NYS Senator Ruben Diaz, Sr. reveals long-shot Democratic mayoral candidate Erick Salgado donated $4,000 for buses carrying New Yorkers to anti-gay rally in Washington, DC.
In a crowded political race it's not surprising to see candidates look for every opportunity to sell their message and in New York City that means finding ways to reach an incredibly diverse population not only in terms of ethnicity but also religion.
Of course, that sometimes means alliances with religious leaders and attending church services and events with large congregations.
In past years New York State Senator and Pastor Ruben Diaz, Sr. has shown the ability to bring large numbers of people to rallies against marriage equality here in New York as well as Washington, DC. So does that mean that his demonstrated power to influence a segment of the community is too rich an opportunity to pass up for a politician if Diaz invites you to an event?
You might expect candidates to think twice about saying yes to a man who has been the leading voice against LGBT rights in New York State, who has compared homosexuality to bestiality, who proudly claims there is no separation church and state and sees eventual passage of marriage equality throughout the United States and a sign of the end of days. Oh, and a man who laughs uproariously at "birther" jokes made about Barack Obama when made in his presence.
OK, I'll give you this. Perhaps if Diaz himself pushed you to run as a mayoral candidate - as Diaz did with long-shot Democratic mayoral candidate Erick Salgado - you might feel obliged to attend.
But what if most mayoral candidates had no issue whatsoever in accepting the invite?
Well, that's what happened on April 13th when Diaz invited all mayoral candidates to a banquet celebrating the 25th year anniversary of Hispanic Ministers of New York Organization - the same organization that pulled together all those anti-marriage equality rallies - and actually got all but two of the leading mayoral candidates to attend.
Even better, for most of the ceremony Diaz had Brian Brown of the National Organization for Marriage sit to his right as a guest of honor.
Just a couple of weeks earlier Diaz had worked with the ministers' organization and NOM to send more than thirty buses full of people to protest against marriage equality outside the Supreme Court during the DOMA and Prop 8 debate.
|U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer leading a chant of "Si Se Puede!"|
Also among attendees were U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer promoting immigration reform, Republican mayoral candidates Joe Lhota and John Catsimatidis, independent mayoral candidate Adolfo Carrión and Democratic mayoral candidates John Liu, Bill Thompson and Erick Salgado.
That's a whopping six of the leading eight mayoral candidates with Christine Quinn and Bill De Blasio being the only ones not to show up (Full diclosure: I have publicly backed Quinn for mayor but have supported Bill Thompson in past elections and might have considered backing John Liu if it wasn't for some unanswered questions about his former and current fundraising teams).
Of course, attending an event like this rarely speaks for a candidate's view on certain issues. In fact every mayoral candidate who attended the event except for Salgado supports marriage equality but I am often asked why Diaz remains in power after all these years of demagoguing against the LGBT community and, unfortunately, here is the answer: He gets a pass by those in power who should know better.
NOM expenditures: As for Brian Brown, the event invite did not mention he would be in attendance but I find it hard to believe that people like Schumer were in any way unaware of the pro and anti-marriage equality rallies in DC just days earlier and knew exactly who NOM was as he sat next to Brian. To mayoral candidates who might not have known who he was it would not be a shocker that someone like him would be a guest of honor at the event fully knowing of Diaz's views about gays and lesbians.
The event did break some news: In a Spanish-language speech Diaz made at the end of the ceremony after most if not all of the mayoral candidates had left. As famously guarded as NOM is about the money they spend, Diaz revealed that NOM had spent $60,000 dollars on 30 buses used to transport hundreds of people to Washington, DC, for an anti-marriage equality rally outside the Supreme Court in March.
Diaz also said that NOM had brought a check for $25,000 to the banquet as a donation to the several radio stations used by the Hispanic Ministers of New York Organization to spread their anti-marriage equality message.
Another surprise: Diaz's mayoral candidate Erick Salgado also donated $4,000 for two additional buses to the anti-gay rallies in DC.
Direct quote from Diaz:
I wanted to let you know that for the march we did to Washington, thirty buses two out of 32 buses were paid by Erick Salgado - and thirty of them, the ones we ran from here, were paid by Brian Brown. All those buses. Each bus cost $2,000 and multiply thirty buses by two and you have $60,000 spent on the "Vigil on Wheels to Washington"Diaz also said that all the previous rallies had been funded by NOM.
I took the liberty of posting an edited clip of the two hour event. Click on it to open it in a separate window and it will be easier to read my translated annotations. It must be said that by the time Brian spoke at the end most if not all of the mayoral candidates had left. Here is a link to a full version of the clip including speeches by each of the mayoral candidates who attended.
Turn on 'annotations' to read subtitles.