How Republicans “Spread” AIDS, by Chuck Rund

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February 1988 Issue [Readings]

How Republicans “Spread” AIDS


From an internal memorandum leaked by an employee of Charlton Research, a political consulting firm in San Francisco that has done work for the Republican party. The memo was leaked to the Bay Area Reporter, a local newspaper, in September. According to the Reporter, the memorandum was written by Chuck Rund, who owns Charlton Research, to Harvey Dinnerstein, an associate at the firm. Rund, a deputy manager of President Reagan’s 1984 campaign, denies uniting the memo; he claims it was composed and leaked by a disgruntled former aide. Rund did, however, verify other documents leaked at the same time as authentic.

September 17, 1987

RE: AIDS Issue

The AIDS issue could easily be a paramount one in 1988. It is important that it be used effectively and wisely. It is an explosive issue that could easily backfire if [handled] in a heavy or blatant way.

Nationally, SRC [Senate Republican Committee], the Bush campaign, the Washington governor campaign, and the Robertson campaign are exploring ways to harness public reaction to the AIDS issue. It will be used in major races in both Texas and Florida.

In California it is a mixed bag. Some Republicans (Maddy [a Republican state senator], Quackenbush [an aide to Republican governor George Deukmejian]) refuse to try and exploit it, but many are more than willing. If we do, we must be discreet. An example of how not to approach it is Congressman Dannemeyer [R., Calif.]. At the meeting two weeks ago, he was terrifying—practically foaming at the mouth anytime anyone made even a sympathetic reference to people with AIDS. Someone like Dannemeyer is a live grenade on this issue and far too emotional to do any good; indeed I fear that he would scare a lot of people. [Republican state senator] Doolittle’s approach is far better: sound reasonable, play the emotion, and above all make it appear as if the party is responding to a public ground swell rather than inciting one. We must avoid being labeled as extremists; the recent fate of the La Rouche and the Briggs initiatives [Republican state senator John Briggs introduced a bill in the state legislature to prohibit gays from teaching in public schools] prove that an outright attack will be rejected by the voters.

This is the plan for the [Democratic state senator] Garamandi campaign. We shall make contact with various pro-life, family organizations and have them launch campaigns. In Garamandi’s district, the Century Assembly of God Church seems a likely ally. They are hardworking, politically ignorant, but as zealous as Dannemeyer. Attacking Garamandi as Pro-Abortion, Pro-Gay and therefore Pro-AIDS might prove to be easy.

Not only could the AIDS issue help us to gain ground in ’88, but it might help us hang on [in places] where some of our people are in trouble (Dornan [R., Calif.]). Again, the Republican party must never seem to be inciting a reaction, only responding to it. If we are low-key, sound logical, and stress the importance of “protecting” families from the disease, then we could find ourselves in excellent shape in ’88.

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