Ken Mehlman recently made an appearance at The Riverside Theater in Vero Beach, Florida. The Riverside Theater opened the 16th season of its Distinguished Lecturer Series with a lecture by George W. Bush. Ken Mehlman had the opportunity to interview Bush, posing questions about his presidency and some of the most defining decisions of his personal life. The interview also covered president Bush’s philanthropic work through the George W. Bush President Center in Dallas. Ken Mehlman has a longstanding relationship with the former president as his former campaign manager and head of the Republican National Convention. 1,600 Distinguished Lecturer Series subscribers listened to the lecture, either live in the Riverside Theater or at its simulcast location in the adjacent Waxlax Theater.

Autographed copies of Bush’s book, “Decision Points,” were available for purchase at the lecture. The American Association of Political Consultants voted Ken Mehlman “Campaign Manager of the Year” in 2005 for his work on the Bush campaign. The Distinguished Speakers Series has brought 60 speakers to the Riverside Theater over the past 16 years. Other speakers who will be featured this year include Dr. Robert Scales, Leon Panetta and Robert D. Kaplan.  Former President Bush is the series’ most notable featured speaker to date, and security around the event was especially tight. His arrival was unannounced even to local police forces until directly before the event, and all event attendees had to submit to a rigorous background check before they were put on the approval list. Bush has tried to remain out of the public eye lately, so this interview with Ken Mehlman was a great chance for some of the community to learn about his life after presidency.

This weekend, Harvard grad schools made history by hosting the first campus wide conference dedicated to LGBTQ issues. The conference connected students, alumni and many significant members of the LGBTQ community. Ken Mehlman was invited to participate in an interview with Baruch Shemtov and also gave the closing keynote speech.  This conference broke ground for what the school hopes will become an annual event designed to explore and address critical issues for the LGBTQ community. The conference gave an in depth look at how far the conversation about LGBTQ issues has come since the Stonewall Riots of 1969, the symbolic beginning of the LGBTQ movement. Students from various Harvard grad schools came together to plan this event with the hopes of strengthening bonds between the schools. Ken Mehlman joined other important figures in the LGBTQ community including Brian Rolfes, a partner at McKinsey, former hockey star Caitlin Cahow, and inspirational speaker Ash Beckham. Mehlman addressed the challenges he faces as an openly gay politician and inspired conversation among students with similar career aspirations. The conference aims to be one of the biggest conferences among LGBTQ students in the world over the coming years. It drew a crowd of over 400 students from around the world. In addition to Harvard, participating schools included Yale, Boston University, Penn State and the London Business School. As he inspired students to be confident in their own identity, Ken Mehlman closed the conference proclaiming, “There’s nothing more powerful than coming out and being who you are.”

Ken Mehlman is the new face of Private Equity Growth Capital Council after he was elected Chairman of the Council’s Board of Directors.

With more than two decades of political and corporate experience, Ken Mehlman will help expand the PEGCC’s outreach and education efforts to engage stakeholders about the value of private equity. Mehlman will succeed Mark Tresnowski, the Managing Director and General Counsel at Madison Dearborn Partners.

“I’m privileged to succeed Mark as Chairman of the PEGCC,” said Ken Mehlman in a statement from Private Equity Growth Capital Council. “I have enormous respect for the PEGCC’s important work engaging with public policy makers to encourage more economic growth and retirement security for millions of Americans.”

Some of Ken Mehlman’s primary responsibilities will include engaging with lawmakers and discussing the positive light on the leveraged buyout industry.

Kenneth Mehlman has been with Kohlberg Kravis Roberts since 2008 where he now serves as Global Head of Public Affairs and oversees all external affairs, policy risk assessments and other opportunities. Mr. Mehlman also serves on the Robin Hood Foundation Veterans Advisory Board, the Council on Foreign Relations and is a trustee at Mt. Sinai Hospital of New York. As a former environmental lawyer, Ken Mehlman also heads KKR’s environmental social governance program, which has helped to curb greenhouse gas emissions and energy use at the firm’s different locations.

