Karen Ocamb: ‘Fred Karger describes his victory in Maine’
Today, Karen Ocamb interviewed Fred Karger after the Maine Ethics Committee voted to investigate further into Karger’s complaint against NOM.
It is a pleasure to cross-post this wonderful in-depth piece, originally posted on her new site, LGBT POV.
Great job, Karen, and many thanks!
Fred Karger describes his victory in Maine
Fred Karger and I had a cell-phone interview this morning from Maine, shortly after the commission surprisingly voted 3-2 to launch an investigation into NOM’s funding. Here’s that interview:
Fred thinks there’s no chance he’ll get an investigation
“I was convinced yesterday after reading that extensive staff report and having been told by several people who are familiar with the ethics commission – that they generally follow the staff’s recommendations – which is typical in most states. The staff recommended not to investigate.
And so I made a compelling testimony which I was not planning to do until I saw the two letters that Mr. Bostrom, their attorney, wrote for Stand for Marriage Maine and also the National Organization for Marriage. They were just so ludicrous I just felt I had to respond to them. They make all these false claims.
I submitted 79 emails – and all I have is what’s in the public view to go by – I can’t talk to their donors – so I took the 79 emails I was able to collect – they sent them out from post-Prop 8 until I filed my complaint in August. I took out all the ones that had anything to do with Maine and all of these fundraising emails ask for money. 16 of the 79 were Maine-specific. Some mentioned other states but they all asked for money. Two were only about Maine and they claimed that of these two emails, they only raised combined $295 from these two emails. Because if they hit $5,000 that they raised, then they’d have to file as a PAC (political action committee) – which they hadn’t done so they would have been in violation of the law. So they kind of did it backwards saying, ‘Oh, we didn’t come close to $5,000. We only raised $295.’
In August, Brain Brown took credit – I read that quote (in his testimony): ‘We have 500,000 supporters in our march’ – whatever. So I said, ‘OK, you have 500,000 people on your list and you only raised $295 from two emails? I mean who in his right mind would believe that? They only raised $147.50 per email from over 500,000 of their supporters.
The rest of Karen’s report below the fold.
Testimony about NOM’s 990s
They also claimed that their 990s – which no one has seen – for 2008 – that they raised $3 and half million and they said their budget for 2009 is $7 million.
What was really interesting – and I think this had a tremendous amount to do with their credibility when both Brian Brown and his attorney Barry Bostrom testified – I found out early this morning that they posted both of their 990s for 2007 and 2008 on their website (which prominently features Carrie Prejean). And it was done in the middle of the night. I had said in my written testimony that they had not revealed their 990s, we were trying to get them, they have to do it. So I spoke first and I was able to preempt their testimony and say that they just last night posted these, obviously in advance of today’s hearing.
So Brian Brown gets up there, lying through his teeth – said, ‘Oh, we’ve always made these available. We’ve posted them on our website.’ Well, one of the commissioners questioned him: ‘When did you post these on your website?’ His response was: “I’m not sure.”
Reporter Danielle Truszkovsk backs Fred up
When the commissioners took the vote, it was incredibly dramatic because they didn’t really question me or Brian or his attorney when we first spoke. And then a young reporter – Danielle Truszkovsk who’s doing a story for the Washington Blade – she got up and testified. She’s the one who did a wonderful story about Brian and the 990s. She’s been hot on their trail for the 990s. And she got up to say all his testimony was bullshit. She backed up what I had said. She spoke out of order – she’d gotten there a little late – they’re very informal – even in a formal commission type setting. They said, ‘Sure you can speak but keep it to five minutes.’ So she got up and raised more questions about their 990s and that she had been to their offices in Princeton, been to their office in DC.
And Brian was complaining: ‘We don’t have time to prepare our 990s. We’ve been harassed by journalists and individuals and we haven’t had time to prepare all these 990s’ – which is, you know, total bullshit. They’re never in their office – their little one-room office.
Anyway – her testimony then raised more doubt about their credibility and the commission chair asked Brian Brown and his attorney to come back up and testify about thee charges. ‘Do you have anything to respond to that?’ So they both did and said, ‘Oh, this is not true. We’ve always made them available.’
The commissioners ask questions
Then the questions started. And I know there are three lawyers of the five commissioners on there and they started their cross-examination. And it unraveled for Brian and this one guy – a very prominent attorney – I saw him on his own cable show yesterday – said, ‘I think there are too many questions here. I think this commission should investigate.’ I think his name is Walter McKee (Democrat – Hallowell).
Brian didn’t do well. I think the fact that he’s been untruthful was pretty transparent. And when they were done testifying, and this Mr. McKee again said – they started discussion but then it turned into a motion, which was immediately seconded to open an investigation – to overrule the staff report.
Fred gets emotional
My heart started pounding. I got all emotional. It was literally pulling victory out of the jaws of defeat. It was a done deal, I thought. And then it all came down to: is there a third vote in this five member commission? And this one very distinguished gentleman on the right – Francis (Marsano – Republican – Belfast) – he chimed in and said, ‘Yeah, I think there are too many questions here.’ He added to the chorus. And suddenly there’s a third vote. And the other two spoke up – and you could tell these people came in with a set idea. And then the chairman (Michael P. Friedman, Chair – Unenrolled – Bangor) amplified his position and said, ‘I don’t know if I can change anyone’s mind up here but I think this is not a good idea.’
The investigation will have ripple effects
So it was 3-2 when the vote came. And what was really exciting is – I’m new to this. So I walk out and there are three television cameras set up interviewing Brian Brown already. And there were several radio stations. This commission – I doubt gets a lot of coverage. The capitol press corps – and I visited them all yesterday – there are four in the basement of the capitol building.
Anyway – I spoke to all the press. It was like a little impromptu press conference. It was very moving, very emotional time because I think over a long period of time – I think this will make a huge difference in keeping our opponents in check a little bit.
They’ve been doing this without any kind of regard for the law – you know since the Mormons got involved in Hawaii in 1995. And they’ve done it in 30 states and they’re trying to do it in their 31st state. And in California, the complaint was filed after the election; here, ahead of the election. And had we been unsuccessful, we have at least accomplished that there’s much more scrutiny on the National Organization for Marriage and our other opponents because the campaign reports will get much more scrutiny.
That report that came out in July – and I was out of the country when I saw that thing – and no one had questioned it so I thought, well, I’m the guy to do it. That’s my business (political consulting) – that’s what I’ve done: I’ve read thousands of campaign reports and I’ve produced hundreds. And I talked to Cary Davidson (financial lawyer, board chair of Equality California) and he just said it is obviously money laundering. Cautious Cary, I call him – because that’s what he does for a living. There’s no way these three organizations have that kind of money in their treasury. Focus on the Family maybe – but these three others raised and contributed and didn’t identify their donors.
So Cary and I worked together and complained and I had his professional expertise as an attorney and as a treasurer to many of these organizations so it was a good team. And I did it really without any other assistance and I’m so thrilled they’re going to look into these organizations.
No delay in the investigation
You’d have to talk to the commission – but they never made any comment about delaying the investigation until after the election. The impression was that it would begin now. Maybe the commission will come out with a statement on the timing, which is very important. But it was never, ever said we’re not doing this until after the election.
We were not sworn in. But the lies will come out. Brian Brown did a sworn statement that was included (in the staff report – it’s about page 180-181) and that was his big smoking gun – that was included in the staff report.”