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Gay marriage loses in Maine: the campaign finance scorecard

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On Nov. 3, 299,483 citizens of the state of Maine were persuaded to tell women who love women and men who love men that they cannot marry. Those Downeasters who voted “Yes” on Question 1 — to repeal a same-sex marriage law — bashed gays, but with a referendum rather than a fist.

Those 267,574 people who voted “no” — which would approve the same-sex marriage law — were not dissuaded by an anti-gay coalition of conservatives and churches wielding more than $3 million, including more than $2 million from out-of-state donors, according to a report by the National Institute On Money In State Politics.

Much of the sparring over the referendum was funded on both sides by groups outside the state of Maine. Given that gay marriage has been a wedge issue for years, that’s hardly surprising. But in Maine?

Those who backed the gay marriage law ponied up 12 to 1 over donors to the anti-gay donors and had more money — $5 million. But they lost. The institute’s report, written by Tyler Evilsizer, says:

The measure pitted conservative groups and churches against gay-rights groups, a few wealthy donors, and more than 10,000 smaller donors from Maine and around the country. Question 1 attracted over $9 million, or 72 cents of every dollar raised around Maine’s seven ballot measures. [emphasis added]

That’s right. Maine had six other referendum questions — to decrease the auto excise tax (defeated); to repeal school consolidation laws (defeated); to require voter approval of tax increases (defeated); a medical marijuana act (approved); a $71,250,000 bond issue for infrastructure improvements (approved); and a constitutional amendment granting local officials more time to certify petition signatures (defeated).

But press attention, money, and political capital focused on a wedge issue to divide people of good conscience and faith and divert their attention from far more pressing matters. Maine needs more attention to the condition of its roads, bridges and airports than it does in the bedrooms of loving, consenting adults who wish to make a lifelong commitment.

The blunt end of the money hammer used in Maine against gays was primarily wielded by a group called Stand For Marriage Maine. Like all political communicators and niche interest groups these days, it has a website. But its site is notably deficient. It does not have links such as “About Us” or “Who We Are.” Such links usually provide a list of financial supporters, coalition partners, and the names and contact data for organization officers and staff. Stand For Marriage Maine does not provide such information on its website.

Wading through the organization’s press releases and media stories is needed to learn that Marc Mutty is chairman of Stand for Marriage Maine, that Scott K. Fish is communications director (releases provide a phone number) and that Bob Emrich is a member of the group’s executive committee.

That lack of clear, easy-to-find disclosure makes it difficult for those interested in the issue to find out more about the bona fides of donors and supporters who worked to repeal Maine’s gay-marriage law.

Why not explain “Who We Are”? Only conjecture is possible. It is, perhaps, easier to operate in ideological shadows. According to Mr. Evilsizer’s report, here are the principal sources of money that drove the effort to repeal gays’ right to marry in Maine. A few groups are well known outside Maine.

StandForMarriageMaine.com | $2,650,052
Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland | $553,608
Focus On The Family Maine Marriage Committee | $114,500
Family Research Council Action | $25,000
Maine Marriage PAC | $11,539
Maine Grassroots Coalition | $9,410
Marriage Matters in Maine | $2,678
Maine4Marriage | $230
Proponents’ total $3,367,018

The best-funded organization opposing gay marriage was Stand For Marriage Maine at $2.65 million. Where’d the money come from?

Fred Karger, founder of Californians Against Hate, asked Maine ethics officials to investigate the organization. He said it was laundering money. His August letter

contained allegations religious organizations are hiding contributions to the Stand for Marriage Maine campaign. The letter reports how the National Organization for Marriage, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland, the national office of the Knights of Columbus and Focus on the Family had contributors give the money to their organizations, and in turn gave the money to the Stand for Marriage Maine to hide the donors’ identity.

Maine’s ethics board ruled in early October that an investigation into the “finance reporting by the National Organization for Marriage, a major contributor to Stand for Marriage Maine,” was warranted. NOM of course, fired back with a lawsuit on Oct. 23 against Maine’s inquiry.

But a federal judge ruled on Oct. 29 that the “state can compel the National Organization for Marriage to disclose the identities of donors who contributed to its effort to repeal Maine’s gay-marriage law.” In that story, the Portland Press Herald said NOM — based in Washington, D.C. — had funneled $1.6 million to Stand For Marriage Maine. A resolution of the lawsuit was “months away,” the story said — well after the Nov. 3 referendum. Mr. Evilsizer’s report contains a breakdown of donors to Stand For Marriage Maine showing NOM’s $1,622,152 donation.

But his report notes that financial supporters of gay marriage in Maine “from Away” were also plentiful. Those who supported the gay-marriage law raised $5,678,579.

The Human Rights Campaign, which bills itself as “the largest national lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender civil rights organization,” donated $267,589 to the principal umbrella organization, No On 1 Protect Maine Equality. The National Gay & Lesbian Task Force gave $139,056. Esmond Harmsworth, a founding partner of the Zachary Shuster Harmsworth Literary Agency in Boston and New York, gave $100,000. Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders of Boston gave $91,258.

The website of No On 1 Protect Maine Equality also has a “Who We Are” page that lists its coalition partners. Its “Contact Us” page list its physical address, mailing address, phone number and e-mail address. Its campaign manager is clearly identified as Jesse Connolly.

The gay marriage caravan now moves on, it seems, to New York state. Gov. David Patterson wants a same-sex marriage bill, passed twice in the state Assembly, on the floor of the Senate for debate on Tuesday.

And the money, both for and against, will likely move on as well.

xpost: Scholars and Rogues

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Written by Dr. Denny Wilkins

November 6, 2009 at 2:38 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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