Before joining KKR, Ken Mehlman was a central figure in the 2004 election, managing George W. Bush’s presidential re-election campaign, while serving as the Chairman of the Republican National Committee. He famously came out as gay in 2010 and has since worked with Republican leaders and members of Congress to embrace civil marriage, freedom and liberty for same-sex couples. Ken Mehlman most recently worked with advocates in Maine to retool their advertising, which led to voters approving same-sex marriage in December 2012.

Ken Mehlman is excited for the opportunity to affect positive economic growth and said he shares the PEGCC’s goal of building a community of investors who “seek superior returns while also emphasizing active, responsible governance, long term investment and measuring success in years not quarters.”

Ken Mehlman spoke to The Dish about why he chose to work on marriage equality. See below for the video, as well as a full transcript.

Transcript:

Question: Why are you so engaged on the issue of marriage equality?

Ken Mehlman: What motivates me to do this are people I’ve met along the way, and people whose experience I think is really compelling. There’s a couple here in the city of New York, really good friends, they’re probably in their mid or late 40’s, although I may have insulted them by aging them. A couple of women, they have awesome kids, they’re incredible moms, and before we had marriage here in New York, they had to have a judge send an expert into their house to determine whether they were fit parents so that they could have a medical consent form for their kids. Think about that, that’s like something you hear abut in the old Soviet Union, or in a Totalitarian regime; that’s un-American, but that happened here.

Ken Mehlman: I think about a good buddy of mine who lives in Washington, who has a long time partner from Europe. They love each other; they’re an awesome couple. Until recently, they had to worry every few years how he would stay in this country. Or I think about the 14-year-old or the 15-year-old that live all over our country, who every year, they’re excited about their mom and dad’s wedding anniversary. That’s not a contract anniversary, that’s a wedding anniversary that’s celebrates their wedding. That’s the one thing every year the family celebrates together. And they think, “I’m never going to have that.” That’s terrible, that’s not fair. Imagine growing up, and thinking about the thing your mom and day talk about the most, maybe they have a wedding album, but you’ll never have access to it. So when you think about people like that, that’s pretty motivating.

Ken Mehlman: Secondly, I’m motivated by the fact that I think this is consistent with what I believe as someone who is a political conservative. I believe in freedom, I believe in family values, and this is consistent with that. I’m also motivated by the fact that I feel like this is an area I can help. I’ve had a unique experience professionally in my life, and I think as a result I’ve learned some things about how to be involved in public persuasion, I’ve learned some things about tactics that can be effective in various campaigns. I’ve met a lot of men and women, many who are on the right of the political center, who I think I can help encourage to be involved. I was really pleased that we had 135 very Senior Officials, members of the Reagan cabinet, President Bush’s cabinet and others who signed an amicus brief on behalf of the recent Supreme Court cases, a number of whom, by the way are still involved. I’m proud of the fact that Paul Wolfowitz wrote an op-ed in the Texas Newspaper, after writing the amicus brief, staying involved in the case. So all those things are very motivating to me. But you know, there’s a lot of people who do this their whole lives, for whom this is a profession. I try to help where I can. And at the end of the day, while I’m pleased to be able to help and will look forward to continuing to find ways to help, what really motivates me is admiring the work that people like them do. People like Chad, people like Evan, people in so many other places around the country who have committed their lives to this. All of that to me really is important.

Ken Mehlman has been giving a lot of advice when it comes to marriage equality. In this video, he talks about religious conservatives and marriage equality. Look below for the entire transcript.

Transcript:

Question: What sort of messaging to you think will be most effective in promoting marriage equality among social and religious conservatives?

Ken Mehlman: I think among social religious conservatives, it’s important to think about a couple of things. First, I think it’s really important to be clear we’re talking about civil marriage. We’re talking about whether the government allows people to have access to a marriage license. The same people that pay taxes and serve in the same military, ought to be treated the same under the law. We’re not talking about the sacrament of marriage, which is up to each religious denomination to determine it’s own definition of. But secondly, what’s interesting to me is if you stopped and you said, “What’s the biggest indicator of where someone stands on this issue?” It actually wouldn’t be if they are religious or not, or if they are conservative or liberal, or republican or democrat; it’s their age. There was a recent ABC News Washington Post poll: 64 percent of millennial evangelicals, which is to say people born between 1980 and 2000, supported marriage equality. That’s a pretty interesting statistic to me.

