CommunityPam's House Blend

Preserve Marriage Washington’s Missing Campaign Finance Numbers

The news out of Washington state is that Washington United for Marriage, the campaign defending the state’s new marriage equality law by supporting approval of Referendum 74, has outpaced the anti-equality campaign Preserve Marriage Washington 13 to 1 in fundraising.

Don’t believe it.

Preserve Marriage Washington and their parent organization, National Organization for Marriage, have neglected to report major expenditures and contributions, according to a complaint filed with Washington’s Public Disclosure Commission.

By incompletely reporting their campaign finances, NOM and PMW can create a false image of themselves as underdogs while using undisclosed amounts of shadowy cash to prepare their campaign. Their falsely low donation reports may also foster complacency in marriage equality supporters, who erroneously conclude that NOM and PMW are not serious players.

NOM has a history of withholding legally-mandated campaign finance information (e.g. here and here), as does and Joseph Backholm, PMW’s chairman and treasurer (here).

Preserve Marriage Washington and NOM are “inextricably linked”, according to the complaint.

The web address is registered to the National Organization for Marriage, and the only contact listed for the website is [NOM’s president Brian] Brown. Mr. Brown serves as “Chairman and Founder” of the company that processes Preserve Marriage Washington’s donations. PMW’s Campaign Manager [Frank Schubert] is NOM’s Political Director and PMW’s Deputy Campaign Manager [Chris Plante] is NOM Rhode Island’s Executive Director.

National Organization for Marriage “has failed to report expenditures for PMW’s use of its staff” and “has failed to report any contributions” although it has repeatedly solicited funds to defeat Referendum 74, according to the complaint. In fact, NOM has failed to even register in Washington as a political committee.

The complaint goes on to state that Preserve Marriage Washington “has not reported expenditures for the services of its Campaign Manager, Frank Schubert, its Deputy Campaign Director, Chris Plante, or its Chairman and Treasurer, Joseph Backholm”. The only expenses PMW has reported for services provided by senior staff were for Brian Brown and Chris Plante in February.

It’s clear from newspaper reports, campaign emails and campaign events that Backholm, Plante and Schubert have been working for PMW since then. Just today NOM sent an e-mail penned by Frank Schubert which states that “Frank Schubert is NOM’s National Political Director. He managed the successful marriage campaigns in California, Maine and North Carolina and is managing all four campaigns on the November ballot this year.”

So why isn’t NOM obeying the law and reporting Mr. Schubert’s time as a donation to PMW? And why, in turn, isn’t PMW obeying the law and reporting payment for Mr. Schubert’s services? Mr. Schubert and his PR firm were paid over $2 million for their anti-gay marriage campaign work in California, Maine and North Carolina. They’re not doing this for free. Neither are Plante or Backholm.

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Laurel Ramseyer

Laurel Ramseyer