About a dozen top GOP strategists signed onto a friend of the court brief filed by the American Foundation for Equal Rights, a nonprofit advocacy group, in the Supreme Court case challenging California’s Proposition 8.
Consultants usually go out of their way not to become part of the story lest their personal views get publicly entangled with those of their clients. But those who joined the challenge to California’s gay-marriage ban tell C&E they aren’t worried about losing business despite taking a public stance on what remains a controversial issue for Republican voters.
“Any client who would have a concern, I would not want for a client,” says Mark McKinnon, a senior advisor at Hill + Knowlton Strategies.
Still, a recent Quinnipiac University poll found that Republicans oppose gay marriage by a margin of 69-23 percent. And many GOP consultants will say of the record they’re afraid to speak out. But for some who did, it was a personal matter, not a business decision.
The Supreme Court on Tuesday will hear oral arguments in the first of two same-sex marriage cases.
“I signed the brief on my own behalf, not as a representative of anyone else,” says David Kochel, founder of Redwave Communications.
Kochel joined the brief despite basing his business in Iowa, where gay marriage has been an issue for Republicans since the state’s Supreme Court upheld a lower court ruling legalizing it in 2009.
“I don’t expect to agree on everything with every client,” he says, “but it’s important to remember I’m not being hired to promote my views.”
Kochel’s views wouldn’t preclude him from being hired again by the Republican National Committee, according to Gentry Collins, a partner at Collins Anderson Philip Public Affairs who previously served as the RNC’s political director. “I don’t remember a vendor hiring by the national committee that was based on an operative’s personal views on political issues,” he says. “I can’t imagine that will change this cycle.”
For other strategists, having signed the brief may actually be a boon for business. Alex Castellanos’s firm Purple Strategies, for instance, has been courting clients on both sides of the aisle. His signing on could enhance the firm’s bipartisan credentials.
“Alex is a new Republican,” says Steve McMahon, a Democrat and partner at the firm. “He’s interested in where the [GOP] is going, not where it’s been in the past. Marriage equality is clearly where the country is heading, and if Alex can help lead his party there, I’m sure he’s glad to do it.”
Sean J. Miller is a contributing editor to Campaigns & Elections magazine.