The Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition (IFFC) plans to host a presidential forum on Monday, March 7. As presidential forums go, this one is considered a big deal. It’s the first time prospective 2012 Republican candidates will appear together and it takes place in the great state of Iowa – home to the Iowa caucus.
So far, Rick Santorum, Buddy Roemer, Herman Cain, Tim Pawlenty and Newt Gingrich have signed on to attend. Haley Barbour, Mitch Daniels, Mike Huckabee, Sarah Palin, Ron Paul, Tim Pawlenty, Mike Pence, John Thune, Gary Johnson and John Bolton were all also invited.
The forum isn’t a debate. Rather, it’s a meet-and-greet, where potential candidates will give a 10-minute pitch to the nation’s first voters.
Steve Scheffler, president of the Coalition, recently commented on the event, saying the 2012 election has the “most wide-open field in 50 years.” And according to a December 2010 Wall Street Journal story, Scheffler said invitations to the forum had been sent to “anyone who has expressed the slightest interest in the 2012 Republican nomination.”
But one potential candidate is being kept out of the forum.
Fred Karger, the openly gay Republican from California who was among the first to launch a presidential exploratory committee and run in ads in Iowa and New Hampshire, has been barred from participating in the event.
The reason? According to Karger, it’s because he is gay.
“There is no specific political criteria used like other sponsors of debates and forums use,” said Karger in a statement. “[…] By excluding one possible candidate, he [Scheffler] is in fact making an ‘in-kind’ contribution to all those who are participating.”
According to Karger, Scheffler also sent him a ‘disturbing” email last May, in which he wrote, “[you and the radical homosexual community want to harass supporters of REAL marriage. I am the Republican National Committeeman for Iowa … I will work overtime to help ensure that your political aspirations are aborted right here in Iowa.”
As a response, Karger filed an official complaint with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) just last week, arguing that Scheffler was violating campaign finance laws. He even launched a website, LetFredIn.com, where supporters can sign a petition supporting Karger’s participation in the forum.
When contacted by The Daily Caller, Karger said “No, I’m not going to go if I’m not invited,” but he wasn’t going to give up on getting an invitation.
He even has back-up plane reservations to Iowa Sunday night. Just in case.
When asked by TheDC, why Karger was being excluded from the forum, Scheffler simply said, “Look at our quote on the Iowa Independent.”
Presumably, Scheffler meant this quote that was in the Independent on Feb. 24: “Potential candidates were invited based on an objective criteria of viability, fundraising ability, and prior electoral success with advice from legal counsel. We are in full compliance with federal campaign regulations governing such events.”
Karger told TheDC the FEC did acknowledge receiving the complaint, and the agency promised to issue “some kind of statement” within days.
So far, none of the other participants in Monday’s forum have expressed support for his efforts, said Karger, though Republican Rep. Ron Paul of Texas was also excluded from the event four years ago.