In Loudoun County, Supervisor Eugene A. Delgaudio is best known as an ardent critic of his board's efforts to cut home building and control growth in the sprawling suburb.
But Delgaudio has another public life, one that many of his constituents, critics and local campaign contributors are unaware of.
The local GOP politician has spent two decades and millions of dollars warning that gays are dangerous.
Off the dais, Delgaudio is executive director of Public Advocate of the United States, a lobbying group that reports spending more than $5 million between 1997 and 2000 on a nationwide campaign that has often vilified gays as pedophiles and violent criminals.
"You'll see men hand-in-hand skipping down to adoption centers to 'pick out' a little boy for themselves," read a 1998 letter from Delgaudio seeking money to fight gay adoptions.
Delgaudio targets "pro-homosexual" politicians from both parties, using media-ready skits that he calls "conservative political street theater." Past productions include a "Man-Donkey Mock Wedding Ceremony" outside the Democratic National Convention in Chicago and a "Perverts for Cellucci" rally to protest President Bush's nomination of then-Massachusetts Gov. Paul Cellucci to be ambassador to Canada.
Most recently Delgaudio has focused his efforts closer to home -- in Montgomery County. Last month, between budget deliberations and zoning controversies in Loudoun, he sent thousands of postcards across the Potomac promoting his work as "Defender of the Boy Scouts."
"Today, the Scouts are under attack in Montgomery County," he proclaimed, referring to the fact that Montgomery County has begun charging the Boy Scouts -- along with the Girl Scouts -- to use school facilities, something long required of thousands of other groups. But Delgaudio says the new fees are evidence that Montgomery officials are punishing the Boy Scouts for banning gays and gay troop leaders.
As part of his protest, Delgaudio made a show of delivering candy to county officials on Valentine's Day -- the same day he filed a federal discrimination suit with the U.S. Department of Education, which is pursuing the allegation.
In his newsletter, Delgaudio argues that "forcing the [Scouts] to hire homosexuals is the same as being an accessory to the rape of hundreds of boys."
Delgaudio said his roles as public official and "Public Advocate" are complementary. Both offer a platform for standing up against liberals and hypocrites, he said. "I would go crazy if I was doing anything else," he said, adding that his approach to each is the same.
"All I do is take a position that is counter to what the establishment is thinking, and I know the truth of my position because it's based on what the average person really believes," Delgaudio said.
When he campaigned for office in Loudoun -- an affluent community with a fierce debate about suburbanization, not homosexuality -- Delgaudio emphasized an anti-tax pledge. Ever since he stood on a Sterling corner holding a big "thank you" sign for two days after the 1999 general election, in which he ran unopposed, the New York native has left his imprint on local politics.
Delgaudio has relished his role as gadfly, cheerfully skewering his colleagues and often casting the sole "no" vote on a board stacked with eight supervisors elected on pledges to slow growth.
But the details of Delgaudio's other job have jolted some of his backers. Several contributors to his campaign for supervisor said they knew nothing about his activities at Public Advocate, which Delgaudio has described as a lobby for limited government and reduced taxes, among other things. The group paid him $120,000 in 2000, the last year for which public records are available.
J. Randall Minchew, vice chairman of Loudoun's Republican Committee, said that though he doesn't share Delgaudio's views on gays, they are not relevant locally.
"I've never seen a vote on gay rights come up before the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors," he said. "I'm kind of a big tent person. I think people ought to be able to have views that are non-mainstream."
Republican Michael Huber owns a furniture company in Sterling, and his family owns a large piece of developable land, leaving him squarely in the property rights camp Delgaudio has championed. But he said he wishes his cause had a more moderate standard-bearer.
"That scares me, really," Huber said. "I'm not gay, however I support gay rights completely. . . . That's somebody I don't think should be allowed in public office."
Delgaudio sees himself as a latter-day Samuel Adams, mastermind of the Boston Tea Party -- the epitome of political street theater. He has added the modern techniques of direct mail fundraising.
During the Clinton years, his skits lampooning the president, including the "Clinton Snowjob Removal Squad" performed outside the White House, helped net millions in donations for a second lobbying group he heads, the Council of Volunteer Americans.
