State commission to investigate gay marriage repeal backer

State commission to investigate gay marriage repeal backer

Friday, October 2, 2009 2:05 PM EDT

AUGUSTA — The Commission on Governmental Ethics and Elections Practices voted 3-2 Thursday to launch an investigation of the Stand for Marriage Maine Political Action Committee’s primary funder, the National Organization for Marriage (NOM). Both are working for a Nov. 3 people’s veto of a same-sex marriage law the Legislature passed and Gov. John Baldacci signed this spring.
A referendum to repeal that law — initiated by a petition drive — will appear as Question 1 on the Nov. 3 state ballot.

The commission’s decision reversed staff recommendations and followed nearly 40 minutes of conflicting assertions by Fred Karger, executive director of Californians Against Hate; Barry Bostrom and Brian Brown, of the National Organization for Marriage; and Danielle Truszkovsky, a freelance journalist from Florida.

Karger asserted that NOM was attempting to circumvent Maine election law by obscuring the names of its donors. He submitted dozens of documents dating to Aug. 13 and brought additional material to Thursday’s commission meeting.
Brown, NOM’s executive director, and his attorney, Bostrom, called Karger’s requests nothing more than attempts to identify those opposed to same-sex marriage as targets for future hate crimes. Each reiterated NOM’s compliance with Maine election law, explaining NOM does not solicit donations for work in specific states and instead conducts more generalized fundraising drives to support causes through its general treasury.

Of its effort to protect donor identities, Truszkovsky indicated NOM failed to disclose basic nonprofit financial statements, an Internal Revenue Service 990, and had filed amendments to the 990 three times. She told commissioners less than 1 percent of nonprofit organizations amend the disclosure one time, indicating three amendments in one reporting period was highly unusual.
Brown and Bostrom said the forms are now available on NOM’s Web site, http://www.nationformarriage.org/, in part because repeated requests for the public documents had interfered with staff work.

It was Karger’s documents, however, that piqued the interest of Commissioner Walter McKee, who seized on newsletters and other material specifically citing NOM’s interest in preserving traditional unions in Maine.

McKee seemed particularly incensed by one newsletter, where more than half the content was dedicated to funding efforts in Maine.

Bostrom responded that NOM’s e-mail newsletters solicited funds to “cover the costs of sending out e-mail newsletters.” Because NOM did not receive more than $5,000 from the newsletters, Bostrom said Maine law does not require NOM to register in the state as a political action committee. He also refuted arguments that NOM would be required to register as a ballot question initiative committee under Maine law.

This is not Karger’s first attempt to challenge supporters of same-sex marriage repeal initiatives. He asked the California Fair Political Practices Commission to investigate the connection between NOM and the Church of Latter Day Saints and its purported donations to Proposition 8, the 2007 measure that repealed same-sex marriage in California.

Brown told commissioners the Californian commission had not issued a finding of wrongdoing against NOM, which raised $1.8 million in less than two years in support of a California PAC supporting Proposition 8. Brown further asserted Karger’s efforts were merely to expose the names of those who consider marriage a union between one man and one woman.

Maine’s referendum has earned national interest, a point reiterated by those speaking before the commission Thursday. Karger traveled from California; Bostrom traveled from Indiana; Brown from New Jersey; and, Truszkovsky from Florida.

No one from Maine spoke in favor of or in opposition to the request to investigate National Organization for Marriage.

The proximity of the vote did not weigh on commissioners, who urged staff to review allegations given what one commissioner called the “slippery slope” of groups attempting to circumvent Maine election law.

Of the $343,689 in donations reported by Stand for Marriage Maine PAC as of June 2009, Karger wrote that religious organizations and James Dobson’s Focus on the Family fund donated all but $400 of the total raised.

He alleges the amount of donations to NOM, and the organization’s mission, makes NOM subject to Maine’s election laws.

McKee, of Hallowell, was initially inclined to follow staff recommendations, yet was persuaded by Karger’s arguments.

