R. Clarke Cooper will step down as Log Cabin chief at the month’s end (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)
The head of National Log Cabin Republicans is set to step down from his position on Monday and will be temporarily replaced by an interim executive director until a more permanent replacement is found.
The organization’s board announced in a statement Friday that Gregory Angelo, who’s chair of Log Cabin Republicans of New York State, will serve as interim chief starting Wednesday after current executive director R. Clarke Cooper departs.
Speaking to the Washington Blade, Cooper said his decision to leave Log Cabin wasn’t a recent one, although it wasn’t publicly announced before Friday.
Cooper said he informed the board he would depart the organization at the year’s end during an Oct. 20 meeting at the California Republican Party headquarters in Burback. Cooper said his announcement kept in line with earlier stated plans to leave Log Cabin in that time frame.
“Back then, I said, verbatim, ‘Win, lose or draw, I want to leave at the end of the year,’” Cooper said. “A lot of that was just predicated on I promised to work two cycles. So, going back to when I came on in 2010, I said, ‘You get me for the mid-term, and you get me for the general.’”
Sources familiar with Log Cabin, who spoke on agreement on anonymity, affirmed that Cooper had indicated on the Oct. 20 meeting that he would leave Log Cabin at the end of the year and that it was consistent with earlier plans for him to leave the organization at that time.
Cooper, an Army Reserve officer and Iraq War veteran, took on the role as executive director of Log Cabin Republicans as the legislative effort to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was underway and a lawsuit from the group resulted in a federal court instituting a 10-day temporary stay in enforcing the military’s gay ban. Cooper said he worked full-time as Log Cabin chief as he occasionally took leave for training and other Army Reserve duties.
Under Cooper’s tenure, Log Cabin gave a “qualified endorsement” to Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and was credentialed to participate in the drafting process for the 2012 Republican Party platform, although the document ended up including anti-gay language that endorsed the Federal Marriage Amendment.
The Oct. 20 meeting at which Cooper indicated he would leave took place just three days before Log Cabin announced its board had voted to endorse Romney in the presidential election. Cooper said the decision to endorse Romney actually took place over a teleconference earlier in the month — not at the Burbank meeting — and his decision to leave was unrelated to the Romney endorsement.
Cooper wouldn’t publicly announce his plan for what he occupy himself with upon his departure from Log Cabin, although he said he has several potential courses of action. Cooper said he intends to maintain his role in the finance committee for the Republican National Committee and remain active in the D.C. Republican Party.
“As far as from that perspective, I have built in or allowed capacity to have time and freedom to do political engagement, but this is not going to be my work-work,” Cooper said.
Angelo, who’s already executive director of Log Cabin’s educational 501(c)(3) arm known as Liberty Education Forum, said in a statement he’s “humbled and thrilled” to follow Cooper as head of Log Cabin.
“It has never been more critical to advocate for equality to Republicans, as Republicans,” Angelo said. “As the Interim Executive Director of this esteemed organization, I will do everything I can to work for Republican victories that return the party to its roots of freedom, fairness, and liberty for all.”
Cooper said the recruitment process for selecting a new executive director could change from what happened previously, but his selection was done by a formal committee search. One of the anonymous sources familiar with Log Cabin said the issue will come up at the next board meeting in January.
Charles Moran, chair of the California Log Cabin Republicans, said new leadership at Log Cabin presents the opportunity for a more centralized approach to the operation that would harken back to years past.
“When Patrick Guerriero centralized it in the 2000s, he really ramped up a lot of field staff, a lot of money and the organization was very centralized in Washington D.C.,” Moran said. “They’ve been kind of parsing that out over the years and returning us to more of a confederation model, but the problem is how do you maintain brand identity … when you don’t have anyone who’s setting that messaging? It’s a challenge. I think the next six months are going to be pretty critical. Like with the GOP, I think Log Cabin is going to have to figure out where it is and where we fit into the greater conversation.”
Log Cabin runs full-page ad against Hagel
The announcement comes the day after Log Cabin published a full-page in opposition to former U.S. Sen. Chuck Hagel, whom Obama is reportedly considering for the role as defense secretary. The ad states, “Chuck Hagel: Wrong on Gay Rights, Wrong on Iran, Wrong on Israel.”
The ad also includes an anti-gay quote attributed to Hagel from 1998 in which refers to James Hormel, who went on to become the first openly gay U.S. ambassador, as “openly aggressively gay.” In a statement last week, Hagel apologized for the statement and said he supports open service and LGBT military families. Afterwards, Hormel questioned the sincerity of the apology in interviews with the Washington Post and the Washington Blade, but seemed to retract his doubt in a Facebook posting hours afterward.
As with the Romney endorsement, Cooper said the ad was unrelated to the announcement on Friday that he would step down as the Log Cabin’s leader.
“That ad was teed up way before Christmas; we had that lined up for a while,” Cooper said. “It’s no different than us having [new Republican DOMA repeal co-sponsors] Richard Hanna and Charlie Bass teed up for Election Day.”
Questions persist about the ad — particularly how a small organization such as Log Cabin with a relatively limited budget could afford to run a full-page in the New York Times.
Cooper said he couldn’t immediately recall the cost of the ad, but said it was done over the holiday week at a special rate and was financed by Log Cabin donors who are also organization members.
During the week of the Republican National Convention, Log Cabin ran a similar full-page ad in the Tampa Tribune in favor of marriage equality. Cooper said the Hagel advertisement was financed in the same manner.
Notably, Log Cabin is running an ad against Hagel even though he changed his position on the anti-gay Federal Marriage Amendment and didn’t vote on the measure in 2006. Just months before, the organization endorsed Romney even though he campaigned on the Federal Marriage Amendment during the Republican presidential primary.
The ad is somewhat in opposition to a quote from Cooper in a Gay City News article published on Dec. 14 in which he has favorable words for Hagel. Cooper was quoted as recalling Hagel’s experience in the battlefield and saying, “Hagel voted with us most of the time and there was no question he was committed to advancing America’s interests abroad.”
Asked by the Blade to explain why the Gay City News comments were different from the content of the anti-Hagel ad, Cooper said at that time Log Cabin hadn’t yet reached a final decision on Hagel.
“What is consistent is where I’ve been on non-proliferation of nuclear capability in Iran, or Iran writ-large,” Cooper said. “When I talked with a reporter from Gay City News a while back, he said, ‘Where are you on this?’ I said, ‘We’re looking at a lot of things with our coalition partners, I worked with Chuck Hagel, but we’re going to be putting out something soon.’”
Cooper added he had an early version of the copy of what would appear in the New York Times at the time Gay City News interviewed him, but didn’t want to tip off the reporter.
“As you can appreciate, I’m not going to tell one of your peers about something that we’re ready to roll out,” Cooper said. “That doesn’t make any sense. Why would I tell Gay City News that we’re about to do a roll-out in the New York Times? It doesn’t make sense.”