At Public Advocate, Delgaudio sent his "Kennedy Thought Control Police" routine on tour to thwart hate crimes legislation. English bobbies corral prisoners as they sing, "Thought control is lovely" to a "My Fair Lady" tune.
"The stuff I do is funny," Delgaudio said. "If it isn't funny, then what's the point of public discourse in Washington?"
Delgaudio's mailings over the past decade -- including fundraising letters, political postcards and newsletters -- take what industry experts call a "hard sell" approach.
"As homosexuals die off due to AIDS, the remaining AIDS carriers prey on children to replenish the 'Homosexual Community,' " a 1991 Delgaudio letter reads. "I absolutely must find $73,575 before the end of next month to pay for printing, telephones, research, and postage."
A 1995 letter reads: "Just imagine a world where the police allow homosexual adults to rape young boys in the streets."
Delgaudio said, "My style is fairly singular and unique in the industry, the conservative movement industry."
Delgaudio has passionate supporters.
"Mr. Delgaudio is a patriot, a virtuous man -- mirthful and happy -- a warrior toiling for our Declaration [of Independence], our Bill of Rights, and the creator named in our declaration," said John Shepard, a director of the Conservative Forum of Northern Virginia, at a Ronald Reagan birthday banquet last year where Delgaudio was honored. Delgaudio "displeases" Republicans who care more about low taxes than "the public morality," he said.
Public Advocate was established in 1978 as a tax-exempt lobby focused on "the ordering of national priorities," according to IRS filings. Ronald Pearson, the group's founder, president and -- along with Delgaudio -- one of its four board members, said early projects included opposing efforts to ban saccharin, fighting the creation of the Department of Education, and combating the federal funding of elections.
He hired Delgaudio as executive director in 1981. The group now has 40,000 contributors, Delgaudio said.
Pearson runs a political consulting firm in Washington and was an aide to Rep. William E. Dannemeyer (R-Calif.), known for his strident anti-gay speeches. Pearson lobbied for the South African government in the 1980s, and more recent clients include an anti-immigration lobby and a Virginia group pushing for "homosexual content" warnings on television.
Public Advocate spends most of its budget on mailings, though Delgaudio said he is not sure how much mail the group sends out. Between 1997 and 2000, the group reported spending more than $4.5 million out of total revenues of $5.6 million on a joint educational and fundraising campaign.
Pearson and Delgaudio said they are frugal and do not benefit from the group's spending. They declined to release detailed financial statements or a list of companies that handle their mailings.
Political opponents say Public Advocate has been ineffective.
"This Eugene Delgaudio character just pops up in direct mail. We haven't seen him in the fights. He seems to use the anti-gay rhetoric to raise money," said David Smith, a spokesman for Human Rights Campaign, a Washington-based gay rights lobby.
But Delgaudio said his group's successes have gone far beyond direct-mail campaigns, and he points to the enactment of the federal Defense of Marriage Act and the defeat of efforts to include sexual orientation in national hate crimes legislation.
Delgaudio, 47, began life as an activist at age 9, making the case for Barry M. Goldwater in a Queens grammar school. By 14, he was raising the U.S. flag -- and an effigy of Ho Chi Minh -- in Central Park "and having my head handed to me by peace demonstrators." Lunch with William F. Buckley Jr. at 17 was an inspiration.
Politics has always been in the family. His father was a conservative campaigner. Delgaudio's brother, Richard, also runs multiple lobbying groups in Northern Virginia that have championed conservative causes.
By 1972, Eugene Delgaudio began campaigning for Reagan and in 1982 married a political researcher in the Reagan White House. Sheila and Eugene Delgaudio have six children, ages 5 and up, he said.
Delgaudio won't say what first compelled him to focus his activism on gays, though he does say that he became "God fearing" at some point years ago.
"God saved me. I didn't always have a life where I toed the line," he said. "I have not always been a fiercely virtue-seeking man. I was young once. I wasn't married either."
Pearson said "the question of family issues versus gay rights issues" became a bigger focus for Delgaudio "once he had a family. That motivated him. . . . It just started concerning him more."
Delgaudio said he's stunned at accusations that he is appealing to bigotry in his activism. He is proud of his work, which targets government action, not private behavior, he said.
"You're not going to ask Ralph Nader, 'Why are you fixated on air quality?' " Delgaudio said.