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NOM’s Poor Fundraising Performance Extends Into Washington State

National Organization for Marriage, which is dedicated to depriving same-sex couples of the freedom to marry in the United States, experienced a sharp decline in contributions between 2010 and 2011. Donations fell from $9.1 million down to $6.2 million, according to public IRS documents. Likewise Preserve Marriage Washington, the NOM-backed group in Washington that opposed the state’s freedom to marry law and Referendum 74, had its own fundraising problems this year.

On Nov. 6 the Washington electorate voted 53.7% to 46.3% to approve the freedom to marry law. As if to explain away PMW’s failure, PMW chair Joseph Backholm opined that Preserve Marriage Washington had been “outspent by a factor of five- or six-to-one” by the freedom to marry campaign.

But the question isn’t how much PMW was outspent. The real question is, was PMW able to raise the funds it felt that it needed to run a successful campaign? Backholm seems to be deflecting attention away from the devastating truth that Preserve Marriage Washington failed to meet its own fundraising goals.

From day one of its campaign, PMW made clear to supporters that they needed to raise $4 million.

Joseph Backholm, chairman and treasurer of Preserve Marriage Washington

“The R-74 campaign will cost approximately $4 million when it is all said and done,” wrote Joseph Backholm on March 12 in one of PMW’s first e-mails. “It will be up to the people of Washington to provide the lion’s share of the money needed to preserve marriage in our state.”

Chris Plante, NOM’s Rhode Island operative sent to Washington to serve as PMW’s deputy campaign manager, told volunteers during training sessions in March and April that “I’m not going to pull any punches with you, it’s your job to win this…$4 million dollars doesn’t come out of my checkbook. …we’re relying on Washingtonians to fund this endeavor.”

Backholm repeated the $4 million figure numerous times in subsequent PMW e-mails. As late as August 28, he was assuring supporters that “As we’ve said we think $4 million dollars will get the job done. That’s a lot of money, but it’s a safe investment.”

Washingtonians apparently didn’t think PMW was a good investment, since public records show that Washington-based individuals, businesses and organizations donated only $1.3 million to PMW, a paltry 35% of PMW’s $4 million fundraising goal. And even though NOM poured over $1.1 million in cash and in-kind contributions into the PMW campaign, they couldn’t close the gaping fiscal chasm left by PMW’s Washington supporters. As a result, Preserve Marriage Washington experienced a 36% budget shortfall of over $1.4 million.

“We have the ability to raise money effectively, not just in Washington, but across the country,” Chris Plante, speaking for NOM, boasted to Seattle Times back in February. Apparently he was wrong. And considering what he must have known about NOM’s very poor fundraising totals from 2011, it was a misleading and disingenuous statement at best.

Washington voters have for some years elected and re-elected pro-equality legislative majorities and governor, and in 2009 became the first electorate in the nation to approve a same-sex relationship recognition law (domestic partnerships) at the polls. With that history in mind, it isn’t too surprising that most Washingtonians would withhold funds from an organization opposed to granting marriage licenses to loving, committed same-sex couples and would vote for the freedom to marry with their wallets as well as with their ballots.

Joseph Backholm may not be ready to publicly acknowledge this reality, but it hasn’t been lost on local anti-gay honcho Rev. Joe Fuiten of Cedar Park Church in Bothell, Washington, who admitted to Seattle Times that “I respect elections. That’s what’s so painful here — it shows this is the society people want.”

Indeed it does.

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Laurel Ramseyer

Laurel Ramseyer