Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Why is NOM hiding where it gets its money?

As the vote on gay marriage in Maryland gets closer, the National Organization for Marriage is throwing out threats and promises to legislators:

The National Organization of Marriage (NOM) today announced that it will form the “NOM PAC Maryland” in the state. NOM pledges to spend at least $1 million in Maryland to support Democratic State Legislators who cast their votes to defend the traditional marriage and oppose any Republican Legislators who vote to redefine marriage.

“It’s become quite clear in recent days in Maryland that the Democratic leadership and the same-sex ‘marriage’ lobby will resort to any tactic, including threats and intimidation, to coerce Democratic legislators to support their agenda,” said Brian Brown, President of NOM. “We want to be sure those courageous Democrats who cast their vote of conscience in favor of marriage will have a strong supporter if the radical gay activists come after them in their next primary election.”

The NOM PAC Maryland is similar to a PAC formed in New York by NOM, which successfully defended Democrats who supported marriage, despite a major effort by pro-gay marriage advocates to defeat several Democrats in their primaries who had stood up for marriage. In fact, NOM supported candidates like state senator Ruben Diaz, won by larger margins than before their votes against same-sex marriage.

NOM PAC Maryland will also oppose in their primaries any Republicans who support gay marriage. The PAC announced that it will target for defeat State Senator Allan Kittleman in his expected race for Howard County Executive.

That's all well and good because every group has a right to form a PAC. But the key question here should be where is NOM getting its funds. Eyebrows should be raised due to the fact that NOM fights tooth and nail to keep secret just who is funding the organization. It recently lost a case in Maine regarding its financial backers. You will remember last year, NOM successfully spearheaded a referendum against gay marriage in that state.

NOM is of course appealing that ruling. But the Maine case is only one in a series of hijinks NOM has pulled to keep secret its list of financial backers.

From comes a list of questionable tactics NOM engaged in:

Rhode 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.” Rhode Island law permits “independent expenditures” from organizations like NOM – but forbids these groups from coordinating any strategy or ads with candidates. Republican gubernatorial candidate John Robitaille stands to benefit most from NOM’s ads – he opposes same-sex marriage.
California: In California, NOM was a major player in the multi-million dollar effort to eliminate marriage equality, contributing more than $1.8 million to the effort to pass Prop. 8 and maintaining deep ties with ProtectMarriage, the campaign organization established to support the initiative.

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:  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: 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.”

NOM’s lawyers took a second case, challenging Washington’s public records law that permits inspection of referendum petition signatures, all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court – and lost.

And let's not forget about the salaries of NOM leaders:

In its first year of operation, NOM paid nearly 14% of its budget to Brian Brown and Maggie Gallagher. The subsequent year, when NOM’s budget increased significantly, Brown and Gallagher both received larger paychecks, though it represented a smaller percentage of NOM’s overall budget at just 5%. Brown is now paid over $130,000 and Gallagher nearly $27,000. As president of the Institute for Marriage and Public Policy, Gallagher makes an additional $125,000 per year – an amount that’s over half of the organization’s total budget.

Additionally, NOM seems to be attempting to hide a $166,000 consulting payment to Common Sense America. While it appears on the version of their Form 990 available from the IRS, they have removed it from the version of the Form 990 that NOM makes available through their website. Common Sense America’s registered agent is Maggie Gallagher’s son Patrick and Brian Brown sits on the Common Sense America’s board.

Gallagher’s $125,000 salary in 2007 as president of the Institute for Marriage and Public Policy was roughly 51% of revenue and 35% of expenses, a ratio that was called “out of the ordinary” by an analyst with Charity Navigator, a respected, independent charity evaluator. The analyst reported that a charity CEO’s salary of 35% of expenses is “very large” and “rarely do we see anything quite as large.”

There have been rumors that NOM is a front for either the Catholic Church or the Mormon church. I am not aware of the details of these rumors,  so I won't go into detail about them. However, one thing is clear. NOM is hiding something and for an organization which talks about morality and traditional values, it certainly isn't practicing what it preaches.

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