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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Van said...

Good. Beat them down. NOM's evil. I'm sure they'd squawk and holler if I ran a campaign and tried to hide my contributors.

Mykelb said...

Perhaps it's because they get their money directly from Emperor Palpatine and the 12 Apostles in Utah. I bet they have hired some broken nosed mafios to create two sets of books just in case this happened. There is no lengths to which these people will lie for their deity and his dogma.

Anonymous said...

They're certainly supported by the Catholic Church, perhaps "sub rosa." On what grounds can they seriously object, otherwise? The secrecy in which they enshroud themselves is rather worrisome, and makes their actions even more suspect. Brian and Maggie make hundreds of thousands a year for dispensing their gospel of hate and prejudice.

Patrick Hogan said...

Maggie's salary was relatively modest, if I remember right from their latest tax forms made public -- 5 figures. But that only includes her direct salary, not money for speaking engagements and the like.

It seems readily apparent to me that NOM is trying to hide (illegal?) donations from religious organizations such as the Catholic Church. God knows they tried to hide the Knights of Columbus donation ($1.5 million, as I recall) until the Knights voluntarily disclosed it. (That particular donation is still a sore spot between my father and myself, since he financially and philosophically supports the Knights...)

Steve Hansen said...

The wheels of justice grind slowly, but they do, eventually.

It has become very clear that NOM has violated political financing laws in several state, in support of DOMA amendments.

What it the penalty? Do the principals of NOM go to jail? Or, do those elections (to pass the DOMA amendment in each state) get voided?