The National Organization for Marriage spent at least $2.7 million pushing their nationwide anti-gay agenda during the 2010 election cycle. The outcome? It became clear that jobs and the economy, not marriage, topped voters’ concerns. In fact, LGBT issues had no or minimal influence on how or why people voted.
NOM Election Report Card: Anti-Gay Investment Continues to Deliver Hate with Mixed Results
Although voters were resoundingly focused on the economy this midterm election – and ranked social issues, to include same-sex marriage dead last– the so-called National Organization for Marriage (NOM), a Washington D.C.-based anti-gay, fringe organization, put an estimated $5 million into the 2009-10 election cycle to influence the outcome in dozens of federal and state races, according to campaign finance filings, NOM and press reports.
While NOM made significant investments this cycle, its electoral win/loss record is decidedly mixed. In fact, NOM lost more races than it won. NOM endorsed at least 29 candidates. As of Wednesday afternoon, the National Organization for Marriage had lost 19 of these races, won eight, and the remaining two (the Minnesota governor’s race and a New Hampshire statehouse candidate) were undecided. With the exception of a judicial election they hijacked in Iowa, NOM lost its most expensive and high-profile gambits in California and New Hampshire and all of its races in Maine and the District of Columbia. And it fought campaign finance laws all along the way.
The National Organization for Marriage lost signature battles for governor in New Hampshire and Rhode Island, lost both the gubernatorial and U.S. Senate races in California, and its star candidate there, Andy Pugno, vying for State Assembly, lost. On the other side of the ledger, NOM was successful in ousting three Iowa Supreme Court justices by spending more than $600,000 and hijacking a retention election that generally attracts little notice or money.
As of October, an unofficial estimate of spending for the midterm election is $2.7 million. For the 2009-10 election cycle, NOM spent more than $5 million. (Again, an unofficial estimate pending state-by-state filing deadlines.)
In California, the National Organization for Marriage joined with the Latino Partnership for Conservative Principles and together spent $1 million on a statewide bus tour supporting U.S. Senate candidate Carly Fiorina. (NOM has since scrubbed their site, but you can view a screenshot of their original press release here.) Incumbent Senator Barbara Boxer was a special target for NOM (at least $220,000 in advertising) because she is one of the few senators still serving who voted against DOMA (the so-called Defense of Marriage Act) in 1996. Check out the National Organization for Marriage’s independent expenditure filings here and here.
In New Hampshire, NOM claims it spent $1 million on television ads targeting the re-election of Gov. John Lynch, who signed the equal marriage bill into law.
In Minnesota, NOM bought $200,000 worth of TV ads in the governor’s race, targeting DFL candidate Mark Dayton, and Independence Party candidate Tom Horner, for supporting marriage equality. (That race is still undecided.)
In Iowa, NOM spent approximately $600,000 in the state’s generally sleepy judicial retention election because the three state Supreme Court justices were involved in the unanimous decision holding that same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry.
What the Elections Say About the National Organization for Marriage
By targeting federal and state races, the National Organization for Marriage established itself as the leading anti-gay political force in the country. NOM started three years ago with a budget of $500,000. The group’s budget has swelled to at least $10 million, according to the National Organization for Marriage’s president.
NOM’s president Brian Brown moved to increase the group’s political exposure and activity by announcing the establishment of ActRight.com, which “offers conservatives a central hub for online activism that will hopefully grow in strength to counter” progressive online fundraising.
The National Organization for Marriage’s engagement in Iowa had little to do with Iowa. It had everything to do with instilling fear in judges across the country. As its president, Brian Brown, said last month:
“Many people…are looking at the Iowa judicial retention election [and] actually saying this is the most important election because it will send a clear signal to the Supreme Court and other judges that they don’t have the right to make up the law out of thin air. If the people of Iowa…remove these judges, there will be reverberations throughout the country all the way to the United States Supreme Court.”
In addition, NOM inserted itself in legislative or district races in New Hampshire, New York, the District of Columbia, Rhode Island, Maine, California, and Minnesota. In most of these states/jurisdictions, same-sex marriage is either legal or under consideration. NOM is looking to either contain further advances in places like New York, Rhode Island, Maine and Minnesota, or to defeat pro-equality legislators, elected officials or council members in New Hampshire and the District of Columbia.
In its local election effort, NOM was unsuccessful in defeating a single council member in the District of Columbia. In California, State Assembly candidate Andy Pugno, the architect of Prop 8 and its chief lawyer lost. In that race alone, NOM spent $112,000. In Maine, where NOM was the largest single contributor to Question 1, which reversed the marriage equality law in 2009, NOM lost every single legislative race.
Similar to other secretive political organizations this cycle, including American Crossroads GPS, the National Organization for Marriage has kept donors to its campaign efforts under wraps and challenged campaign finance laws to maintain donor anonymity.
The National Organization for Marriage filed lawsuits in Rhode Island and New York arguing it should be able to run ads on behalf of Rhode Island gubernatorial candidate John Robitaille and New York gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino, respectively, without abiding by state laws governing campaign finance disclosure. The National Organization for Marriage was unsuccessful in both lawsuits.
Last year, the National Organization for Marriage received a warning from Iowa’s ethics agency. Engaged in a special election there, NOM promised supporters they could contribute anonymously—without disclosure. The problem is that this promise violated state election law.
NOM remains under investigation by the Maine Ethics Commission for refusing to disclose the donors to its $1.9-million campaign which overturned Maine’s marriage equality law in 2009.
In California, the National Organization for Marriage contributed more than $1.8 million to the Prop. 8 campaign. The group sued the state in federal court to avoid disclosing its donors. California law requires campaign committees to report information for any contributors of $100 or more, which is then made publicly available.