“There is a large amount of money in this campaign that concerns me, and I have to say authorizing investigations in circumstances like this is appropriate,” McKee said.

“I am troubled by the slippery slope when entities can circumvent the intent of what our laws seek to cover,” Commissioner Andre Duchette of Brunswick said. “I do think an investigation is warranted.”

Outgoing commission chairman Michael Friedman of Bangor disagreed, saying the pattern of national money flowing to Maine elections was the norm, not the exception. He urged commissioners to review statutes.

Commissioner Edward Youngblood of Bangor also voiced opposition. “There is no reason to get involved in a time-consuming investigation,” he said.

Commissioner Francis Marsano of Belfast said the commission needs to focus on the intent of the law.

“Time is not of the essence,” Marsano said, adding commission staff could not be expected to complete the investigation by the Nov. 3 election.

“This investigation should be done in a way that will produce the kinds of results Commissioner McKee was proposing,” he said.

McKee and Duchette, both Democrats, and Marsano, a Republican, voted to order the investigation. Republican Youngblood, and Friedman, who is not enrolled in a political party, opposed.

Marc Mutty, chairman of Stand for Marriage Maine, released a statement blasting the decision. “Stand for Marriage Maine is in complete compliance with Maine campaign disclosure laws,” he wrote. “The decision today by the Maine Ethics Commission to open an inquiry based on frivolous allegations concerning the fundraising procedures of one of our allies, the National Organization for Marriage, is an unfortunate abuse of power. It is yet another example of the harassment that follows supporters of traditional marriage. The split 3-2 vote overruled the independent professional recommendation of the commission staff that an investigation was not warranted. Instead, a bare majority of commissioners agreed with a California-based hate group that exists for the sole purpose of harassing marriage supporters …”

If California’s investigation is any indication, Maine’s probe will carry on well past Election Day. Reached for comment Thursday, Roman Porter, executive director of CFPP, said the California investigation spurred by Karger’s complaint is in its 11th month. Porter was unwilling to provide a timeline of when the investigation might end.Jonathan Wayne, executive director of Maine’s ethics commission, sought clarification of the staff role in the investigation and was authorized to subpoena Brown, through attorney Bostrom, as needed.The commission meets next on Nov. 19.

news@timesrecord.com

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Maggie & Brian — Sign the Oath!

Brian Brown not happy at his press conference right after the Maine Ethics Commission
voted to investigate his National Organization for Marriage Last Thursday

I was personally attacked last Friday by Brian Brown in an email to his over 500,000 supporters and in a NOM press release. Brian is very unhappy that his organization is now being investigated by Maine, its second state, and lashed out at me.

LINK TO BRIAN BROWN’S NASTY EMAIL: CLICK HERE

LINK TO NOM’S PRESS RELEASE: CLICK HERE

I felt it was necessary to respond to Brian’s tirade.

I have recently been subpoenaed by Maggie Gallagher and Brian Brown and their Magical Mysterious Mormon Front Group, the National Organization for Marriage (NOM).

NOM and its law firm, Bopp, Coleson and Bostrom of Terre Haute, Indiana, have been viciously attacking me for over 15 months, with all the power of an over $12 million organization, simply because I am after the truth.

NOM heads, Maggie Gallagher and Brian Brown do not like the truth. They both claim to be protecting marriage and children. They are both doing just the opposite.

Their creator, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter- day Saints (Mormon Church) has led the national battle against LGBT civil rights in this country for over 20 years. They have repeatedly lied and covered-up the truth, while harming millions of gays and lesbians.

This cruel trio is on the brink of finally getting caught. If California and Maine, the two states that are currently investigating them, find that all their deception was done willfully and with intent, then this merry band could face criminal charges and be hauled off to jail.

