July seems early for Iowa caucus dirty tricks, but desperate times call for desperate measures.
As most polls show former President Donald Trump with a comfortable lead among Republicans in Iowa and nationwide, a mailing sent to some Iowa households this weekend purports to thank Trump “for standing up for LGBTQ+ rights!”
An Iowa reader provided the following images.
PHONY PRAISE FOR FORMER PRESIDENT
The front side notes that Trump “celebrated” when President Joe Biden signed the Marriage Equality Act last December.
Quoting from a Politico article by Meridith McGraw about a Mar-a-Lago gala for Log Cabin Republicans, the mailer reads,
But the main attraction … was Trump. He received a standing ovation after delivering an enthusiastic affirmation of gay rights not often heard in the GOP
The same side portrays Trump as a “Transgender Trailblazer” for allowing a transgender woman to compete in a Miss Universe pageant in Canada. Trump defended the decision in a 2012 interview with a Fox News personality, but the mailer cites a FoxNews source from April 2023, creating the impression that the Trump quote is recent.
An image of Trump raising his fist in victory is flanked on either side by rainbow flags.
The flip side asserts that “Donald Trump stood up for MARRIAGE EQUALITY and TRANS RIGHTS” while “many Republican leaders are fighting against” those policies.
Again, the mailing references the transgender Miss Universe contestant from 2012 and Trump’s remarks at that December 2022 party at Mar-a-Lago. The text quotes from the same Politico article, with some words in bold:
“We are fighting for the gay community, and we are fighting and fighting hard.
“With the help of many of the people here tonight in recent years, our movement has taken incredible strides, the strides you’ve made here is incredible.”
The mailer encourages readers to contact Trump through his office to “tell him to keep fighting for LGBTQ rights!”
It takes courage to change the culture, and we thank Donald Trump for standing with LGBTQ+ Americans to fight against the close minded Republicans who won’t accept change.
Anyone who’s paid attention to Iowa Republican politics can see this phony praise is designed to create negative views of Trump among potential GOP caucus-goers.
All the more so since the mailing didn’t come from a genuine LGBTQ advocacy organization.
NEW ORGANIZATION PAID FOR MAILING
The mailer’s attribution statement reads “Paid for by Advancing Our Values.” The Iowa Secretary of State’s business database shows that entity registered in Iowa as a 504 non-profit on June 27, 2023. The group’s registered agent is listed as Cogency Global Inc., which provides registered agent services to numerous organizations.
I have been unable to find contact information for Advancing Our Values or details about the voter universe targeted for this mailing. Please reach out confidentially if you received a copy or know more about its origins.
The campaign of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, Trump’s leading rival for the GOP nomination, recently embraced the tactic of portraying Trump as an LGBTQ ally.
MESSAGES TRACK WITH NARRATIVE ADVANCED BY DESANTIS
While campaigning in Iowa this year, many Republican presidential candidates have highlighted their support for policies that undermine LGBTQ and especially transgender equality, such as restrictive bathroom policies, laws prohibiting trans girls or women from sports teams, bans on gender-affirming health care, and limits on public school instruction about sexual orientation and gender identity.
Trump himself observed at a recent rally in North Carolina, “I talk about transgender, everyone goes crazy. Who would have thought? Five years ago, you didn’t know what the hell it was.” Speaking at a June 30 event hosted by Moms for Liberty in Philadelphia, the former president promised to “defeat the toxic poison of gender ideology” by signing an executive order to prohibit federal agencies from promoting “sex or gender transition at any age.” He said hospitals or health care providers that violated the order would lose their federal funding.
DeSantis has championed anti-LGBTQ policies, signing the country’s first “don’t say gay” law in 2022 and several other discriminatory measures. Iowa and Florida are among 20 Republican-controlled states that have enacted “laws targeting every facet of transgender lives,” according to data compiled by Erin Reed.
On June 30, the DeSantis campaign’s “War Room” Twitter account shared a video that contrasted Trump’s alleged support for LGBTQ people with the Florida governor’s record of promoting “the most extreme slate of anti-trans laws in modern history.”
The video is no longer available on that Twitter feed, but DeSantis told conservative podcaster Tomi Lahren this week that such criticism was “fair game.” He characterized Trump “as really being a pioneer in injecting gender ideology into the mainstream where he was having men compete against women in his beauty pageants,” while now “saying the opposite” on the campaign trail.
Ryan Koopmans, a leading Iowa Republican strategist hired earlier this year by the pro-DeSantis Never Back Down super PAC, did not immediately respond to Bleeding Heartland’s inquiry about Advancing Our Values.
I will update this post as needed with more information about the mailing or the group behind it.
UPDATE: Here are the articles of incorporation filed with the Iowa Secretary of State’s office.
The sole member of the board of directors is Kyle Adema, who is listed at an address in Omaha, Nebraska. Bleeding Heartland was unable to reach him for comment.
The “incorporator” is Jenny Kim, an attorney working in the Washington, DC office of the Gober Group. Her bio says that she “advises corporations, non-profit organizations, political organizations, and business associations in their efforts to impact public policy and the political process.” She was previously “deputy general counsel, political law and vice president of public policy at Koch Industries.” She did not immediately respond to Bleeding Heartland’s inquiry.
SECOND UPDATE: Richard Grenell, who served as acting Director of National Intelligence for President Trump in 2020, tweeted on July 10 that Charles Koch emailed him regarding this mailing: “I can assure you that this is not something I support.” Grenell asserted, “But his staff did it anyway.”
Anton Vuljaj, managing director for communications and marketing at Koch Industries, tweeted in response to Grenell, “To be very clear, Koch did not fund and does not support these mailers. Additionally, no Koch employees were involved.”
Liz Mair, a longtime political and communications consultant who has worked with many Republican candidates, tweeted on July 10 that she “heard it was Koch-funded from several people.” However, she tweeted a short while later,
I just spoke to someone with Koch. Someone who is in a position to see where all money is going and what it’s going for. This individual says the mailer was absolutely not funded by Koch groups. […]
Ultimately, we’ll have more insight when corporate filings related to the group are made public. But the way you reconcile what I have been told in terms of Koch being behind this and what this person said is: Rogue consultant misappropriating money.