Monday, February 01, 2010

Solmonese Spent How Much at Dem Retreat?;
HRC Omitted from NYT 'DADT' Story

Where in the world was Joe Solmonese, the head of the Human Rights Campaign, this weekend and what was he doing to secure federal protections and equality for gay Americans?

According to a document obtained by Ben Smith at, Solmonese and HRC's legislative director Allison Herwitt, were at the Ritz Carlton in Miami Beach, schmoozing with Democratic U.S. Senators. As with too much at HRC, real transparency about the org's leaders and their efforts to change federal policies comes not from HRC, but reporters like Ben Smith, who deserves kudos from gays for this important ray of sunshine.

From today's

Twelve Democratic Senators spent last weekend in Miami Beach raising money from top lobbyists for oil, drug, and other corporate interests that they often decry, according to a guest list for the event obtained by POLITICO.

The guest list for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee's "winter retreat" at the Ritz Carlton South Beach Resort doesn't include the price tag for attendance, but the maximum contribution to the committee, typical for such events, is $30,000. There, to participate in "informal conversations" and other meetings Saturday, were senators includingDSCC Chairman Robert Menendez; Michigan's Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow; Bob Casey of Pennsylvania; Claire McCaskill of Missouri; freshmen Kay Hagan of North Carolina and Mark Begich of Alaska; and even left-leaning Bernie Sanders of Vermont. [...]

Other guests included lobbyists for two Indian tribes, for McDonalds, for beer and wine sellers, Ford, and a small handful of advocacy groups, including the gay group Human Rights Campaign.

What did Solmonese and Herwitt do at the Democratic Party retreat? How did they advance the national gay agenda? Did HRC spend $30,000 to be there? What was the cost to HRC?

Answers are not posted at the HRC site. You'll recall that last weekend Solmonese made a high-profile appearance at the Sundance film festival, and his web site was devoid of any details on his visit to Utah.

I sure would like to know what Solmonese accomplished at Sundance and down in Miami Beach, but I guess it's asking too much of him and his org to keep the community fully informed at this crucial time about his jet-setting advocacy.

In a related matter, today's front-page New York Times story on the conflict over potentially lifting the Don't Ask/Don't Tell ban on openly gay people serving in the military, omitted HRC. Yes, America's largest political gay advocacy org, which is supposedly integral to the effort to do away with the ban, doesn't merit even a passing reference in the Times piece.

Which gay persons do warrant mentions?

In June [U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand] met with Lt. Dan Choi, a West Point graduate and an Arabic linguist and infantry officer in Iraq in 2006 and 2007. Lieutenant Choi is facing a discharge for announcing to Rachel Maddow on MSNBC in March that he was gay.

Good to see Choi and Maddow referenced, but the HRC omission is quite telling of their seemingly small role in the debate. Can you imagine the the NY Times writing about efforts to allow blacks and women to serve in armed forces, and leaving out the NAACP and NOW? I sure can't.

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