Largent Support of Gay Marriage Ban Comes Under Fire

Posted December 4, 2008 at 3:21pm

Wireless providers and Capitol Hill Democrats are calling for CTIA President Steve Largent’s ouster over his alleged support of California’s recent gay marriage ballot initiative.

“I’m not sure that this kind of political activity is helpful in Washington, D.C., right now,” a telecommunications executive from a CTIA member company told Roll Call on Thursday. “I don’t think it represents the high-tech workers of the wireless industry.”

According to California campaign finance records, Largent’s wife, Terry Largent, gave $2,000 on Aug. 7 to Protectmarriage.com, a group supporting Proposition 8, the Golden State’s contentious — and now-passed — Nov. 4 ballot initiative defining marriage between a man and a women.

Largent, a former four-term GOP House Member from Oklahoma, started at the trade association in 2003 and once served on the board of conservative James Dobson’s group, Focus on the Family.

CTIA represents major cell phone providers like T-Mobile USA and Sprint Nextel Corp., as well as wireless equipment manufacturers such as Cisco Systems Inc., Motorola Inc., Nokia Inc. and Palm Inc.

The group’s membership also includes Google Inc., Apple Inc., Yahoo Inc. and MTV Networks, according to the CTIA Web site.

Both Largent and CTIA declined to discuss the contribution, but organization spokesman Joseph Farren said in a statement that CTIA “does not comment on, nor does it police the personal political views of employee spouses, partners and/or significant others.”

In addition to K Street, the donation also is ruffling feathers on Capitol Hill.

Some Democrats are using the gift as an opportunity to push for Largent’s dismissal and to emphasize that some GOP-led trade associations need to accept the fact that there’s a new sheriff in town.

“There’s already a question in the air about whether associations are going to have some turnover,” a senior Senate staffer said. “Many people wonder why Largent, who is a staunch conservative Republican, is still running CTIA when Democrats are controlling Congress and the executive branch — which makes his donation all the more stupid.”

“What you’re seeing among senior Senate staff is some anger,” the source added. “I think a lot of people want to see new leadership at CTIA.”

The Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association and Comcast Corp. recently dismissed two senior lobbyists — both of whom were Republican — and several others are considered ripe for the chopping block

A senior House staffer agreed that Largent’s donation may put CTIA’s interests “in jeopardy” with some Members and staffers who opposed California’s ballot initiative. The source also said there is growing support with Democrats in that chamber to replace Largent — presumably with a Democrat.

“It’s going to be hard for me to take him seriously now that I know that he’s willing to make political contributions that are far out of the scope of the business of his organization — when his own membership has vehemently disagreed and opposed the issue he supports,” the staffer said.

“Given his proven track record as a Member of Congress and his willingness to put the organization in jeopardy, why would they continue to need his services?”