Maine joined California last week in a courageous vote to investigate NOM. The State of Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices stood up to NOM’s threats of legal action at a very emotional meeting in Augusta last Thursday. By a 3 to 2 vote the Commission agreed with the complaint that I filed, and felt that there were too many inconsistencies and unanswered questions. They voted to investigate the National Organization for Marriage.

By giving $250,000, NOM is by far the biggest contributor to Question 1 on the November 3rd ballot in Maine. They have not disclosed any of their donor’s names, nor filed as a PAC. Question 1 would take away the recently granted right for same-sex couples to marry in Maine. If it passes, NOM will succeed in banning same-sex marriage in the 31st state.

NOM’s attorney, Barry Bostrom, claimed at the hearing that the Maine election law could be unconstitutional, and thus threatened to sue the state just as his firm has done in California. Bostrom’s firm filed suit in federal court against every major California election official earlier this year after the California Fair Political Practices Commission decided to investigate NOM’s creator, the Mormon Church.

What’s wrong with these people? Why are they working so hard to harm so many? What is their true motivation? Why do they continue to lie and cover-up at every turn?

Well, I for one am fed up with their whining about being the victim here, when in fact, the very opposite is true. They raise millions and millions of dollars to take away the rights from a minority. They beat down people and cast an entire minority as 2nd class citizens – not equal to them.

They hide their federal tax returns for two years until just before Thursday’s hearing in Maine. NOM’s IRS 990 filings for 2007 and 2008 magically appeared on its web site during the wee hours of Thursday morning. I got tipped off right before the hearing, and I was able to point out the truth to the Ethics Commission. Commission members questioned Brian Brown about that. He said that he wasn’t sure when they were posted. And still no sign of the NOM 501(c)3 Educational Fund’s (Tax ID Number 26-0240498) 2008 return. So,

Maggie and Brian – SIGN THE OATH

Mr. Brian Brown and Ms. Maggie Gallagher, I am asking both of you to sign the oath below, in the hope that from here on, you will change course and tell the American public the truth about where all your money comes from and all that you are doing. It’s a simple oath, and one that you might recognize.

I do solemnly swear to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help me God.

You both are parents. Show your children that they can be proud of you, and that you will change your ways and conduct all your activities with truth, openness and integrity.

We at Californians Against Hate live by this golden rule, and we hope that you and your backers will agree from this day forward to fully comply with the oath posted below.

I await your reply.

OATH FOR
NATIONAL ORGANIZATION FOR MARRIAGE

I do solemnly swear to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth so help me God.

_________________________ ________________________
Maggie Gallagher Brian S. Brown

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Statement by Fred Karger: Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices

Statement by Fred Karger
Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices
October 1, 2009

Thank you for responding to the complaint that I filed, and for holding this important hearing today. The Commission has been so cooperative throughout this process, and I am very grateful for that. Keeping our elections free from corruption is essential to a democracy. You have consistently done just that.

I originally was not going to testify here today, but after reading both of Mr. Bostrom’s letters responding to my charges, I felt compelled to raise some issues and pose some questions.

I have been keeping a watchful eye on the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) for the past 18 months. In California, NOM raised the bulk of the money to qualify Proposition 8 for the ballot. They came out of nowhere to become a huge force in that election. Now they are leading the fight against same-sex marriage across the country.

Their finances have always been clouded in mystery. They refuse to turn over any of their tax returns as required by federal law. We have repeatedly asked to see those records and so have many journalists. NOM refuses all requests. They feel they are above the law.

In one letter to you, however, Mr. Bostrom states that NOM raised $3.5 million in 2008 and will spend $7 million in 2009. That is the very first time they have said what they are spending, but who knows if it is true. They have made so many un-kept promises to release their 990 tax returns for 2007 and 2008, and have told so many different stories, that they cannot be trusted.

Funny thing, in the middle of the night last night, NOM finally released its way late 990 tax returns for 2007 and 2008 and posted them on their web site. This was done just in time for today’s meeting.

