BY STEVE ROTHAUS, srothaus@MiamiHerald.com
Kirk Fordham, CEO of the Everglades Foundation in South Florida since 2008, has resigned to become executive director of Gill Action, a Colorado-based organization that provides funding for pro-gay political campaigns across the nation.
“Perhaps having a family has made it more imperative to get involved on a full-time basis to make sure American families have the same rights as everyone else regardless of sexual orientation,” said Fordham, 44, a one-time aide to several Republican politicians, including former U.S. Rep. Mark Foley of West Palm Beach.
Fordham, partner Mike Cevarr, a senior research analyst for Fannie Mae, and their two sons, 13-month-old Lukas and Levi, 7 months, will move this spring from Coral Gables to Denver.
“I’m giving up the sun and the surf for the sun and the snow,” said Fordham, originally from Rochester, N.Y. “It's an unexpected opportunity and I hate, hate, hate to leave my Everglades work. It's near and dear to my heart.”
His last day at the Everglades Foundation will be Friday, April 13. He starts the following Monday at Gill Action.
The Everglades Foundation, based in Palmetto Bay, will soon look to replace Fordham. “Paul Tudor Jones, our board chair, will lead the search committee,” Fordham said.
After graduating from University of Maryland with a degree in government and politics, Fordham got a congressional internship; worked for Jim Inhofe (then a U.S. Congressman, now a senator); and became Foley’s chief of staff in 1994. He stayed with Foley until 2004, then worked a year as finance director for Sen. Mel Martinez.
For three years, Fordham worked in public affairs/governmental public relations. In January 2008, he became CEO of the Everglades Foundation.
Although Fordham has been closely tied to Republican politicians, he also has cultivated relationships with Democrats. South Florida’s two congresswomen both praised him in news statements.
"Although we will miss Kirk's determined efforts to protect and restore America's Everglades, I am thrilled that I will now have the opportunity to partner with him in his new role at Gill Action,” said U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the Democratic National Committee chairwoman from Weston. “Kirk practices a bi-partisan approach to problem-solving that has earned him the respect of many friends on both sides of the aisle. As we continue our march forward to protect the right of every LGBT person to enjoy every opportunity this nation has to offer, I look forward to working with Kirk to build on the progress that has been made by groups like Gill Action."
Said U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Miami, one of the Republican Party’s most outspoken gay-rights advocates: “The Everglades will lose one of its most tireless and effective advocates, but the nation will benefit as Kirk shifts his focus to advancing equal opportunity for each and every American. Kirk is well regarded in Tallahassee and on Capitol Hill as a staunch supporter who has used his knowledge and experience in government affairs to further important causes. I look forward to working with him to ensure that our nation — and our laws — treat everyone fairly and equally.”
Gill Action fund, begun by Quark software inventor and philanthropist Tim Gill, has given $14.45 million to pro-gay campaigns since 2005. In Florida, Gill Action helped fund the unsuccessful 2008 campaign to prevent a statewide amendment banning gay marriage and civil unions, said Fordham, who made national news in 2006 when Mark Foley’s political career imploded during a sexting scandal involving teenage male congressional pages.
Fordham, who helped orchestrate Foley’s resignation from Congress after ABC News obtained copies of the text messages, later told a House Ethics Committee that he reported Foley’s antics to House Speaker Dennis Hastert three years before that scandal broke, but that Hastert did little with the information.
Some gay activists believe Fordham didn’t do enough to stop Foley when he suspected inappropriate behavior between the congressman and underage pages.
“While I appreciate Kirk’s many talents at bringing various political players to the table to move the LGBT agenda forward, I am perplexed as to why these guys just can’t say they’re sorry for what they did,” said Mike Rogers, a Washington-based activist blogger who appeared in the 2009 film documentary Outrage, about closeted gay politicians including Foley. “He said, ‘Oh, I gave the information and no one did anything with it.’ ”
Fordham says he doesn’t know what more he could have done about Foley’s “flirtatious” behavior: “I went behind my boss’ back to the House speaker to report it.”