Sep. 15, 2009
Prop. 8 Supporters Subpoena Activist Who Revealed Contributors
By Matthew Pordum Daily Journal Staff Writer
SACRAMENTO In its continuing efforts to protect the identity of those who bankrolled the campaign to pass Proposition 8, lawyers for The National Organization for Marriage have issued a subpoena for one of the leaders behind the opposition, Californians Against Hate founder Fred Karger, who led boycotts and created websites outing top contributors.
The subpoena compels Karger to produce the group’s financial records and all communications and documentation regarding affiliated websites and the dissemination of donor information. It also directs him to appear for a deposition on October 13th.
“This is harassment and they are trying to silence me,” said Karger, who points out that he’s not a party to the case. “I’m a citizen activist, and my organization is just me, funded entirely by myself versus the power of a group who has millions and millions of dollars behind it.”
The subpoena, served over the Labor Day weekend, stems from a lawsuit filed in federal court in Sacramento in January by The National Organization for Marriage against California Secretary of State Debra Bowen, Attorney General Jerry Brown and FPPC Chairman Ross Johnson. ProtectMarriage.com v. Debra Bowen, 09-0058.
The group referred a reporter to its lawyer, Illinois-based James Bopp Jr. of Bopp, Coleson & Bostrom. Bopp did not return several calls seeking comment.
According to court records, the group is challenging the constitutionality of campaign finance disclosure requirements, claiming donors to Proposition 8 have been ravaged by e-mails, phone calls, postcards and even death threats.
In the suit, Bopp claims that the requirements of California’s Political Reform Act of 1974 are unconstitutional by virtue of the First and Fourteenth Amendments.
Karger’s website, californiansag.wpengine.com, currently lists the names, addresses and donation amounts for the top 12 contributors to the Yes on Proposition 8 campaign, under the heading “Dishonor Roll.”
The Yes on 8 campaign raised nearly $30 million and won the ballot battle over gay marriage last November by a vote of 52 percent.
Karger contends the subpoena is simply an act of revenge for the complaints he filed with the Fair Political Practices Commission against the Mormon Church for its alleged failure to report non-monetary contributions to the Yes on 8 campaign.
“This is all part of the PR [public relations] offensive being carried out by the Mormon Church,” Karger said.
The Utah-based church did not directly donate to the campaign, but its members provided millions of dollars to it.
The Mormon Church is not a party to the January lawsuit.
California Attorney General Jerry Brown is defending the political reform act, arguing in court that disclosure requirements assist the state in detecting efforts to hide the identities of large donors and illegal spending of political funds for personal use.
“Political democracy demands open debate, including prompt disclosure of the identities of campaign donors,” Brown said in a prepared statement.
The most recent action in the case came on Jan. 28, when U.S. Eastern District Judge Morrison C. England Jr. turned down the Yes on 8 group’s request for a preliminary injunction exempting the group from campaign disclosure laws, saying that he was not persuaded that the threats were serious enough.
The group’s subsequent report, made public Feb. 2, included its first disclosure of “major donors” who had given more than $10,000 to the campaign since June 30, 2008.
The Sacramento case is not the only effort by anti-gay rights groups to roll back campaign finance disclosure laws.
Bopp filed suit against the Washington Secretary of State July 28 to prevent the state from releasing the names and addresses of more than 138,500 Washington citizens who signed a petition in favor of Referendum 71.
The ballot referendum asks voters in Washington this November whether they want to expand domestic partnership rights and obligations in the state’s originally limited domestic partnership legislation.
Washington Governor Christine Gregoire signed off on an expansion of rights for domestic partners in May, but opponents of that move rounded up 137,689 signatures to have the issue brought to voters this year.
In an enormous win for the group, a federal district judge ruled on Thursday that Washington officials were not allowed to reveal the names of those who signed the petition.