only "supporting" release of the findings?

I'm glad Kors is communicating with Clinton Fein, but there is no escaping the fact that EQCA holds no public meetings to engage the community, and has not provided anywhere near the level of real accountability we need over the Prop 8 defeat.

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