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Gay and lesbian power

Candidates should note that this is one group that knows how to get out the vote.

August 12, 2007|DON FREDERICK AND ANDREW MALCOLM

It's a perennial complaint: Too many Americans don't vote. But based on a massive new survey, one population segment -- gays -- surely must be excluded from this rebuke.

A recent study by San Francisco-based Community Marketing Inc. found an eye-popping 92.5% of gay men report they voted in the 2004 presidential race, and almost 84% said they cast ballots in the 2006 midterm election. Among lesbians, the results were almost as impressive; nearly 91% in 2004 and 78% in 2006.

By comparison, the Washington-based Committee for the Study of the American Electorate puts the turnout for all Americans eligible to vote at about 61% in 2004 and roughly 40% in 2006.

Consider that last statistic for a moment: a turnout rate among gay men more than twice that for the nation's voters as a whole.

The survey questioned more than 12,000 gay men and more than 10,000 lesbians, giving its results a minuscule error margin of plus or minus 1%.

The figures "demonstrate that the political parties would be smart to pay attention to the issues that mean the most to gay and lesbian voters," said Tom Roth, president of Community Marketing. "We have far more at stake than the average voter, and we're therefore far more engaged in the political process."

Indeed, the turnout results were released -- not coincidentally -- as the Democratic presidential contenders met in Los Angeles for the first candidate debate devoted to issues of particular interest to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities.

In raw numbers, the survey estimates gay voters total nearly 9 million. In the 2004 election, about 122 million Americans went to the polls.

The study did not examine the partisan preferences among the gay constituency. But given the parties' respective positions on gay rights, one can assume the tilt is heavily Democratic.

So the candidate

walks into a bar . . .

Now you know the presidential campaign is really underway.

The candidates are flocking to Comedy Central's "The Daily Show," many of them second-tier wannabes desperate for any TV exposure -- even if they get laughed at late at night by young people who probably don't vote.

Sen. Joe Biden, known for his hilarious backyard stand-up routine about the president being brain-dead, appeared Wednesday. Next comes former GOP front-runner Sen. John McCain, who will make his 10th appearance on show on Thursday -- what's he got to lose these days? Former Gov. Tommy Thompson, who broke up audiences with his statistical PowerPoints as secretary of Health and Human Services, is scheduled for Aug. 20 -- unless he gives up before then.

On Aug. 22, Sen. Barack Obama, who made that recent funny joke about bombing Pakistan, will make his first "Daily Show" appearance as a candidate. Who knows which other American ally he might pick for the next attack? Sen. Chris Dodd and Gov. Bill Richardson have already appeared this political season -- and just look what it did for their poll numbers. Former Sen. John Edwards has also appeared, although his routine about poor people didn't really get laughs. . . .

Depends on your

definition of lobbyist

Keeping true to his pledge not to take campaign funds from federal lobbyists, Barack Obama was raising bundles of money today way out in Sacramento, where, everybody knows, there are surely no lobbyists. Not unless you count the 1,032 registered California lobbyists who billed their clients $77.9 million in the first half of this year, according to The Times' Dan Morain.

Obama and John Edwards have been very critical of Hillary Clinton, and Obama wagged his finger at her at a Chicago forum for accepting campaign donations from lobbyists in Washington. She says they can represent "real Americans." Obama maintains lobbyist donations create special influence, which he says he is really, really against.

But apparently state lobbyists are something different because, everyone knows, none of them can have any connections in Washington. And, Obama claims, he would have no influence in Sacramento as president, no influence unless you include, say, holding executive authority over the Department of the Interior, which has final approval over all state gambling compacts with Indian tribes.

"It's not perfect," Obama explained to reporters. "I still have to raise money."

Hosts for Obama's fundraiser included former controller and failed Democratic gubernatorial candidate Steve Westly, who sent letters to the capital lobby corps inviting them to "an intimate fundraiser" for Obama. The cost: $1,000 for the lunch, $2,300 for lunch and reception.

California lobbyists aren't in the habit of donating to candidates. State law bars them from contributing to state lawmakers. That suits them fine. Of course, no law bars them from urging clients to donate, and they regularly do that and, you'll be surprised to learn, the clients readily respond with donations.

Parsing the polls

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