Or not doing, actually. Greg Sargent reports that several major gay donors are keeping their cash until they can get an executive order out of Obama.
Some leading gay and progressive donors are so angry over President Obama’s refusal to sign an executive order barring same sex discrimination by federal contractors that they are refusing to give any more money to the pro-Obama super PAC, a top gay fundraiser’s office tells me. In some cases, I’m told, big donations are being withheld.
Jonathan Lewis, the gay philanthropist and leading Democratic fundraiser, is one of many gay advocates who has been working behind the scenes to pressure Obama to change his mind. When Obama decided against the executive order last month, arguing that he would pursue a legislative solution instead, advocates were furious — such a solution will never pass Congress, the executive order has been a priority for advocates for years, and the move smacked of a political cave to conservatives who will not support Obama no matter what he does.
Straight up: These donors are trying to buy an executive order that benefits their businesses. At least, that’s how Sargent and other leftwing bloggers would write about this if the donors were conservatives withholding money from the RNC or Mitt Romney over some specific issue. Set the gay angle aside for a moment, and we have wealthy donors withholding campaign funds to apply pressure to get an executive order that would set aside federal contracts business they believe is owed them. That’s buying an executive order. If Obama ever signs that EO, then he has been bought. I bet he signs it in September or October, if the polls show that it benefits him.
Less obvious, is the role this behind-the-scenes tussle may be playing in recent events that otherwise don’t seem to make a lot of sense.
On NBC’s Meet the Press Sunday, David Gregory asked VP Joe Biden about his views on gay marriage. This interview having taken place on NBC, the network that more than any other is openly leftwing, and supports Obama’s re-election, we can be sure that the question was not unexpected, and that Biden’s answer was no “gaffe.” The Obama White House wanted this story put out there. Education Secretary Arne Duncan came out a day later in support of gay marriage — again, this is no accident. It’s all a signal to the left, and to those major donors withholding funds over that EO, that the president will give them what they want but he can’t do it now. He needs more post-election flexibility.
Gay marriage is a 50-50 issue when polled nationally, and when it’s put to a vote of the people, it tends to lose badly. It’s probably not an issue that will decide the election for or against Obama. But if you look at results in California’s Prop 8 and what’s likely to happen in North Carolina, it’s risky enough that the president isn’t quite ready to hop off the fence he’s on. Taking risky stands is what surrogates are for. Obama is probably saving open support — everyone knows he supports it behind the scenes, and he gave the game away when DOJ stopped defending the Clinton-era DOMA — for a Hail Mary game changer if he needs it later in the fall. For now, he’s trying to get those big donations as cheaply as he can, and creating another week of talking about something other than the economy.