Thursday, June 30, 2011

NOM loses attempt to hide its funders in Minnesota

NOM president Brian Brown
How sweet it is.

Fresh from its crushing inability to stop marriage equality in New York, the National Organization for Marriage has been knocked on it ass again - this time in Minnesota.

According to Andy Birkey of the Minnesota Independent:

The Minnesota Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board ruled today that corporate donations to groups advocating for or against a constitutional amendment that would ban same-sex marriage must be disclosed. The Minnesota Family Council (MFC) and the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) argued that supporters of marriage equality would commit violence against their donors if they were made public. On Thursday, the board disagreed.

The campaign finance board met in mid-June to vote on how to implement new independent expenditure rules and how they would apply to the 2012 ballot initiative campaign to ban same-sex marriage in the Minnesota Constitution. NOM and MFC argued that no disclosures should have to be made for fear of reprisal from supporters of marriage equality.

NOM and its allies tried to claim that alleged threats of violence from marriage equality proponents, particularly after the Prop 8 vote in California, made it imperative that they be able to hide their donors.

But the Minnesota Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board ruled against them thanks in part to a coalition of groups demanding full disclosure:

 . . . a coalition of groups advocated just the opposite, that full disclosure is essential to a healthy democracy. Common Cause Minnesota, the League of Women Voters and the Brennen Center for Justice sent a letter to the board on Thursday morning criticizing the statements of NOM and MFC and urging the board to make the ballot process more transparent.

“Much like the boy who cries ‘wolf,’ it has become routine for groups like the National Organization for Marriage to complain that disclosure will leave them vulnerable to threats and harassment,” the letter stated. “The evidence shows otherwise. In reality, groups like NOM are largely complaining about the ordinary rough and tumble of political debate, particularly on an issue that touches people as personally and deeply as same-sex marriage.”

At press time, it is not known what NOM will do, but according to the article:

NOM has attempted to shield its donors from disclosure requirements in many states including Maine, California, New York, Rhode Island, Minnesota and Iowa, and been the subject of campaign finance complaints or has sued to prevent the disclosure of its donors in those states.

Let's recap, courtesy of the site


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.

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.

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.”

Folks, this is a HUGE story in the making and it needs more digging. Just what is the real reason why NOM has practically bent over backwards to hide its funders?

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How NOM lost in New York - 'race-baiting' and 'gay recruiting'

The site Equality Matters took a good look at just how the National Organization for Marriage lost its fight against marriage equality in New York.

Basically it comes down to this - the organization got lazy, cocky, and used the same deceptive tactics which helped it gain a victory in Maryland and a partial victory in Rhode Island (I say partial because Rhode Island just passed civil unions), including:

Promoting Anti-Gay Propaganda

Spreading propaganda and misinformation has always been a centerpiece of NOM’s anti-equality strategy, and things were no different in New York. In early May, NOM announced that it would be spending $500,000 on an “ad and lobbying campaign to oppose same-sex marriage in New York.”
Public Schools

Unsurprisingly, NOM relied heavily on the myth that allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry would result in children being forced to learn about homosexuality and same-sex relationships in school. In one thirty-second television spot, NOM warns “legalizing gay marriage has consequences for kids.

NOM also flooded New York homes with mailer ads claiming that supporters of marriage equality were looking to “poison young minds” and “forever change the innocence of
our kids:"


Working With Anti-Gay Hate Groups

NOM wasn’t working alone in New York; the organization partnered with New Yorker’s for Constitutional Freedom (NYCF) and its affiliated ministry, New Yorker’s Family Research Foundation (NYFRF), both of which have histories of relying on vile and hateful misinformation to smear the LGBT community.

NOM proudly worked with these groups to co-sponsor the “Summer for Marriage RV Tour,” which culminated in the “Mayday for Marriage” rally in Albany on May 24th (which both NOM and NYCF also co-sponsored). NYFRF provided its supporters with a number of different resources for use during the “Mayday for Marriage” Sunday, including “sermon starters” which claimed that homosexuality is “perverted and twisted” and will cause “the destruction of your immortal soul.”

The group has also likened marriage equality to child abuse, claimed to be attempting to save people like State Sen. Tom Duane, who is gay, from “an eternity in Hell,” and has asserted that the real “enemy” in the fight over marriage equality is Satan.

During the final days of the Senate’s session, NYCF began pushing widely discredited “ex-gay” therapy, even inviting “ex-gay activist” Anthony Falzarano to speak in Albany about how he was able to leave “the gay lifestyle.”

The “Mayday for Marriage” rally itself served as a platform from which religious and community leaders could spread their anti-gay messages. Speakers at the rally argued that those who practice homosexuality are worthy of “death” and claimed that gay people are “enchained and enslaved by homosexuality,” all while NOM’s Brown was in attendance.

The group American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family, and Property (TFP) also played a large role in the rally, heading the professional march to the rally location and leading the crowd in song throughout the event. TFP has also actively promoted the idea that gays can “change” their sexual orientation and called marriage equality “morally wrong, sinful, and offensive to God.”

And then comes my personal favorite: 

Playing The “Race Card”

NOM is no stranger to using race as a wedge issue to gin up opposition to marriage equality. In fact, depicting marriage equality as a whites vs. non-whites issues has become a key part of the organization’s “public relations strategy.” 

In Maryland, the group frequently played the “race card” in order to motivate members of the black religious community to oppose a marriage equality bill earlier this year. This tactic ended up playing a crucial role in eventually killing the bill, with a number of delegates clearly bristling at attempts to compare the struggle for marriage equality to the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 60s.

In New York, NOM’s strategy was no different. Racial minorities were quickly pushed to the forefront of NOM’s anti-equality efforts. The organization even produced a video asking “Will the Black Church Rise Up in New York for Marriage?”:

Does this video piss you off? I hope it does. It pisses me off. That's why I watch it at least twice a week.  Those who read this blog probably noticed a while back that my focus on NOM intensified. It's because of NOM's tactic of playing the lgbt and African-American community against one another - most specifically how they did it in Maryland to defeat marriage equality. It has to do with the words of one black Maryland delegate:

Del. Emmett C. Burns -  "Those who want to ride on our coattails are historically incorrect; gay people had not endured the struggles of blacks, had not had crosses burned on their lawns or been thrown in a police wagon."

Burns later demanded that the gay community show him its Selma, AL (alluding one of the battlegrounds of he 1960s civil rights movement as a way to again claim that lgbtqs have not suffered enough to gain equality).

I was at McDonalds reading the tweets when he said this and, God help for because I hate to admit this, but I cried.There were so many reasons why I became upset at Burns's words that I can't begin to break them down to you. Sometimes there is a certain hurt someone can put on you that can never be described by words.

I don't like being put into a situation like that.

Needless to say, NOM gained a very crucial enemy that day - me.

you and I have only begun to dance.

But consider the following link to be the first salvo:

LISTEN: Alvin McEwen on Social Media to Discredit Religious Bigotry

Sample comment - "The black church is one of the greatest institutions in the world but it is also one of the most hypocritical, lying institutions in the world."

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