Ken Mehlman: I think that the biggest argument to make to folks is one: we’re talking about, in fact, civil marriage. This is not a threat to anybody’s sacrament or anybody’s religious freedom, and we’re going to stand up for that. Two, equally importantly, if you think about the golden rule, if you think about what many religious conservatives have correctly argued for years, which is that our society would be better off if more people cared for one another. That there is more stability, and we want to promote more families to form, and it’s important to have two parents taking care of children. If you believe in all of those things, that’s actually promoted and encouraged by allowing more people to get married. So that there are more people who are caring for children, so there are more children raised in households with two loving parents. So that there are more people that have someone to take care of them when they get sick or old. All of those goals, which religious conservatives have argued for over the years can be achieved by allowing more people to get married, and doing so in a way that also protects religious freedom, which is what civil marriage does.

Ken Mehlman recently discussed what he sees as the future of marriage equality. See below for the video, as well as a full transcript.

Transcript:

Question: What’s next for the marriage equality movement?

Ken Mehlman: I think that that’s an answer people like Andrew Sullivan, Evan Wolfson, Chad Griffin, and Matt Coles and others who spent years working on this question are better positioned to answer than I am. They’re the experts; I look for ways to help them when I can. From my perspectives, what I hope will happen are a couple of things.

Ken Mehlman: First, about a third of the country will live in a place where today there is marriage equality. What I think other people are going to see, is not only that things they worried about didn’t happen, but a whole lot of good things happened. I’ll tell you a story that I think to me explains this. I had the opportunity to go up to New Hampshire in 2011 when that state was considering repealing the marriage law that was passed in 2009. When the law was passed, 7 Republicans had voted for it. I went up to New Hampshire and met with a whole bunch of Republican legislature, and most who I met with said, “You know what, we actually think marriage is between a man and a women.” I asked them a question, “I understand that, but let me ask you this, would you concede that for the 1,800 families who have someone who got married under the marriage law, are their lives are better? And they said “yeah, obviously,” and I said, “Whose life got worse?” and they couldn’t answer the question. At the end of the day, we ended up with a majority, 119 Republicans of the legislatures in New Hampshire voted in favor of marriage. A majority of Republicans, from seven to a majority, how did that happen? It happened because of experience. It happened because a lot of folks had someone on their street who perhaps got married or attended a wedding, or had a brother or sister who got married. And so what we are about to have happen now is all over the country, people are going to look and they’re going to see that in New York, California, that in these other places, communities got stronger. Children had two parents to take care of them, and people had a loved one to watch out for them when they got older and they got sick unfortunately. The impact on society was to make it stronger not weaker, to enhance family values.

Ken Mehlman: So I hope as that happens, people will look and they’ll say, “that’s really interesting, that’s really important, and as a result I now support marriage.” So I think you’ll see, one in those states where it’s legal and available, people seeing what really happens. Two, then other states will make the case, will show people what’s happening in the states where marriage is available, that’s obviously important. And third, obviously there remains a significant amount of litigation that’s occurring in this space, so all of those things are occurring. But what matters most is experience, what matters most in all of this is what people see in their real lives. And what people are going to see in their real lives, I’m very confident in 30% of the country, cause what they’ve seen in the last few years, in New Hampshire, Iowa, New York, in Washington, in Maryland, in these other states, and that is that society is better off, that family values are enhanced, that freedom is promoted, and that communities are stronger because more people live in a place where they have a committed and loving partner who they can come home to, who they can raise children with, and who they can look after.

Ken Mehlman recently made a list in the Institutional Investor of people who regularly make the news.  The list includes other influential people such as Tom Steyer, founder of the $18.4 billion hedge fund Farallon Capital Management, Warren Buffet’s protegee Tracy Britt, and Andy Smith, head of equity research at Sberbank CIB.

