Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Disturbing profile of DNC chief of staff Leah Daughtry

The New York Times ran a very troubling profile on Sunday of Democratic National Committee Chief of Staff Leah Daughtry.

The ostensible purpose of the profile was to highlight Daughtry's attempt to bring people of faith into the Democratic fold. Numerous American progressives have been open about their religious beliefs -- Martin and Coretta King, Jimmy Carter, Jesse Jackson -- and there is much concordance between the teachings of the major faiths and progressive ideology.

The article's big tent theme quickly got derailed, however, by a number of unsettling revelations about how exactly Daughtry has gone about wooing faith communities and the cost in Democratic principles of her doing so.

The most disturbing disclosure is that the DNC has funded blatantly anti-gay voter outreach in at least one state. The Alabama Democratic Party accepted DNC money and published a Faith and Values Voter Guide in local newspapers during the 2006 campaign. The twelve-page insert included a Covenant for the Future which promised to "defeat any efforts to redefine marriage or to provide the benefits of marriage to a same-sex union."

Alabama Democratic Party Chair Joe Turnham continued gay bashing after the 2006 election. In May 2007, as DNC Chair Howard Dean was preparing to visit the state, Alabama Republican Party Chair Mike Hubbard criticized Dean's "left-wing agenda". Turnham responded by saying in the local press that Hubbard
has gun control in New York with Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney with gay marriage in Massachusetts....He shouldn't be taking shots at Howard Dean.
In his Chairman's blog just days earlier, Turnham also declared that
the Repub Party has welcomed 'pro-abortion, pro-gay, anti-gun' Rudy and Mitt to Alabama"

Turnham's statements were so outrageous that State Rep. Patricia Todd, Alabama's only out elected public official, took Turnham to task in a letter that she made available to us here.

There are other disturbing aspects about the DNC's faith outreach relative to its LGBT outreach:

♦ Dean allowed Daughtry to create a six-member religious outreach team called Faith in Action at the same time that they eliminated the DNC's LGBT outreach desk;

♦ at least one FIA member has trained state party communications directors on how to deal with religious media, and Dean appeared on televangelist and Christian Coalition founder Pat Robertson's 700 Club, but Dean refuses to speak with the Washington Blade, the widest-circulation LGBT publication in Washington, DC; and one of Dean's and Daughtry's subordinates, Julie Tagen, derided the Blade and other gay publications by writing in an e-mail, "I tend to use the Blade and other gay papers in the bottom of the birdcage". The Blade has published articles critical of the DNC's handling of LGBT concerns, including its elimination of the LGBT desk and its termination of gay employee Donald Hitchcock after Hitchcock's partner Paul Yandura criticized the DNC's failure to counter anti-gay marriage ballot initiatives;

♦ Daughtry oversaw the purchase of radio ads on Christian stations during the 2006 campaign, but almost no LGBT local publications received DNC funding.

Outreach to people of faith is certainly something that the Democratic National Committee should be engaging in, but it should be done as part of an effort to find common ground, not at the cost of sacrificing Democratic principles. That Daughtry and Turnham would sacrifice the LGBT community with such casualness will no doubt make some LGBT donors hesitate as they consider where to send their contributions.

When asked about the gay-bashing Alabama publication, paid for with funds much of which had been contributed by LGBT Democrats, Daughtry did not say, "This is an outrage. I will make sure that it never happens again". She did not accept responsibility for her failure to monitor those funds. She did not apologize for allowing money under her stewardship to be used to appeal to the basest elements in our society. Her response when asked about the Alabama publication: "The wonderful thing about the Democratic Party is that we have room for all kinds of opinions."

If a Democratic Party official had allowed party funds to be used to oppose interracial marriage rather than gay marriage and had then dismissed concerns with such flippancy, that person would have been out of a job immediately. But the LGBT community is the last group against whom it is still considered acceptable to be prejudiced. One just wouldn't think that the highest-ranking employee of the Democratic National Committee would be one of the people who find that acceptable.

Democratic committees that can use support include the Obama campaign, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

1 comment :

Anonymous said...

I have been giving money both to the DNC and to the Barack Obama campaign. Now I understand that a high ranking DNC member Leah Daughtry is funding anti Gay, Creationist, and Anti Choice agendas within the Democratic party. What is happening to the Democrats? I'm not giving one more cent nor am I willing to support any Democrat until I get a response about this issue. I'm encouraging all of my friends and colleagues to withhold financial support from the DNC and from the Barack Obama campaign until we get a response about this outrage.

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