WASHINGTON — In 1988, well-heeled gay activists went to Michael Dukakis’ presidential campaign with an offer to raise $1 million for his election effort.
The campaign said no, according to the activists. “They turned us down flat because it was gay money,” said longtime gay rights advocate David Mixner.
Less than a quarter-century later, the gay and lesbian community ranks as one of the most important parts of President Barack Obama’s campaign-finance operation. The campaign has hosted a slew of events targeted at gay donors, from intimate dinners to extravagant galas. Wealthy gay business executives and philanthropists fill the ranks of Obama’s top bundlers. Twenty-one prominent gay individuals and couples raised a total of at least $7.4 million for the president’s re-election through the end of March.
Born of the desperate urgency of the AIDS crisis, the fundraising powerhouse assembled by the gay community has propelled its concerns to center stage. The Obama campaign and gay activists reject the suggestion that the president’s endorsement of same-sex marriage was tied to fundraising. But there is no doubt that a once-marginalized constituency is now mainstream, influencing electoral politics from city hall to the White House.
“People just have a better understanding and appreciation about how much impact they can have,” said Chuck Wolfe, president of the Gay Lesbian Victory Fund, which works to elect openly gay and lesbian officials. Its budget has increased nearly sixfold in the last decade.
“They’re electing state legislators who can deal with marriage issues. They’re electing school board members who can talk about bullying,” Wolfe said.
Democratic candidates have overwhelmingly benefited from gay and lesbian support, an alliance bolstered by presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney’s reiteration last week that he opposes same-sex marriage.
The prominence of gays and lesbians as top donors has come as society’s views on homosexuality have dramatically shifted. But the community’s ascendance also reflects a “maturation” of gay political activism, said Dana Perlman, a co-chair of the Obama campaign’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Leadership Council, a fundraising committee.
“The LGBT community is more sophisticated and organized,” said Perlman, a Los
This article originally appeared on: http://www.standard.net/stories/2012/05/14/gay-political-donors-move-mainstream-obama