Openly gay Republican presidential hopeful excluded from Iowa Faith & Freedom Coalition event
Fred Karger, the first Republican candidate to open a presidential exploratory committee, will be filing a formal complaint with the Federal Election Commission against the prominent conservative group, the Iowa Faith & Freedom Coalition, for excluding him from a March 7 event.
Republican presidential hopefuls will gather at the Point of Grace church in Waukee on March 7 for an event organized by the IFFC. Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, former Godfather’s Pizza CEO Herman Cain and former Louisiana Gov. Buddy Roemer have all confirmed their participation. Iowa Republicans U.S. Rep. Steve King, Gov. Terry Branstad and Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds have also said they will be in attendance.
Karger was told early on he would not be welcome at the March event because he “is not a legitimate candidate,” or so says president of IFFC, Steve Scheffler, who is also one of three Iowans on the Republican National Committee. Karger’s camp counters it’s simply because Karger happens to be gay.
“There is no set of rational criteria that could explain some of those who were invited but still exclude Fred,” said Nathan Treloar, Iowa director for Karger’s exploratory committee. “That only leaves irrational criteria, or bigotry.”
Karger’s committee said the complaint states that the IFFC forum violates federal election law because it constitutes a donation to those candidates who were invited. They believe this qualifies as an in-kind donation. As a tax-exempt 501(c)4 organization, they said, the IFFC is allowed to engage in political education, but cannot donate or expressly advocate for or against a candidate.
“Any claim by Mr. Karger that the Iowa Faith & Freedom Coalition’s Spring Kick-off constitutes an in-kind contribution to the campaigns of as-yet undeclared presidential candidates is specious and utterly without merit,” the IFFC said in a statement. “Potential candidates were invited based on an objective criteria of viability, fundraising ability, and prior electoral success with advice from legal counsel. We are in full compliance with federal campaign regulations governing such events.”
But Karger is going beyond the FEC complaint, he also launched LetFredIn.com, in an attempt to build support to include him in the forum.
The March 7 is expected by the IFFC to draw about 600 “Iowa activists.”
Karger also recently had trouble being included at the Conservative Political Action Conference, where he was refused a speaking invitation, a booth in the exhibition hall and was not included in the straw poll.
In response, Karger then threw a party in the host hotel, inviting former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson, a potential GOP 2012 candidate, Lt. Dan Choi, an activist against Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, and Log Cabin Republicans executive director R. Clarke Cooper.
This is also not Karger’s first run in with Scheffler. Last May, Scheffler sent an e-mail to Karger telling him he would “work overtime to help ensure that your political aspirations are aborted right here in Iowa.” The reason, Scheffler said, is that Karger is part of the “radical homosexual community.”
Karger will be in Iowa this week to attend the 2011 Iowa Governors Conference on LGBT Youth being held on the Drake University campus.