Karger’s political career began with the Dolphin Group in 1977. He served as executive vice president and chief financial officer through 2004. During his tenure, Karger helped lead the campaigns of California Governor George Deukmejian, Lt. Governor Mike Curb, the Presidential campaigns of Senator Robert Dole (R-KS), Senator Paul Laxalt (R-NV), Governor John Connally (R-TX), Senator Charles Percy (R-IL) and dozens of other federal, state and local candidates. He managed statewide and local ballot measure campaigns, judicial campaigns, and served on several campaign finance and steering committees.
Karger consulted on behalf of real estate developers, farmers, consumer product companies, the hospitality industry, and other businesses in their dealings with local, state, and federal government.
2012 presidential campaign
On April 10, 2010, Karger held a press conference at the Southern Republican Leadership Conference (SRLC) in New Orleans, to announce that he was “seriously considering becoming a candidate for President of the United States in 2012 as an Independent Republican.” He attended the SRLC with other potential candidates for the Republican Presidential ticket such as Sarah Palin, Ron Paul, Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich, and Gary Johnson. This was the day after GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney announced forming his 2012 exploratory committee; Karger declared himself the “Anti-Romney” candidate, and later stated that he “plans to run a campaign specifically designed to throw a wrench into Romney’s run.” After making the announcement, Karger traveled to Iowa and New Hampshire several times, holding town hall meetings, talking to voters, as well as meeting with political, LGBTQ, AIDS organization leaders, and the media.
On July 18, 2010, Karger announced he had formed an exploratory committee for the United States presidential election of 2012.
In November 2010, Karger aired a weeklong ad campaign in Iowa which was described as the first television commercial of the 2012 presidential race. His campaign made use of the slogan “Fred Who?” Steve Scheffler, an Iowa delegate to the national Republican National Committee, said Karger was part of the “radical homosexual community.”
Karger stated that his campaign “budget is five to six million, which is, of course, a congressional race budget”, and indicated that his “goal in running” was “to inspire the next generation through his candidacy.” Karger’s candidacy was described as a long shot, with one interviewer indicating that “[t]he question on the minds of many” is “does he think he has a snowball’s chance? The answer to that is, yes and no.”
Karger officially announced his candidacy on March 23, 2011.
On March 31, 2011, Karger won the Saint Anselm College Republicans Presidential Straw Poll, receiving 25% of the vote of the Goffstown, New Hampshire, school’s student body and employees. He defeated Mitt Romney by five votes.
Karger speaking at a rally in Iowa, August 12, 2011
In late April 2011, Karger attended the national convention of the Log Cabin Republicans in Dallas, Texas, and declared to the conservative gay organization that he wants his presidential campaign to “open up” the Republican Party and send a message to young people and gay people: “You can do anything you want to do.” Karger told OC Weekly that gay Republicans need to “stand up and be proud in a tough atmosphere.”
In June 2011, he filed a formal complaint with Massachusetts authorities, accusing fellow Republican nomination candidate Mitt Romney of having registered and voted in Massachusetts when his primary residence was in another state.
On July 13, 2011, Karger called fellow GOP presidential candidate Michele Bachmann a “liar, hypocrite, and bigot” when she refused to comment on allegations Bachmann’s husband was using conversion therapy in his clinic to attempt to cure gays of homosexuality and saying that homosexuality was a choice.
Karger was not present at the debates during 2011 and 2012. He appeared on the primary or caucus ballot in six states (Michigan, Iowa, New Hampshire, Maryland, California, and Utah) and one territory (Puerto Rico), where he came in fourth place.
On June 29, 2012, following the Utah Republican presidential primary and the California Democratic presidential primary, Karger officially ended his campaign. His final financial report to the Federal Election Commission indicated that his campaign had total receipts of $591,719.94, of which $518,507.09 had been contributed by Karger himself.
A documentary about Karger’s presidential campaign, Fred, premiered at the Monadnock International Film Festival on April 4, 2014.