Congressman David Dreier: Gay & Ashamed

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(This article was first published in HUSTLER and was one of a series of stories reported and written about the one the most powerful congressman in the nation and his hypocritical voting record. Cromer was the first journalist to investigate the congressman, dating back to the 1980s, and he was featured in Academy Award nominated director Kirby Dick’s feature documentary ‘Outrage’ in 2009.) 

After a quarter century gliding through the raindrops, it’s time for the influential Republican lawmaker to come clean about his homosexuality and the lethal hypocrisy he’s employed in pursuit of power. MICHAEL COLLINS and MARK CROMER hold up the mirror to Dreier’s face.

Nineteen-eighty, the year Ronald Reagan’s long road to the White House ended in triumph, marked the cordite-fumed return of the Radical Right—and dovetailed nicely in every reactionary’s mind with the murder of John Lennon. That same year the press began covering an ominous outbreak: Gay men were being stricken with rare cancers as the first wave of what would later be dubbed AIDS hit the nation.

While hardly a headline-grabber, the opening of the decade also saw the election of a fresh-faced, smooth-talking 28-year-old Republican legislator named David Timothy Dreier.

Like his beloved Gipper, Dreier called Southern California home, and he too exuded his party’s new suntanned image. Indeed, Dreier’s was the cherubic, gum-chewing face the GOP put on to tell the Great Society: “Hi, we’re here to kill you.”

As the cultural war the conservatives were so eager to wage came into full bloom during the ’80s, the moral flotsam of libertines, pinkos, women’s-libbers and other undesirables (read faggots) were to be tied to the philosophical stake and ritually burned by the Reaganites. Dreier didn’t seem to mind holding the matches.

Yet while the flames from the Republicans’ Holy War danced in the night sky, few seemed to notice that Dreier often appeared one-dimensional, polished but going through the motions. Something was missing. One photographer invited into the congressman’s home described the pad as “sterile, more Levitz showroom than a young bachelor’s place.”

Where were the wife and kids that were so central to the Judeo-Christian utopia that Reagan swore was shining on the hill?

Republican Wayne Grisham, an early Dreier rival, caught on and quietly encouraged local newspapers to explore the politician’s sexuality, according to editors who recall the campaign. Asked recently about Dreier’s homosexuality, Grisham said, “I never used it.”

During a 1996 interview with Low Magazine (the first publication to explore Dreier’s sexuality as it related to GOP public-policy positions), Whittier Daily News editor Val Marrs remembered Grisham’s efforts against Dreier in the early 1980s differently.

Grisham had been agitating for Dreier to be confronted, Marrs said, so she asked Dreier point-blank if he was gay when the candidate sought the paper’s endorsement. Ready for her, the young congressman answered no, retorting with stories about his girlfriend.

Marrs sensed something amiss in Dreier’s reaction. “He was a little too glib,” she said. “There should have been a blink, indignation, some emotion. A laugh. Something.”

Speculation began to spread, the sort that even a steady stream of party-arranged, photo-op female arm candy couldn’t deflect. Dreier never grew a beard, but word was he often had a pretty one on his arm. In 1988, Nelson Gentry—an ultraconservative who ran as a Democrat—blasted away at Dreier by repeatedly noting the congressman wasn’t married and claiming he couldn’t “represent families.”

The Betty Bluehair crowd in Dreier’s district didn’t seem to make the connection.

The Bush clan got its own taste of Dreier’s game during Bush Sr.’s administration, according to Kitty Kelley’s book The Family. The tome describes Barbara Bush lamenting about her daughter Doro’s inability to get any play from David after a solid year of dating. “[Dreier] never laid a hand on her,” the matriarch reportedly complained to a friend at Camp David.

By 1998, Dreier’s homosexuality was at least tacitly acknowledged and accepted by high-level Republicans. Former California Senator John Seymour and an entourage of GOP golfers were enjoying the links during a fund-raiser at the Red Hill Country Club in Upland, California, when he was asked if Dreier would have to get married “in a hurry” if the congressman hoped to run against Senator Barbara Boxer that year. As his golfing buddies fell about the green laughing, Seymour broke into a big grin—but no one asked why.

“Well, no, I don’t think David would have to get married,” the venerable politico mused with a wink. “He might down in Mississippi, but this is California. We’re a little more open-minded out here.”

Perhaps, but it is clear that Dreier—Chairman of the House Rules Committee since 1999 and head of Governor Arnold Schwarzenneger’s transition team in late 2003—doesn’t want to test John Seymour’s theory. Until last fall, he didn’t have to.

Aside from an isolated question by a curious Val Marrs two decades ago, Dreier has enjoyed a Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell pass from the newspapers in his district. Indeed, editors at the Pasadena Star-News, San Gabriel Valley Tribune and the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin have gleefully bent over for the lawmaker, pimping out their reporters to dutifully play along with Dreier’s charade.