According to the Institutional Investor, Tom Steyer made the list because he often shows up in the news in regards to social media like Twitter. Particularly, as the paper puts it, Tom Steyer “wants Barack Obama’s Twitter army.”  In June, he announced a campaign dubbed “We Love Our Land” to mobilize online supporters to urge them to tell the White House to block the planned Keystone XL pipeline, especially those that previously supported the president in his campaign.

Ken Mehlman, meanwhile, is working hard to “change GOP minds about another demographically important issue: gay rights.”  His work on the amicus brief signed by more than 130 prominent figures on the political right in support of gay marriage in the case of Proposition 8, as well as his belief that “the political right should embrace gay marriage because it is consistent with the conservative values about the importance of family and freedom from government intrusion” is part of what made the Institutional Investor include him on their list of People in the News.

Ken Mehlman discussed marriage in a recent video answering the question, what is the single best way to get Republicans to support marriage equality? See below for the video, as well as a full transcript.

 

Transcript:

What is the single best way to get Republicans to support marriage equality?
Ken Mehlman: It’s interesting. As I’ve thought about this and as I’ve learned from a lot of people who have worked on this for many years and who are professionals at it. I really think it’s best to think about this not in terms of Republicans or Democrats or Independents, but what’s the best way for people to become supportive of marriage equality. In my experience at least, the best way is to have a conversation with them. The best way and the most important way is for them to know someone in their lives, whether it’s a friend or a relative who happens to be gay. And to have that person make the case and explain why they think that civil marriage available under the law ought to be a right, and ought to be something that’s available to them. I have found that to be the best and most effective way. Obviously, it’s important I think it’s important to make the case from all ideological perspectives, and as we’ll talk about in this interview, I’ve tried to explain why as a conservative, as someone who believes freedom, as someone who believes in family values, or as someone who believes in the golden rule, civil marriage makes sense.
What do you think is the most reasonable case against gay marriage that is made by its opponents?
Kenneth Mehlman: I’ve had a lot of conversations with friends who I have a lot of respect for who don’t agree with me on the issue. What I hear from them are a couple of things.
First, sometimes folks talk about the importance of protecting religious freedom and the sacrament of marriage, and I think that it’s very important from my perspective and those of us who believe both in the right to marriage but also in religious freedom, to be clear that we’re talking about civil marriage. We’re talking about the government, the state simply providing people with a license for civil marriage. It’s up to each religious tradition to decide how to define it. The home I was raised in, my parents were a member of a Jewish congregation and our synagogue was a conservative synagogue. Conservative Judaism recognizes marriage equality, as does Reform Judaism. Other branches of Judaism might not, and everyone ought to have that right. There’s room enough in society for all of us to have different views on this, but one thing is clear, the law should treat everyone the same.
Secondly, you sometimes hear people talk about tradition. They say that they were raised with marriage as between a man and a woman. The President said that, for example in explaining his evolution. To those people, what I try to do is ask them what they think marriage is really about. And to me, what it’s about is two individuals who love each other, who want to spend their lives committing to each other. So that they take care of each other when they’re sick, or when they’re old, and so that the people in their world or community share that commitment and help them out through tough times. I think that goal is something that ought to be available to people whether they’re straight or gay. And for society, if you believe as I do in family values, if you believe in shared commitment and responsibility. If you believe that our society is better off when that happens, more stable, then it seems to me that allowing civil marriage to both gay and straight couples makes a whole lot of sense, and that’s how you answer that particular concern.

Ken Mehlman sat down with Cristina Alesci for Super Return TV in Boston to discuss different aspects of private equity, operational expertise, and General David Petraeus joining KKR.

 

Cristina Alesci: Let’s start on what you just spoke about on the panel, and this idea that private equity firms are using more and more operational expertise to generate returns and improve businesses. We’ve heard that a lot from other firms as well, what makes KKR different?

