Fred Karger has always HELPED us, now he NEEDS us
How do you go about trying to silence a man who was responsible for the investigation into the Mormon Church’s campaign contribution wrongdoings, the very public boycott against Douglas Manchester’s three hotels, and the constant scrutiny of the National Organization for Marriage (NOM)?
You subpoena him. Or, at least, you hope the subpoena will scare him back to wherever it is he came from (before he became quite possibly the LGBT community’s strongest crusader in the fight for marriage equality).
Who is Fred Karger?
You may be familiar with his cause, you may be familiar with the boycotts, and you may even be familiar with the name, but you may not be familiar with the man behind the curtain.
Fred Karger has spent most of his professional career working as a campaign strategist, specializing in opposition research. Now retired, Karger’s primary focus revolves around Californians Against Hate, a website dedicated to outing individuals who made exceptional donations to the Yes on 8 campaign. Fred's hope? To shame the persons and companies identified for their actions.
According to his website: Californians Against Hate was established in July 2008 to draw attention to the major donors to the Yes on Prop 8 campaign. These contributors gave $40 million to amend the California Constitution to take away the right of same-sex couples to marry. If our opponents want to take away our rights, then we will fight back. We will let the world know who these donors are.
“These people are wrong and history will show this,” said Karger.
Since the website’s launch, Karger has been wildly successful in his quest. The Manchester boycott has knocked more than $7 million worth of bookings out of his downtown property, the Manchester Grand Hyatt, and has garnered international attention in doing so. His formal complaint to the California Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) launched an investigation into the Mormon Church for their speculated under-reporting of contributions to Yes on 8. Thanks to Fred, the FPPC is also looking into NOM's reporting practices for their campaign work in California (NOM contributed over $1 Million to Yes on 8).
Last but certainly not least, Karger was instrumental in getting the Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices to look into NOM's ethical behavior surrounding Question 1, Maine's equivalent to Proposition 8, which also passed this last election.
In fact, Karger has generated so much heat, he is now being subpoenaed by NOM, who are trying to force him into silence. NOM is currently embroiled in a federal lawsuit to end the disclosure of all campaign contributions in California and they want Fred to feel the heat, too, or get out of the kitchen.
Brian Brown, executive director of NOM (and we found, the father of 6 young children: 9, 7, 5, 4, 2 and 6 months - hmmmm) took a direct shot at Fred in a recent press release, published on the NOM website:
"Fred Karger should understand: This politically motivated misuse of election laws will backfire and only help us grow more rapidly. The people of Maine and the American people will recognize a cheap shot when they see one. They understand that anyone who stands for marriage will now be ruthlessly attacked. And frankly, the American people don’t like this kind of hate directed at supporters of marriage.”
Despite all this negative attention and the impending threat of a mountain of legal bills, Fred remains ever positive, convinced those who are in the wrong will never succeed.
Fred's Colorful Life
Practicing his generous and caring spirit early on, Fred was a Big Brother in his early 20’s and began volunteering for various other organizations in the years to follow. Despite the fact that many of these organizations had ties to the LGBT community, Fred remained deeply closeted for decades. Even while working on the fight for Proposition 6 in 1978, and later, after witnessing President Reagan's public opposition to AIDS, Karger still chose to keep his sexuality a secret.
“It was obviously a huge struggle for me and I was very scared to come out,” Fred explained. “My previous experience in politics and PR is what led me to where I am and has definitely contributed to the current fight.”
After first moving to Laguna from Los Angeles in 1996, Karger became a frequent visitor to the longest running gay bar in the western US, The Boom Boom Room. Opened in the 1920's as a servicemen's bar, "The Boom" as it was affectionately called, was sold in 2005 to make way for a new 11 room hotel and restaurant.
Fred wasn't about to just let this local landmark slip away, so in 2006 he teamed with former city councilman Robert Gentry (and Laguna's first openly gay Mayor in 1982) to keep it open, starting www.savetheboom.com. It was then that Karger chose to finally, and very publicly, come out.
In perhaps a quick glimpse of what was yet to come, it is important to note that Karger made national headlines back then, too, when he took out an ad in The Daily Variety appealing to George Clooney and Brad Pitt to buy The Boom and save it from conversion. If you haven't heard that story, this writer guarantees someone you know has.
Although they were unable to save The Boom, Karger learned a great deal from the experience. “He (Gentry) is one of my heroes, he helped me immensely and I know I wouldn’t be as aggressive as I am today without knowing him.”
Now at the age of 59, he says: “I grew up knowing I couldn’t do a lot of things as a gay man and now I feel incredibly lucky to be so comfortable to do what I do and fight for LGBT rights."
After coming so far and contributing so much to the LGBT community in his fight for same-sex marriage, Fred is now being subpoenaed by an organization with a war chest of conservative money and represented by well-known attorney, James Bopp.
“I’ve never been involved in a lawsuit in my life, and now I have the opposition of James Bopp!”
With a resume of 38 pages, surely Bopp has plans to bring Karger down. However, Fred has other plans: “I think I’m in pretty good shape. I’m convinced I will be OK. The support I have received has been overwhelming, and I’m not usually an emotional man but this has been incredible for me.”
Legal Defense Fund
Despite the amazing things he has accomplished, Fred remains modest and humble. He describes himself simply, as "a citizen activist. It's just my laptop and me." He is also well aware that if he continues this important fight against NOM, he cannot afford the legal bills that will ensue.
After a few cocktails, quite rightly, Fred came up with the idea for FiveforFred.com with a friend. He is asking for a minimum of $5 per person, for his Legal Defense Fund. “It’s a modest request that I’m sure everyone can afford. As a result, I will be able to continue to commit to this fight. I have never asked before, but now I am asking the community for help.”
It seems that Fred Karger is a man who still has a great deal to offer the LGBT community, with high hopes for the future: “Marriage is our symbol. It’s a defining law. I want to make it easier for kids growing up who feel they are different, just like I did. Let some 9 year-old know he/she can do what their best friend can do.”
Let's give a little back to Fred after all he's done and continues to do for our community.
Fred’s new website, www.fiveforfred.com is now up and running. You can also enter http://apps.facebook.com/causes/causes/358736/about to join the Facebook cause page.
Editor-in-Chief Margie Palmer contributed to this report.