Update: Below the fold, more information regarding ethical and financial complaints against NOM- this time in Iowa.

Oh dear… not much time to enjoy your lil WaPo lovefest, eh Brian?

Got word today of this 4 page letter sent to SFMM and NOMwith an additional 61 pages of correspondence and evidence– from Jonathan Wayne, Executive Director of Maine’s Ethics Commission and had to share it here… all emphasis mine.


By E-Mail and Federal Express

Joseph A. Keaney, Treasurer

Stand for Marriage Maine PAC

One Monument Way, Second Floor

Portland, Maine 04101

By E-Mail and Federal Express

Brian S. Brown, Executive Director

National Organization for Marriage

20 Nassau Street, Suite 242

Princeton, NJ 08542

OPPORTUNITY TO RESPOND TO REQUEST FOR INVESTIGATION

Dear Sirs:

On August 13 and 24, 2009, the Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices received correspondence via email from Fred Karger of Californians against Hate alleging that the Stand for Marriage Maine PAC and some of its contributors have violated the campaign finance laws of the State of Maine. He requests that the Commission investigate whether the violations have occurred. I have enclosed his requests, along with my August 14 memo to Mr. Karger asking him to provide more specific information in support of his request.

As explained below, the Commission is statutorily required to consider Mr. Karger’s request. The Commission will consider the request at its meeting on Thursday, October 1, 2009 at 9:00 a.m. The meeting will be held in Room 208 of the Burton M. Cross Office Building, 111 Sewall Street in Augusta. At that meeting, I anticipate that the Commissioners will decide whether to conduct any investigation regarding the compliance issues listed below.

Your Opportunity to Respond to Mr. Karger’s Request

The Commission would welcome written responses from the Stand for Marriage Maine PAC and the National Organization for Marriage no later than Thursday, September 17, 2009 concerning whether the Commission should conduct an investigation. You are welcome to attend the meeting to comment to the Commission in person and to answer questions. This is a regular meeting, not a formal hearing.

Commission’s Standards for Requests for Investigation

Under 21-A M.R.S.A. § 1003(2), a person may apply to the Commission to investigate a PAC’s reporting of campaign finance activity. Under this provision, the Commission “shall review the application and shall make the investigation if the reasons stated for the request show sufficient grounds for believing that a violation may have occurred.”

Compliance Issues Raised by Fred Karger’s Request

Mr. Karger does not specify which provisions of Maine’s campaign finance laws were violated by the Stand for Marriage Maine PAC or its contributors. To assist the Commission in deciding whether to conduct any investigation, the Commission staff has identified the following compliance issues that are implicated by Mr. Karger’s factual allegations. By discussing these legal issues, the staff does not mean to imply at this time that any investigation is merited.

Stand for Marriage Maine PAC

All PACs are required to report the names and addresses of contributors who have given more than $50 to the PAC. (21-A M.R.S.A. § 1060(6))

In addition, under 21-A M.R.S.A. §§ 1004(3) and 1004-A(3), it is illegal for a PAC to knowingly accept a contribution made by one person in the name of another person.

Mr. Karger alleges that “the four funders of Stand for Marriage Maine are merely conduits for those wishing to hide their contributions. These entities are laundering money to evade the disclosure of the actual contributors to Stand for Marriage Maine.” (Aug. 24, 2009 letter, at 1) If true, these allegations might constitute violations of 21-A M.R.S.A. § 1060(6), 1004(3) and 1004-A(3).

National Organization for Marriage

Mr. Karger alleges that the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) has raised funds for the purpose of initiating or promoting the people’s veto referendum to repeal P.L. 2009, Ch. 82, and has donated those funds to the Stand for Marriage Maine PAC. His allegations, if true, may indicate that NOM was required to file campaign finance reports with the Commission as a ballot question committee under 21-A M.R.S.A. § 1056-B or was required to register and file reports as a PAC under 21-A M.R.S.A. §§ 1052(5)(A), 1053, and 1058.

