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NOM Exposed is a campaign-style operation that tracks and challenges the anti-gay National Organization for Marriage as it tries to influence elections and legislative campaigns across the country.

Sock Puppets and Sugar Daddies: NOM and GOProud hand in hand

July 31, 2010

By Rick Jacobs

(Cross-posted at Huffington Post)

The National Organization for Marriage (NOM) is halfway through its 20-state “One Man, One Woman” tour at which approximately one man and one woman seem to show up for them at each stop.   But what NOM lacks in popular, grassroots support, it more than makes up for in apparently laundered money. Wednesday, NOM announced that it would spend untold sums to advertise in Spanish in California in support of Carly Fiorina, the failed CEO who wants to buy a Senate seat.

Not to be outdone, a few miles south of here in San Diego, a year-old right wing group called GOProud has carved out a niche for itself as the NOM of the gay right wing.  GOProud, a so-called 527 organization that exists to influence the outcome of federal elections, is the first “gay” organization to accept funds from Doug Manchester and his Hyatt Hotel in San Diego that has been under boycott for two years.  Mr. Manchester denies workers their rights and put $125,000 into the Prop. 8 campaign just as it qualified for the ballot.

What do these two organizations have in common?  Quite a lot, it turns out.

NOM is under investigation by the California Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) for failure to disclose contributors to the 2008 campaign to take marriage away from Americans.  It is also under court order in Maine to disclose its contributors to the ballot measure there last November that took marriage away from more Americans.  Both of these governmental investigations and actions are largely due to Fred Karger, the intrepid co-founder of the boycott against Manchester and now a candidate for the Republican nomination for president.

NOM is accused of laundering large sums of money directed to it by the Catholic and Mormon Churches into campaigns, ads and even tours.  As Courage Campaign and our friends at Freedom to Marry have seen on our NOM Tour Tracker, the money is not used to get out crowds; it is used instead for fancy buses, staff and most importantly for raw politics.  NOM is the classic, if well-heeled sock puppet.

But what of GOProud?  It received at least $16,000 from Mr. Manchester’s entities which constitutes 86% of its total reported budget.  That’s right.  GOProud seems proud to go right to a sugar daddy who happily wrote checks to another front organization, apparently so Mr. Manchester and his Hyatt could say, “We’re okay now. Even though we paid to take marriage away from potentially millions of people, we’ve just given money to a right-wing gay organization, the purpose of which is to raise and spend money to support candidates who oppose marriage and equality for all.”

Are you following this?  It’s complicated, but it’s in the tradition of Andrew Breitbart and right-wing dirty tricks.  For two solid years, UNITE HERE, the hotel and restaurant workers union, has stood firm with groups like Courage Campaign and the entire LGBT community in San Diego to boycott Mr. Manchester’s property. UNITE HERE fought diligently against Prop. 8 and has continued to demand equality at every opportunity. For two years, Mr. Manchester has suffered a huge loss in revenue.  And for nearly two years, Mr. Manchester has retained the services of people like gay PR man Howard Bragman, who makes money by advising stars on coming out of the closet and donors to Prop. 8 in gay-washing their dirty money.  (Mr. Bragman wrote here on HuffPo that he supports boycotts, but that seemed to change when Mr. Manchester started to pay him to break the boycott that he said he supported.)

The irony of it all is that Mr. Manchester and his advisors seem to have found their ideal fake solution to their anti-American, anti-equality money machine. They can give money to GOProud so that GOProud can be a gay voice in support of anti-gay and regressive candidates such as Mary Bono Mack, Oklahoma’s Tom Coburn and Carly Fiorina.  Indeed, GOProud advertised against Tom Campbell, the only Republican in the Senate race who supports full equality for LGBT people.  GOProud proves that self-loathing knows no bounds.

Courage and our allies at UNITE HERE and virtually the entire LGBT community will proudly continue to honor the boycott of Manchester hotels as we all become increasingly wary of Hyatt itself. We’ll also continue to track NOM on its tour and its money hose so that the true movement for equality and American progress can prevail.

Sock puppets and sugar daddies. It could be the title of a book about the end of right wing, anti-family, fear mongers.  In fact, it’s a sad commentary on desperate people who realize that they stand at the fringes of America and history itself.  Until progress prevails, we’ll hold them all accountable.