What we do know, is that NOM has sent out lots of email solicitations to raise money to be spent in Maine and several other states.

As a part of my complaint, I submitted 79 emails to the Commission that I was able to gather that NOM has sent out since November 4, 2008.

Of these, 16 mention Maine specifically, and directly ask for money. Mr. Bostrom claims that only two of these 16 solicitations should count against its $5,000 PAC reporting threshold.

And in another highly suspect claim, Mr. Bostrom states that these two email solicitations only raised a combined total of $295. That’s it? Only raised $147.50 per email? Highly unlikely.

On August 21, 2009 NOM Executive Director Brian Brown announced in a press release, “that we have passed a HUGE milestone: 500,000 activists have joined NOM’s merry band of marriage warriors.”

So we are supposed to believe that they raised only $147.50 per email from 500,000 supporters? Come on.

And Brian goes out of his way to state in fund-raising requests things like, “and unlike in California, every dollar you give to NOM’s Northeast Action Plan today is private, with no risk of harassment from gay marriage protestors.” Or “Donations to NOM are not tax-deductible and they are NOT public information, either.” Or “Your gift is confidential: no public disclosure!”

And NOM only raises $147.50 per email to 500,000 of its supporters?

Mr. Bostrom’s letters to the Commission admit guilt. They state that they are raising money for Maine, but claim that they are not covered by the Maine statute.

Mr. Bostrom threatens you by saying that your law is unconstitutional, that election laws are a burden and limit First Amendment Free Speech, while acknowledging that they broke the law. He says that the law doesn’t apply to his clients. Please don’t be intimidated by him.

One statement in Mr. Bostrom’s letter on behalf of NOM caught my attention. He stated emphatically that, “No other solicitations were made for ballot measure activities in Maine by email, direct mail, or other means. True? No.

NOM’s Inaugural News Letter that came out in July 2009 is devoted to the Maine election on Question 1, and the last line of the article is pretty clear, “Your support for NOM is critical to the success of the effort.”

How many other solicitations has NOM made to raise money for Maine? How else have they raised money? Where did they get the $250,000 that they gave Stand for Marriage Maine? They claim not from their emails. Then where?

If the Commission staff were to talk to all nine Board members of NOM individually, I’ll bet you could get these answers pretty quick.

Mr. Bostrom filled a very similar response to the Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board when charges of financial irregularities were filed against his client in August by One Iowa and the Interfaith Alliance of Iowa Action Fund.

The threshold for reporting as a PAC in Iowa is only $750, and NOM claims to be well under that just like they claim to be well under Maine’s of $5,000.

Maybe that is why they came up with the $295.00 as the only money they raised for Maine. They had to be well under both state’s limits after the fact, to explain why they broke the law by not forming a PAC.

I have spent 30 years in politics managing campaigns. I have filed and read literally thousands of campaign reports in probably 25 states. I have never seen this type of blatant disregard for election laws like I have seen with NOM in several states.

All I have done in Maine was to pull together evidence found in the public record and point out what I felt were campaign reporting irregularities. I just want to get to the truth.

I did that in California right after the election which led to the ongoing investigation of NOM by your counterpart there, the Fair Political Practices Commission.

My citizen activism in Maine and California has caused me to get subpoenaed by the National Organization for Marriage and its allies in a federal law suit. That suit was filed so they could keep their contributor’s names secret, just like Mr. Brown promised his donors giving to your election.

They are retaliating against me in an attempt to silence me and bully me by dragging me into federal court.

This is what they do to stop any attempt to shed transparency on their operation. I am not scared, because I know that I am doing the right thing. The Fair Political Practices Commission is not afraid to investigate NOM and its allies because they know that it is the right thing to do as well. I hope that the Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Elections Practices will stand up to their threats and scare tactics.

An investigation is the only way to get to the truth.

Today, October 1st marks the start of LGBT History month in this country. It began 15 years ago to encourage openness and honesty for those of us who happen to be gay, lesbian, bi-sexual or transgender.

