October 6, 2012

Same-sex marriage foes withhold identities of contributors

The National Organization for Marriage donates $252,100 to Maine's effort from 'commercial sources.'

By Susan M. Cover scover@mainetoday.com
State House Bureau

The National Organization for Marriage has contributed $252,100 to the campaign to defeat the proposal on Maine's ballot to legalize same-sex marriage, and has again withheld the identities of its donors.

The organization listed cash contributions on a campaign finance report filed Thursday and identified the donors as "commercial sources."

That means the money is a transfer from the group's general treasury, which is permissible, said Paul Lavin of the Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices.

Mainers United for Marriage, the leading group advocating for passage of the ballot question Nov. 6, said Friday that NOM is continuing a practice it started in 2009, when it donated nearly $2 million to gay-marriage opponents in Maine's repeal referendum and did not disclose its donors.

On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the organization's appeal in a case that could ultimately force it to disclose its donors.

"Maine voters deserve to know who is trying to influence this election," said Matt McTighe, campaign manager for Mainers United for Marriage. "Maine law is clear, and NOM refuses to follow the same rules that every other campaign in the state must abide by."

Brian Brown, executive director of the National Organization for Marriage, said his group is following all Maine campaign finance laws. The money donated so far came from the group's general fund, and was not raised specifically for the Maine campaign, he said.

"Of course NOM didn't list donors that are making general gifts to NOM," he said. "The reality is, neither side lists general treasury donors. That's a basic right of association. This is a bunch of lies by the other side."

Brown said his group tells donors that if they want to influence the election in Maine, they should give to Protect Marriage Maine, the leading political action committee that's raising money to defeat gay marriage.

He said the National Organization for Marriage, which is involved in gay-marriage ballot questions in three other states, will give more money in Maine before Election Day.

While Brown denies raising money specifically for Maine, gay-marriage supporters point to fundraising appeals sent out by the group that mention Maine.

One, which appeared on the organization's blog in May, encourages donors to give money that will be donated in the four states that will vote on gay marriage this year.

"Through Stand for Marriage America, you can make a single contribution and know that all of it will go directly to the four state campaigns in Minnesota, Maine, Maryland, and Washington state," reads the blog post. "With just a few clicks of the mouse, 25% of your gift (or any portion you allocate) will go to each of the state campaigns fighting to protect marriage this November."

Maine law requires groups that raise or spend more than $5,000 to influence elections to register and disclose donors.

In the case from the 2009 campaign to repeal the gay-marriage law passed by the Legislature, NOM argued that it did not want to reveal the names of donors because it would violate free speech rights and donors would face harassment.

The latest campaign finance reports, for the period from July 18 to Sept. 30, were due to the state by midnight Friday.

Although neither campaign in the gay-marriage referendum had filed as of late Friday, both provided estimates of what their reports will show.

(Continued on page 2)

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