HRC Blog

Supreme Court Rejects NOM’s Maine Lawsuit, Clears Way for State Ethics Sanctions

This morning, the Supreme Court again declined to review NOM’s challenge to Maine’s campaign finance laws, dealing yet another legal setback to an organization that has grown accustomed to them in its multi-year crusade to operate secretly and evade donor disclosure.

The case, NOM v. McKee, grew out of a complaint filed by Fred Karger in 2009 and an investigation launched by the Maine Ethics Commission in response to NOM’s failure to disclose donors to its Maine ballot measure efforts. NOM spent $1.9 million in 2009 to narrowly defeat Question 1 and rescind the marriage equality law that had been passed by the legislature and signed by the Governor. During that time NOM expressly solicited contributions to support the Maine campaign but refused to report these donors, as required by state law. As the Attorney General stated in its Supreme Court brief, “NOM is a sophisticated national political advocacy organization … seeking to prevent Maine citizens from learning who is trying to influence their vote on ballot questions.”

Campaign disclosure laws enjoy broad public support across the spectrum and are critical in a time when spending on elections has hit record levels. For all of the criticism of Citizens United, a less recognized part of the decision upheld disclosure requirements as vital to ensuring transparency. Even Justice Scalia, in responding to another NOM-affiliated case in 2010 (Doe v. Reed), wrote that “I do not look forward to a society which … campaigns anonymously and even exercises the direct democracy of initiative and referendum hidden from public scrutiny and protected from the accountability of criticism.”

The Court supported that view by rejecting once again NOM’s crusade for secrecy. As a result, Maine’s investigation will continue, and anti-LGBT organizations such as NOM will be required to play by the same election rules that others do.      

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