 

Ken Mehlman: Well I think that one of differences we bring to the table is we have 60 in our firm who are operational experts. One gentlemen is an expert at Lean Six Sigma, someone else is an expert in purchasing…and these 60 people go into the company, typically for an 18-24 month period, and focus with that company on the specific area we think that that company can be operationally enhanced…So when we’re looking at a company, we sit down with our investment committee. We say, “What’s our thesis? What do we do to make this company better?” A huge part of that in many cases is, we operated better, we operated in a more affective way, and operated to grow.

 

Cristina Alesci: Why the focus on operations – why does it seem to be the hot topic?

 

Ken Mehlman: The private equity industry is first and foremost about solving problems for companies and how we can make them better. Operational focus takes this alignment to the next level.

 

Cristina Alesci: KKR just announced that it is going to start a formal relationship with General Petraeus.

 

Ken Mehlman: General Petraeus will lead an effort called the KKR Global Institute, and what that effort will do is build on the work that my colleague Henry McVey and I have tried to do over the last 5 years. Which is to help us understand macroeconomic, geopolitical, governance, environmental, regulatory, external factors that in today’s world are really important to the success of an investment or the failure of an investment, and are really important to helping our companies do even better and be better citizens.

 

Watch the video here to see Ken Mehlman’s entire interview.     

 

 

“Making the case from a conservative values perspective is an imperative, not an option” Ken Mehlman stated in his recent OUT Magazine article. Mehlman sat down with Aaron Hicklin for a question and answer interview on DOMA, marriage equality, and more.

When asked if he was surprised by the results in California, he responded no. “Based on the conversations I’d had with Ted Olsen and David Boies from AFER, which is a board I serve on, and also I’d gotten to know Robbie [Roberta] Kaplan [the lawyer for Edie Windsor]. Although no one can predict the court, it was possible to imagine this result based on the hearings earlier this year. If you read Justin Kennedy’s opinion, and I take him at his word, he looked at that law [DOMA], read the legislative history of the law, and concluded that the law should be overturned.”

Ken Mehlman doesn’t think there will be any Republican backlash. “If you look at the history of marriage from the beginning, what you see is that after states pass civil marriage, support invariably grows across party lines.” He gives Massachusetts and New Hampshire as examples. Both of these states passed marriage equality laws. Although there were fewer Republicans, “…ultimately Republicans and Democrats came around to embrace gay marriage.”

Is the battle for gay marriage won? He doesn’t think so, but there has been progress. He shares the alarming statistic that 29 states still allow people to be fired due to their sexual orientation. 73 percent of Republican voters believe someone should not be able to be fired for this reason, and about 55 percent of Americans favor marriage equality. 30 percent of America live somewhere with marriage equality, but there are still 37 states that don’t allow it.

What role does Ken Mehlman plan to play in the fight to have marriage equality for all? “What I will do, and keep doing, is to listen to the experts and professionals, from people like Chad Griffin to Evan Wolfson and Matt Coles, and others. I do think when you look at these places where there are no legal protections, making the case from a conservative values perspective is an imperative, not an option, so I hope to be helpful from that perspective.“

He also shares the role that the media has played. He finds the single most important role to be that of ordinary people coming out and sharing their stories. “The role everyone has in simply coming out and telling their story to their family and their friends and their colleagues. There are so many examples, every day. What was so compelling about these cases was Edie’s story and Edie’s example. We all have the power to tell stories, and the media can magnify that. It’s also important for kids who are growing up—who want to grow up in a nation where they have equal rights under the law.”

What’s next for marriage equality? “There’s obviously a lot of clean-up that will happen now that DOMA has been repealed, from tax equity issues to immigration, and those are things that need to be reviewed. There’s been a lot of progress in the past on safe schools and making sure that bullying is addressed. Governor Christie in New Jersey, and in Maine, Governor LePage, have signed very robust laws making sure that every child is safe in school. Those can be a model for other states.”

Ken ends the interview with these words, “Everyone comes from a different ideological perspective, and we should use our way of thinking and our particular relationships to make the case for equality.”