Gay rights groups are speaking out against an attack mailer put out by a Democratic group against Rep. David Dreier, R-San Dimas, during this last election cycle.
Just before the election, thousands of voters his southern California district received the piece targeting Dreier. One side is dominated by an image of two fit looking young men—neither of them Dreier, but one wearing a large pink headband—lying together on a beach. The headlines reads: “Why are taxpayers paying for David Dreier’s Homosexual Lifestyle?” The letters are white, except “Homosexual,” which is written in red.
Dreier, a conservative known for pro-business stands, is not openly gay, but has been dogged with rumors about his sexuality for years. But it hasn’t stopped his constituents from sending him back to Congress every election since 1980. Democrats targeted Dreier’s CD 26 as a key seat they thought they could pick up in this month’s elections, but Dreier once again trounced his opponent. This time he bested Democratic nominee Russell Warner by a 53 percent to 40 percent margin.
The other side of the mailer states “Paid for by Blue America PAC.” This is a group Democratic campaign operative Howard Klein. Campaign records show the group spent $20,000 on the mailer. Neither Blue America or the Dreier campaign replied to requests for comment.
But others have laid into a piece they called “homophobic” and “unfortunate.”
“I was troubled by it,” said Geoff Kors, executive director of Equality California. “In particular with Proposition 8 on the ballot, to see them attacking same sex couples and a ‘homosexual lifestyle’…I think that’s against core Democratic principles. For anyone to use a candidate’s relationship in that way is offensive.”
Prop. 8 was a ballot initiative passed by California voters this election by less than five points. It took away the right to marry that gay couples briefly won in a California Supreme Court case earlier this year. Equality California led the no campaign against Prop. 8.
The mailer goes on to list nearly two dozen countries Dreier allegedly visited during “92 trips overseas” with his unnamed “male partner.” The other side claimed this “taxpayer funded travel” has costs an “estimated” $116,000.
Kors said that while the mailer alleges to be about Dreier’s misuse of taxpayer money, it went largely to Republican voters with an overt “lifestyle” message.
“It’s as if it was a ‘lifestyle,’ as opposed to our lives, and clearly indicated there was something negative about it,” Kors.
The issue of gay Republicans has been much in the news in recent years. High-profile gay sex scandals have brought down Congressman Mark Foley, Senator Larry Craig and mega-church preacher Ted Haggard. In each case, critics have made much of each man’s alleged hypocrisy on the issue.
In Dreier’s case, he has been criticized for votes against gay marriage rights, gay adoption and including gays as a protected class in hate crimes and employment discrimination laws. But his record on the issue is actually more liberal than many GOP legislators. Most notably, in 2004 he voted against Federal Marriage Amendment, saying he did not want to put discrimination into the United States Constitution.
“I’m happy to say it, I think David Dreier is a fraud,” said Rick Jacobs, the director of the Courage Campaign, another group that worked against Prop. 8.
But Jacobs said he mainly feels this way because Dreier presents himself as a moderate, then acts as a “Bush rubber stamp,” voting with the president 94 percent of the time between 2001 and 2007. There is a sense that Dreier gets a “free pass from the press” around his sexuality, Jacobs said, though numerous stories have cited the persistent rumors around him—most notable a long 2004 LA Weekly story called “The Outing.”
“I understand the frustration,” Jacobs said. “But I don’t like the idea of using that sort of tactic to get coverage.”