Friday, September 28, 2007

More on the Nudist Republican Leader in Arizona

Richard Ruelas

The Arizona Republic

Sept. 29, 2007 12:00 AM

His political contributions, totaling more than $18,000 since 2003, and his volunteer work for his legislative precinct, have put Kraus on a first-name basis with the state's top Republican officials. The party recently named Kraus to a post on its finance committee, heaping praise on him for attracting new Republicans. The state Democratic Party responded with a mocking press release. Republican Party officials now politely decline to discuss Kraus.Kraus expected Democrats to make sport of his nudism. And he knows that it causes some members of his own party to keep their distance. But Kraus remains steadfast in his politics. He would wear his Republican pride on his sleeve if he regularly wore a shirt.On the wall of his office hang framed pictures of Ronald Reagan and President George W. Bush. There's also a hook where Kraus keeps clothes that he can get into quickly in case shy visitors come by.

"As a self-thinking individual, like most nudists are, they want the government to stay out of their way," Kraus said, "and the Republican Party is that for the most part."Kraus, 77, has been a Republican longer than he has been a practicing nudist. Kraus said that he frequently would be nude as a child, something that was "not a big deal" in Germany, he said. He became an adult nudist after he moved to the United States, settling in Illinois. He and his wife, Gini, had to travel to neighboring Indiana because there were no nudist camps in Illinois, Kraus said."You take your clothes off and everyone looks alike," he said. "You take the pressure off the everyday business, the competition, of how to dress and how to look good."You take that away and it's an unbelievable feeling that no one can understand unless they experience it."

'Anthem for nudists'

Kraus moved to Arizona to retire and took over Shangri-La in 1997, figuring running the nudist ranch would be a nice hobby. He turned it into a job, though, as he expanded and improved the ranch. One of those projects was a sewage system for the ranch's trailers. Kraus also is using some of the treated water to grow oleanders along the border of the property. They'll come in handy as a natural shield as more homes move in around the formerly isolated area.

Next, Kraus wants to build a community of two dozen single-family, red-tile-roofed homes on land just south of his ranch. "Like a little Anthem for nudists," he called it, referring to the giant subdivision a few miles north.

Kraus said his entrepreneurial spirit attracted him to the Republican Party after he and his wife immigrated to the United States in 1960. He was already a successful businessman, but started his own contracting business, which blossomed despite what he described as overbearing government regulation. Kraus' first vote after becoming a U.S. citizen was for Richard Nixon in the presidential election of 1968. "I would like everyone to become self-sufficient," Kraus said. "There is no need to become a state-funded breadbasket." He said this while removing his clothes for a photo shoot.

Kraus started giving heavily to Arizona Republican candidates and the state party in 2003. He said he wanted to ensure Republicans remained in power. Campaign records show he has given to U.S. Sen. Jon Kyl and U.S. Reps. John Shadegg and Rick Renzi. In the election year of 2004, he also donated to the state Republican parties of Ohio, Minnesota, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Florida. So far this year, he has donated $3,950, nearly the maximum amount allowed, to U.S. Sen. John McCain's presidential run."We're really cranking it up now," he said of the donations from him and his wife. Records show she has donated more than $10,000 to Republican causes since 2003. "I want to see a Republican in the White House," Horst Kraus said, "and I want that Republican to be John McCain."

'OK' with leaders

Although the party appreciates his checkbook, Kraus knows that some question how visible a role a nudist should have in the Republican Party."I don't think I have any enemies. I just have people in the Republican Party who think I'm nuts. And the feeling is mutual," he said. "As far as the movers and shakers in the party, I'm all right."

Kraus recalled being at a party function when Jan Brewer, the secretary of state and the top elected Republican official in Arizona, introduced him to her son. "She said, 'Horst owns a nudist camp. But it's OK.' "Brewer said she has long appreciated Kraus' dedication to the Republican Party. "He is a man who knows what his philosophy is and what he believes and is very adamant about it," she said.

Even before Kraus started writing checks, Brewer said, he was a reliable volunteer. She said for the past decade, Kraus could be counted on to knock on doors, make phone calls or grill hamburgers and hot dogs at a GOP rally. "He really is a very generous man with his energy and his time," Brewer said.His nudism has not been an issue for Brewer. "They can still be upstanding citizens, can't they?" Brewer asked of nudists. "And be good Republicans."

Tom Horne, the state's superintendent of public instruction, said he has met Kraus at several party functions. Horne said he understands why some may shy away from Kraus, but added that "being a nudist is not the same as being a sexual deviant."

The party prides itself on being a "big tent," and should be able to accept someone like Kraus, Horne said. "Or the party will have to learn to cry a lot from the results of the elections," he said.

When Kraus was named to the Arizona Republican Party's finance committee in August, the communications director for the party praised the nudist ranch operator. Brett Mecum told the Arizona Capitol Times that Kraus was doing a "heck of a job" at recruiting voters.

The Arizona Democratic Party relished the news that Kraus had been appointed to a leadership position. The party issued a news release headlined "Nudist czar named to Arizona GOP Finance Committee." It questioned Republicans' commitment to "family values," bringing up a case where Kraus was called to testify as a character witness for a person accused of child molestation. Kraus had phoned the police about the incident.

Republican Party officials have since distanced themselves from the leadership decision. "We have no desire to actually talk about that," Mecum said. "To us, it's really not all that newsworthy."

'Proud conservatives'

Mecum said that Kraus' appointment was automatic given his donations to the party. However, campaign-contribution records show that Kraus has not given recently to the Arizona Republican Party. His combined $5,000 in contributions to the party came in 2003 and 2004. Mecum refused to clarify the decision to give Kraus the position.

Randy Pullen, chairman of the state Republican Party, would not agree to an interview about Kraus. Mecum did confirm that Pullen gave up his seat to allow Kraus to be part of the delegation that attended the 2004 Republican Convention. Kraus said he was grateful to Pullen for doing so and that he met a few other nudists on the convention floor."Nudists are proud conservatives," he said.Kraus knows his lifestyle has cost him some political positions, and he's aware it could cause some from the Republican Party to be turned off. If state leaders asked him to not take such a visible role, he said he would consider stepping back for the good of all Republicans. But he's not sure if he would continue donating to a party that didn't appreciate his efforts."

That's the $64,000 question," he said. "I don't know. If it happens, ask me then. But I hope it never happens."


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home