Republican pollster Tony Fabrizio, who has worked for gay-rights advocates in the past, has become the target of criticism among gay activists who opposed the Texas governor's latest Iowa ad that takes a swipe at the end of the Don't Ask Don't Tell military policy.
'"This is the dilemma for working in the Republican Party: the candidates need to appeal to the far right and that sometimes means bashing the gay community," said Stephen Gaskill, a former spokesman for the Florida Red and Blue committee that unsuccessfully tried to block a 2008 Florida constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.
Fabrizio was the Republican pollster hired by Florida Red and Blue, which paid his firm more than $264,000. Fabrizio also lives in one of the friendliest of gay towns, Miami Beach, where he has a South Beach condominium.
Fabrizio, who said by email that he couldn't chat this morning, opposed the ad, which he described as "nuts" in an email to Perry ad man Nelson Warfield, a longtime friend of Fabrizio's. Both men were top advisors to Rick Scott in his gubernatorial campaign last year.
Warfield was clearly the father of the Perry ad, which laments that gays can serve in the military while religious values are under assault. (see below for email exchange).
Michael Kenny, an activist with the gay-rights group Florida Together, worked on the Florida Red and Blue campaign with Fabrizio and said he didn't think Fabrizio had "anti-equality views" like those expressed in the Iowa ad. He said it was "despicable" of the Perry campaign to try to mine for votes by going after gays. Some activists say Fabrizio should resign from the campaign unless he's just, in Kenny's words, "a hired gun."
Fabrizio doesn't just work for anybody. In 1984, he said, he had to return a call on behalf of his then-boss, Arthur Finkelstein, to a potential client who wanted to run for a congressional seat in North Carolina, where they helped elect then-Sen. Jesse Helms.
Fabrizio said the man, whose name he couldn't recall, said he was a "Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan."
"You realize," Fabrizio said, "I'm a Catholic and my boss is a Jew?"
Said the Wizard: "I don't care what the hell you are if you get me elected."
"We didn't work for him," Fabrizio said.
Aside note: Finkelstein is gay and has gotten his share of grief for his work for Helms and other Republican candidates. Fabrizio is a divorced dad and said he doesn't discuss his private life. After this post, our Gay South Florida blog noted gay Republicans are trying to out him.
Here's the email exchange:
From: Nelson Warfield
Date: Fri, 18 Nov 2011 11:28:49 -0500
To: Anthony Fabrizio
Cc: "Mike Baselice" , "Curt Anderson", "David Carney", "David Weeks", "James@norwayhill.com", "Jim Innocenzi", "Joe Allbaugh", "Ray Sullivan", "Rob Johnson", "Suzanne Erickson" Subject:
Re: Iowa Survey - Third draft
Comrades! Here is my cut at a more aggressive values question: "Rick Perry knows there is something wrong in this country when gays can serve openly in the military but our kids can’t openly celebrate Christmas in the public schools.
As President, he’ll end the Obama Administration’s war on religion and order the Justice Department to defend against ACLU attacks on America’s religious heritage."
Curt makes the excellent point that what Perry really needs to do is talk about his faith. I would welcome that, too. We might do well testing a taxpayer-funding for abortion line.
This is just an effort to take things beyond the conventional and see what we get.
From: Tony Fabrizio
Subject: Re: Iowa Survey - Third draft
Date: Friday, November 18, 2011, 11:33 AM
To: "Nelson Warfield"
Cc: "Mike Baselice" , "Curt Anderson", "David Carney", "David Weeks", "James@norwayhill.com", "Jim Innocenzi", "Joe Allbaugh", "Ray Sullivan", "Rob Johnson", "Suzanne Erickson"
We already tested the taxpayer funding of abortion and planned parenthood.
Nelson — your question is nuts, just nuts.