Mr. Karger points to a few factual circumstances which could be relevant to whether a violation has occurred:

• NOM is a 501(c)(4) tax-exempt organization that is roughly two years old. Based on the information that is presently available to the Commission staff, it appears that NOM has contributed at least $250,000 to the Stand for Marriage Maine PAC. This is a large amount of funding, which could suggest that NOM solicited and received funds for the purpose of initiating the referendum.

• In 2008, NOM formed a committee in California to raise and spend money in support of an amendment to the California State Constitution (Proposition 8) stating that only marriage between a man and a woman would be recognized by the California state government. According to the California Secretary of State, NOM’s California committee raised $1,870,134 and contributed $1,561,134 to a larger PAC supporting Proposition 8. So, NOM has demonstrated the capability to raise a significant amount of funds to support a referendum on same sex marriage.

• Mr. Karger has provided the Commission with some fundraising solicitations from NOM stating to potential donors that the funds would be used to oppose the legalization of same sex marriage in New England. The two most relevant are the communications dated March 13 and 31, 2009, which mention Maine specifically.

The March 31st communication refers to “a hard-hitting new radio ad that we’re launching today as part of our 2009 Northeast Action Plan …” and makes the following solicitation: “We’re excited about this new ad, but we need your help to keep these ads on the air, especially in states like Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine and New Jersey, where coordinated grassroots opposition to pending gay marriage legislation is urgently needed.”

The ad was apparently intended to run while the marriage legislation was under consideration by the Maine Legislature (March or April 2009). Nevertheless, the solicitation does seem to look forward to more communications to voters later in the year: “Throughout the year, we’ll be rolling out new ads as we work to identify and motivate marriage activists throughout the Northeast.” (italics added) This could easily be a reference to communications to voters in support of a referendum petition drive in Maine, which was actively discussed during the 2009 legislative session.

• As Mr. Karger has noted, the March 2009 solicitations from NOM promise its donors anonymity: “[P]lease make the most generous donation you can to help us keep these important ads on the air. Use this hyperlink to make a secure online donation. And unlike in California, every dollar you give to NOM’s Northeast Action Plan today is private, with no risk of harassment from gay marriage protestors.”

Because of these factual considerations, the staff of the Maine Ethics Commission would welcome a written response by NOM regarding whether there are sufficient grounds to warrant a Commission investigation or fact-finding to determine if NOM was required to file campaign finance reports as a ballot question committee under 21-A M.R.S.A. § 1056-B or to register and file reports as a PAC under 21-A M.R.S.A. §§ 1052(5)(A), 1053, and 1058.

Other Contributors

Mr. Karger has alleged that three other contributors to the Stand for Marriage Maine PAC “laundered money.” Because the information provided with regard to these contributors is less specific, the Commission staff is not inviting responses from them. Nevertheless, they are copied on this letter so that they are aware of this matter and have an opportunity to submit comments if they wish.

Thank you for considering this invitation. If you have any questions, please feel free to telephone me at (207) 287-4179 or the Commission’s Counsel, Assistant Attorney General Phyllis Gardiner, at (207) 626-8830.

Sincerely,

Jonathan Wayne

Executive Director

Below the fold, a letter from Justin of OneIowa, regarding NOM’s activities there and a request.We just received the following email and the timing is perfect.

Please head on over and sign the petition, as well as spread the word, folks:


Hi,

I wanted to send a quick update about NOM’s activities in Iowa. You may have heard that the Iowa Ethics Board sent a sharp warning to the National Organization for Marriage this morning about their campaign activities in Iowa. The letter warned that NOM may be required to disclose their donors if they continue to spend money to influence Iowa elections.

We posted a blog about the subject this afternoon which includes a link to the full letter: http://bit.ly/Wxdqb

Please feel free to reference or cross-post our blog entry if you’d like to do a post on the subject. All we ask is that you mention our ongoing petition campaign to demand that NOM disclose who is spending their money to influence our elections. We’ve had over 1200 signers so far. The petition can be found here: http://bit.ly/TBErD

Please let me know if you have any questions!

Thanks,

Justin



Justin Uebelhor

Director of Communications

One Iowa

justin@oneiowa.org

twitter:oneiowa

Equality for ALL Iowans ~ oneiowa.org

Thank you, Justin, for this timely and important information!

Louise1

Louise1

9 Comments

Leave a reply