Under the umbrella of Texan Dean Singleton’s Media News Group, the publications have always been staunchly conservative outlets, with past executive editors like George Collier hanging framed photos of Dreier on their office walls. The irony could get thick, of course, especially considering that editors like Stephen Trosley have penned columns essentially arguing that gays who had more than one partner were deserving of AIDS.

Assured that local reporters would guard his secret, Dreier has amassed an antigay voting record so egregious that it has helped him garner a 92% approval rating from the Christian Coalition. Apparently the evangelical group failed to notice that Dreier’s roommate and constant companion is none other than Brad W. Smith, his appropriately entitled chief of staff.

Smith must be worth his weight in gold, as Dreier is paying his major domo the highest salary he legally can: $156,600 a year. That’s just $400 less than White House heavyweights Karl Rove and Andy Card.

This rankles John Byrne, editor of RawStory.com, who recently began to investigate Dreier’s secret life after learning that gay activist Michael Rogers was already hammering the issue of the congressman’s sexuality on BlogActive.com. “Brad Smith is paid both from the Rules Committee and from Dreier’s office, which is not unheard of,” Byrne points out. “It’s allowed, but the [staff for] Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, the Appropriations Committee—those people are only paid from the congressmen’s office.”

Brad Smith currently collects $106,000 from the Rules Committee on top of his $50,600 office earnings. “His salary from Dreier’s office went down when he joined the Rules Committee,” Byrne continues, but remained locked in at $156,600. “There’s a rule that says that if you’re going to pay people from the committee, it shouldn’t be as an expense of your own office—like you shouldn’t be using committee funds to pay for someone who you’re paying for basically anyway.”

Dreier and Smith have shown a taste for jet-setting together as well. During the past three years they have traveled to at least 25 countries together on the taxpayers’ dime, spending 45 days abroad in locales that traditionally attract frolicking lovers: Italy and Spain, as well as a few destinations off the beaten path, including Sri Lanka, Micronesia and Iceland.

“It’s common knowledge up on the Hill that David Dreier is just a big, huge fag,” said Randy Economy, campaign manager for Dr. Janice Nelson-Hayes, the congressman’s Democratic opponent in 1998 and 2000. Economy (who is openly gay) indicated that, despite compelling evidence of Dreier’s carefully guarded sexual orientation, candidate Nelson-Hayes passed on making it an issue in her last campaign.

“There were issues out there and evidence that this living situation occurred and the payment that he was making to his chief of staff,” Nelson-Hayes declared. “We just decided that we weren’t going to go into that because we didn’t know how many other members of Congress had loved ones, family members, spouses, significant others working in their offices.”

A longtime Democratic adviser with numerous campaigns under his belt, Economy said Dreier’s gay life is valid for discussion, since public policy that affects millions of people is at stake. “I know the pain that people go through in this process here,” Economy said. “But [Dreier] has got to deal with this stuff because now he is [advocating] positions against the community and against himself, and it’s not right. His lover is benefiting from it; therefore he’s benefiting from it, and that’s just not fair and possibly not legal.”

Although the story exploded on the Internet and was picked up by the LA Weekly, it is uncertain if Dreier will in fact have to deal with it. As this issue of HUSTLER went to press, the congressman continued to enjoy the same veil of protection from the newspapers in his home district, with not a single word published covering his gay life versus his voting record, and his personal relationship with Brad Smith or their expenses.

Editors, notably Steve Scauzillo, have nervously refused to comment. Meanwhile Val Marrs has abruptly changed her story, claiming she was “misquoted and quoted out of context” during her 1996 interview with Low Magazine. Asked to clarify that, Marrs screamed, “I can’t talk about it!” and hung up.

Now 52, David Timothy Dreier himself has remained hunkered down, floating vague nondenial denials through unnamed surrogates on various Web sites. Attending the Republican National Convention in New York City, Dreier was confronted on satellite radio and asked if he was heterosexual. Apparently flustered, the legislator said he wasn’t there to “talk about that.”

Dreier never has been “there” to talk about it, even as homosexuals have been fired, smeared and even murdered for simply being gay.

And that’s the shame of it all.

SCREWIN’ ’EM: DAVID DREIER’S IN-CLOSET VOTING RECORD

2004: Voted for the Marriage Protection Act. 2001: Supported legislation allowing federally funded charities to discriminate against gays and lesbians, despite local laws. 1999: Opposed the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (as he had in 1996 and ’97). 1998: Voted to prohibit gays and lesbians in the District of Columbia from adopting children (D.C. is 3,000 miles from Dreier’s own district); opposed restoration of funding to the Housing Opportunities for People with AIDS program. 1997: Opposed the Hate Crimes Prevention Act; opposed increases in state AIDS Drug Assistance Programs. 1996: Voted for the Defense of Marriage Act; opposed the Housing Opportunities for People With AIDS program.

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