January 20, 2011 | by Lane Hudson
Holding movement leaders accountable

A few weeks ago, I wrote a column for the Blade questioning whether HRC President Joe Solmonese was engaged in lobbying rank-and-file members of Congress.  The reaction to that column requires a response on my part.

The headline “How engaged is HRC in ‘Don’t Ask’ fight?” was not written by me and does not reflect the content of the column. In addition to what I wrote in the column, I know that Allison Herwitt, HRC’s legislative director, and her team have been working diligently in lobbying Congress on our legislative priorities. I also know that HRC’s field team was doing what they could back in the states to advance repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

I also believe that the work done by the HRC Foundation is beyond reproach.  Whether it be Darryl Herrschaft at the HRC Workplace Project, Donna Payne’s outreach to the African-American community, the work that Harry Knox has done over the years on religious issues, or Candace Gingrich-Jones’ youth outreach, HRC is full of people who do incredibly meaningful work everyday.

Some have questioned whether I unfairly published an e-mail to me from HRC’s head of communications, Fred Sainz. I e-mailed Sainz to let him know that I had heard that Solmonese viewed his job as fundraising rather than lobbying members of Congress and told him that I was writing a column on the subject. I offered to include any information on Solmonese’s lobbying activity. Here is his exact response to me: “Here’s what you can say Lane and attribute it to me: that’s fucking bullshit!”

This didn’t answer the question; and it was only the beginning of Fred’s effort to distract from the question I was posing. He suggested that I should be disqualified from commenting on HRC because the organization had fired me after exposing the Mark Foley scandal several years ago.

I have long put that behind me. In fact, when asked about it, I usually say that being fired by HRC opened up more opportunities than I had before. One of those opportunities is to sometimes play a leadership role in our movement and once in a while providing commentary on the state of our movement.

This leads me to another reaction that I received to my previous column. Some believe that I see myself as leading a movement to destroy HRC. That is as ridiculous as it sounds. What I do believe is that we all have a responsibility to further our movement and that includes holding people in leadership accountable. That’s why I’m writing this column and why I wrote the last.

The most interesting response to that column was a joint statement from Sens. Susan Collins and Joe Lieberman in which they wrote, “repealing this policy is testament to Joe’s leadership and HRC’s role in this legislative battle.” When I read this, it struck me as an outsized response to my Blade column.

I’ve heard stories of how former HRC Executive Director Elizabeth Birch would passionately lobby congressional staff on legislative priorities during the workweek and would then barnstorm the country on weekends raising money and recruiting new board members. Birch never hid her lobbying work. Why would Solmonese?

In all of the criticism, questions and responses to that column, no one ever disputed the claim that Solmonese does not engage in lobbying rank-and-file members of Congress. If Solmonese views his job as fundraising instead of lobbying, then he and his staff should be able to justify it. That they adopted such a defensive posture must mean that they can’t.

HRC was founded as an advocacy organization and is our movement’s leading presence in Congress. It is fair to ask whether its leader regularly lobbies and it is fair to expect a reasonable response to the question.

3 Comments
  • I don’t know you nor do I care for your so-called reporting style. At the time of your initial piece, HRC was being raked over the coals and unfairly blamed for everything bad coming out of Washigton. And then for you to pose your question about Solmonese (based on what?) and expect him to defend himself is juvenile. I’m glad HRC is saying enough to you and all the other people out there who have biases or an agenda. How about fact-finding and corroborating sources first and not be a cry-baby if people don’t engage in your games?

  • What a self-serving waste of column inches.Your original article starts with an anonymous source that throws out a charge that makes it appear that Solmonese wasn’t appropriately involved in getting the DADT repeal passed — you asked if there was any truth to this and were told in pretty blunt terms that the charge was BS… and having gotten an answer that you didn’t like, you went ahead with characterizing the exchange as “troubling”… and furthered it with the same kind of Faux News type of “there appear to be questions” to make bolster the main thrust of your original presumptions.

    Now you’re back whining — and frankly overreaching with yet another presumption: that the Senate Leadership or HRC was responding to YOUR Blade commentary… and NO, once again you are incorrect in stating that no one disputed your original claim. They did. They called it bullshit. And just because you can’t get them to engage further in your supposed gotch-game, doesn’t prove anything.

  • I’ve volunteered low level at HRC for some time. I also think they have an all but impossilbe job from the little I get to see, but they sure know how to fill the house at their annual dinner which isn’t cheap.

    What concerns me most about both the writer of the article and the HRC also is i see a grudge match here, or to put it another way – a hatfield and McCoy scene.

    If you got fired from HRC, you shoulld avoid speaking against them > it hurts your credibility

    We all need HRc. could they do a better job – sure. Could we be screwing the gay community by fighting amongst the community, damn well yes,and that sucks.

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