Wednesday, June 15, 2011

NOM trying to sidestep Minnesota disclosure laws

We can now add Minnesota to the list of states where the National Organization for Marriage is trying to fight disclosure laws in order to keep its funders secret.

According to the Minnesota Independent:

The groups behind a ballot measure that would put a ban on same-sex marriage in the Minnesota Constitution urged the Minnesota Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board on Tuesday to retain a rule that would allow corporations to make unlimited contributions in support of the ballot measure. The Minnesota Family Council (MFC) testified that it shouldn’t have to disclose any of its donors in the campaign to pass the amendment, while Minnesota for Marriage, of which MFC and the National Organization for Marriage are a part, brought in attorneys from the Citizens United Supreme Court case to argue that political spending by corporations on the amendment push should be shielded from disclosure laws.

. . . Tom Prichard, president of the Minnesota Family Council, argued that there should be no disclosure at all because donors to his campaign might be physically attacked by people who oppose the anti–gay rights amendment.

“To require groups, non profits like the Minnesota Family Council, to disclose their donors and make their donors names public would have a significant chilling effect on free speech. Even in Minnesota already it’s gotten heated in some respects,” he said. “The concern is harassment, property damage, a chilling effect. If I know I have to disclose my name, I’m not going to get involved with the Minnesota Family Council.”

. . .But the majority of the testifiers supported the board in changing its opinion on corporate disclosure.

Mike Dean of Common Cause Minnesota said, “Minnesota has a long history of supporting disclosure.”

. . .Matt Butler of the Minnesota Public Interest Research Group testified that his group supports full disclosure of corporate ballot measure expenditures.

Sen. John Marty, DFL-Roseville, said, “Public disclosure is essential in a democracy,” and testified about some of the legislative initiatives that support disclosure for corporations.

The article went on to say that the board will take up the issue on June 30. This idea that NOM's donors should be made secret is bogus. And it's a part of a disturbing pattern:

  • NOM goes to a state to fight against marriage equality.
  • Their efforts are successful because of their mysterious finances.
  • They leave the community in shambles with neighbors angry at neighbors over their positions.
  • Lastly, questions are raised regarding NOM's questionable tactics regarding mostly finances.

According to the nomexposed.org, NOM has fought to keep its donors secret in several places, including:


Maine:

NOM remains under investigation by the Maine Ethics Commission for failing to register with the state as a ballot question committee and refusing to disclose the donors to its campaign to overturn Maine’s marriage equality law in 2009.

NOM provided more than $1.8 million of the $3 million spent by opponents of marriage equality to pass Question 1 – but it illegally failed to disclose where the money came from. Public disclosure laws create transparency by informing voters who is behind a campaign effort. Maine’s law does this by requiring that any funds raised to support or oppose a ballot question be made public.

NOM flouted this law, first by soliciting funds from donors to overturn marriage equality in Maine, and then by refusing to disclose the contributions. As a result, NOM deliberately hid from the public almost two-thirds of the total money the Yes on 1 campaign spent to run its deceptive campaign to overturn marriage equality.

Based on an initial complaint filed by Fred Karger of Californians Against Hate, the Maine Ethics Commission launched a formal investigation into NOM’s fundraising tactics in late 2009. NOM has refused to cooperate with the state inquiry each step of the way, stonewalling requests to turn over documents to the Ethics Commission. The Commission’s executive director defended the inquiry in February 2010: “NOM donated almost $2 million in support of the referendum. The Commission needs to understand how NOM solicited the funds in order to determine whether campaign finance reporting was required.” In June 2010, the Ethics Commission unanimously denied NOM’s latest request to dismiss the state investigation into the organization’s finances.

Rhodes Island:
In September 2010, NOM filed suit in Rhode Island seeking to spend thousands of dollars on TV and radio ads for and against gubernatorial and General Assembly candidates – all free from the state’s reporting requirements. NOM is framing the issue as a matter of free speech. In its court filing, NOM says it intends to “engage in multiple forms of speech in Rhode Island” in advance of the November 2 elections, “including radio ads, television ads, direct mail and publicly accessible Internet postings.”

. . . Shortly after NOM filed the suit, a federal judge gave the organization one week to refile – calling the lawsuit “disorganized, vague and poorly constructed.” According to the Boston Globe, the judge said the relevant allegations were “buried” in the lawsuit.

California:
In January 2009, NOM and ProtectMarriage sued the California Secretary of State in federal court to avoid disclosing Prop. 8 donors. California law requires campaign committees to report information for any contributors of $100 or more, which is then made publicly available. Donor disclosure is uniformly required across the country for federal, state and local campaigns and is widely accepted as a vital means to ensure that elections are conducted transparently and fairly.

Rather than follow the decades-old California Public Records Act, NOM suggested that it was entitled to a blanket exemption. NOM falsely claimed that its contributors had been subject to threats, reprisals and harassment. Serious scrutiny of these claims has revealed only isolated incidents, questionable reports and, more often than not, legitimate acts of public criticism typical of any hard-fought campaign.

Iowa:
In Iowa, NOM’s pattern of evading campaign laws prompted a strong written warning from the state ethics agency.

NOM spent a staggering $86,000 in 2009 in a single legislative special election, part of its effort to get a constitutional amendment on the ballot that would reverse the state Supreme Court’s unanimous decision recognizing marriage equality. NOM asked its supporters to contribute to the Iowa campaign in a nationwide email by saying that “…best of all, NOM has the ability to protect donor identities.”

The email and subsequent complaints prompted a letter from the Iowa Ethics and Campaign Finance Board stating that state law requires disclosure of political contributions solicited for the Iowa campaign. The board’s director and counsel wrote to NOM that he wished to “avoid potential problems in light of questions the Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board has received concerning a solicitation statement made by your organization” and warned that the “independent expenditure process in Iowa is not a vehicle to shield political contributors.”

Washington State:
In Washington State, NOM and its allies waged a coordinated legal battle to hide the names of those who signed the petition to qualify Referendum 71, and those who donated to the campaign to eliminate Washington’s domestic partnership benefits. In doing so, NOM lawyers attempted to dismantle the nation’s public disclosure system as it currently exists until the U.S. Supreme Court rejected their claims.

On the same day that NOM’s lawyers sued to overturn Maine’s campaign finance laws, a mysterious group called “Family PAC,” represented by the same lawyers, sought to circumvent Washington’s campaign contribution limits and keep secret the names of donors to the campaign. The lawyers cited false claims of harassment directed at supporters of Prop. 8 in California as justification for hiding their donors.

The judge rejected the NOM lawyers’ claims, stating that, “The State has a real and vital interest in showing the money trail… I do not believe it is in the public interest for the court to intervene and change the rules of the game at the last minute.”

Why does NOM put up such a nasty fight in keeping this information from being disclosed? If NOM professes to be an organization devoted to truth and morality, then there simply can be no secrecy because secrecy gives an impression of wrongdoing.

I'm just saying . . .

Related post:

Is the Catholic Church overstepping its bounds in marriage equality fight?



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1 comment :

Anonymous said...

"I am just Saying" is exactly my sentiments.