Post submitted by Charlie Joughin, HRC Press Secretary
A Maine enforcement action made public today indicates that the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) may have intentionally violated a variety of state laws in 2009, including not only Maine but also Iowa and New Hampshire campaign finance laws. The revelation is contained in a scathing investigative report by the Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices, which finds that NOM committed a “significant violation of law” in 2009 and that recommends civil penalties and donor disclosure. The Maine report also notes a pattern of deceit in which NOM failed to be truthful with investigators.
The report details (p. 28-29) an e-mail from NOM president Brian Brown to a board member, Luiz Tellez, on July 7, 2009 that contained a draft of a proposed budget to be provided to a long-standing major donor who was NOM’s largest contributor in 2009. The draft budget prepared for this donor asked for, besides $200,000 for the Maine referendum, $300,000 for “influencing legislative elections in Iowa, with the goal of ‘flip[ping] the Legislature” and $300,000 for “defeating Governor John Lynch of New Hampshire and to flip both houses of the New Hampshire Legislature.” Two days later, the donor contributed $750,000 to NOM. In October 2009, the donor contributed an additional $1.5 million. The report concluded, “The email demonstrates a willingness by [Brown] to provide very specific information to NOM’s largest donor concerning how NOM would use the donation to fund projects such as the Maine referendum.”
The revelation of NOM’s apparent solicitation of significant funds for Iowa elections is stunning in light of events that occurred at approximately the same time in 2009 when Iowa regulators warned NOM against such activities and NOM denied engaging in them.
On August 27, 2009, the Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board sent a strongly-worded letter to Brian Brown in response to complaints that NOM was soliciting undisclosed funds for electoral activities stating, “If people are going to donate to your organization for express advocacy activities in Iowa and those donations exceed $750 in aggregate in a calendar year, your organization will be required to form a PAC and disclose those contributors. The independent expenditure process in Iowa is not a vehicle to shield political contributors.”
On August 31, 2009, NOM’s attorney Barry Bostrom responded that these allegations were “unfounded and scurrilous” and that “NOM’s independent expenditures are being paid for by funds from its general treasury. No funds have been solicited by NOM for Iowa independent expenditures, and no designated contributions have been received for Iowa independent expenditures.”
In fact, it now appears that just over a month before NOM’s letter, NOM solicited its largest donor to designate $300,000 to support its Iowa electoral activities in violation of Iowa law and contrary to NOM’s lawyer’s assertion.
“NOM’s web of deceit seems to grow by the day,” said Fred Sainz, HRC’s Vice President of Communications. “Not only did NOM clearly violate Maine law but there are now legitimate questions whether they also broke Iowa law in 2009 and, to top it off, made false statements to a government agency. As we’ve seen time and time again, NOM is willing to play fast and loose with the truth about marriage equality and LGBT Americans while concurrently engaging in a nationwide effort to cover up their activities and then lie to the public and government investigators.”
NOM was subject to an investigation last year by the Iowa Ethics Board, prompted by Fred Karger, for a similar failure to disclose donors who supported its efforts related to the retention election of Iowa Supreme Court justices.
Questions also exist whether NOM was similarly required to register a PAC and disclose its donors in New Hampshire. HRC intends to notify authorities in both states of the revelations in the Maine investigation.