Tuesday, March 15, 2011

A little peek at the National Organization for Marriage's questionable financial history

One has to give it to the National Organization for Marriage. In a very short time, the organization led a coalition of religious folks to stop the gay marriage vote in Maryland. This included having speakers in front of the legislature, booking itself on many local programs, mobilizing churches, and promising a huge amount of money (one million dollars) to sway legislators on future vote regarding marriage equality. Not bad.

An article earlier this year in the Iowa Independent may give a reason as to why it has been easy for NOM to be successful. In the words of a famous rapper - "cash rules everything around me:"

Three-quarters of the funding for the New Jersey-based National Organization for Marriage (NOM), a 501(c)(4) nonprofit dedicated to opposing same-sex marriage, comes from just five sources, according to its most recent 2009 990 form filed with the Internal Revenue Services.

NOM spent $635,627 in Iowa in 2010 to help bankroll the successful campaign to oust three Iowa Supreme Court justices over a ruling that legalized same-sex marriage. In 2009, the organization spent nearly $100,000 supporting a Republican House candidate in a special legislative election. NOM has also done a series of robocalls concerning same-sex marriage and held a pair of rallies in Iowa in early August to promote their point of view.

“The National Organization for Marriage has emerged as the nation’s only major national grassroots organization dedicated to protecting marriage,” said NOM’s president and founder, Maggie Gallagher, in July 2009. NOM describes itself as “the nation’s only grassroots organization focused on the threat to marriage at state and local levels.” NOM Executive Director Brian Brown said in a January 2010 press release, “NOM’s goal is a national grassroots organization that can make a difference in all 50 states, as needed.”

However, at least in terms of funding, its donations are quite concentrated. According to its 2009 990 form (PDF) obtained by the Human Rights Campaign, NOM received $7,106,388 in donations in 2009. Three donations of $2.4 million, $1.2 million, and $1.1 million constituted 68 percent of its total donations. Two additional donations of $400,000 and $150,000 mean that three-quarters of its funding came from just five sources.

Donations to 501(c)(4) organizations are not tax-deductible and organizations do not have to disclose their donors.

In September, reporter Jesse Zwick uncovered a $1.4 million donation from the Knights of Columbus to NOM in 2009, which does not seem to appear on the organization’s 990. NOM has a pattern of pushing the boundaries of disclosure laws: The organization sued the Rhode Island Board of Elections over the funding of ads, has been the subject of campaign finance complaints in Maine and Iowa and used a loophole in Minnesota campaign finance law all to avoid disclosure.

It's fascinating to me. Of all of the things I have written and said about religious right groups (including the Traditional Values Coalition, the Family Research Council, etc), I don't think I have ever had to focus on their finances. But questions about money and how the organization tries to skirt finance laws seems to be NOM's Achilles heel.

No doubt the organization will claim that all inquiries about its finances are made in an effort to undermine its work against marriage equality. Perhaps. But that doesn't take away from the fact that NOM has a problem being truthful about its finances.

According to the webpage nomexposed.org, in the span of four years, NOM's budget went from a little over $500,000 to $10 million.

And during that time, while the organization have had huge victories in places like California, Maine, and Maryland, it also left many raised eyebrows  regarding its ethics and financial disclosures in those places as well as in Rhode Island, Washington State, and Iowa.

Lastly, we must remember that the chairman of NOM, Maggie Gallagher herself is no stranger to ethical impropriety. In 2005, it was discovered that she received over $40,000 from the Bush Administration to promote its marriage initiatives, which she did in her supposedly objective column published in various newspapers throughout the country.

After the discovery, Gallagher said she didn't disclose the payment (again over $40,000) because "she forgot."

It's doesn't take an Einstein to realize that beneath its veneer of supposed respectability and morality, there seems to be another, more unsavory side of NOM.

And rather than blow our stacks at the organization's success, or make cute side comments about its members, maybe it's time for those of us in the community who are adept in such things to put our shoulders to the grindstone and start uncovering all of NOM's secrets.

At the very least, it will be a new goal for me.


Nomexposed - more people need to not only join AND study this site

NOM has "generously" supplied a link to all of its tax returns for those who are interested

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Anonymous said...

This is why I say, we need to get a mole inside NOM. Just to leak out the details.

I think thus far we have a fair money trail prominently on display, but there are slight gaps that a mole could help us to fill in.

BlackTsunami said...


Stenar said...

We need a mole inside the Mormon church, as I'm certain that is where most of their funding comes from.