Please don’t let NOM’s threats against your state deter the five of you from doing the right thing today, by always striving for openness and honesty in the electoral process.

Thank you very much.

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News Coverage of Maine Ethics Commission Investigation from Around the World!

News Coverage of Maine Ethics Commission Investigation from Around the World!

Maine Marriage Campaign Probe Gets OK

By GLENN ADAMS (AP) – 1 day ago

AUGUSTA, Maine — Maine’s campaign oversight board overruled a staff recommendation Thursday and authorized an investigation into fundraising by groups supporting the campaign to repeal the state’s gay marriage law in a Nov. 3 referendum.

The Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices voted 3-2 after some members said there was sufficient evidence to warrant a closer look at finance reporting by the National Organization for Marriage, a major contributor to Stand for Marriage Maine.

The latter group is leading the people’s veto campaign to repeal Maine’s legislatively enacted law recognizing same-sex marriages. Maine’s law, which was signed in May by Gov. John Baldacci, and the challenge forced by a petition drive have drawn national attention.

In the case before the ethics commission Thursday, Californians Against Hate founder Fred Karger complained that the Princeton, N.J.-based National Organization for Marriage is circumventing Maine law by not reporting the names of donors whose money is spent by the Maine campaign.

Karger’s whose group was formed to identify major donors in last year’s Proposition 8 campaign in California, in which voters overturned that state’s same-sex marriage law. Karger said NOM’s finances “have always been clouded in mystery.”

“They’re trying to shield their donors,” Karger said Thursday. “An investigation is the only way to the truth.”

NOM attorney Barry Bostrom said the organization’s policy is to collect donations not targeted for specific campaigns so donors will not have to fear business boycotts, property damage and other forms of harassment by same-sex marriage activists. Bostrom said NOM complies with state campaign financing laws in all states in which it’s active.

Brian Brown, NOM executive director, dismissed Karger’s complaint as “nothing more than an attempt to harass and intimidate those of us who believe in the core truth that marriage is between one man and one woman.”

Thirty states have voter-approved gay marriage bans in their constitutions, and federal law bars federal recognition of gay unions. Six states have passed laws or have been ordered by the courts to allow same-sex marriage, but the people’s veto fight has focused national attention on Maine.

“I do believe Maine is now the No. 1 fight throughout the country,” said Brown. “Of course it’s critical.”

While the state ethics commission has authorized an investigation into whether violations of Maine’s finance reporting law occurred, it did not issue a deadline for a finding, either before the Nov. 3 election or after it. The commission staff had concluded there was not enough evidence to justify an investigation.

Copyright © 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

More Coverage:

WGME CBS TV Portland, ME — http://www.wgme.com/newsroom/top_stories/videos/wgme_vid_753.shtml

WCSH NBC TV Portland, ME — http://www.wcsh6.com/news/local/story.aspx?storyid=109659&catid=2

San Francisco Examiner — http://www.sfexaminer.com/local/ap/63112492.html

Bangor Daily News — http://www.bangordailynews.com/detail/123348.html

Maine Bureau News — http://blog.taragana.com/n/maine-ethics-commission-approves-probe-of-anti-gay-marriage-fundraising-184173/

WBZ CBS Radio Boston — http://wbztv.com/wireapnewsme/Ethics.commission.approves.2.1219009.html

Maine News Update — http://updates.mainetoday.com/updates/gay-marriage-funds-to-be-investigated

Bay Windows — http://www.baywindows.com/index.php?ch=news&sc=blog&sc2=news&sc3=&id=97085#

Pam’s House Blend — http://pamshouseblend.com/diary/13294/press-release-from-fred-karger

America Blog — http://www.americablog.com/2009/09/newsmax-is-backing-away-from-obama-coup.html

Pink News UK — http://www.pinknews.co.uk/2009/10/02/anti-gay-national-organisation-for-marriage-to-have-finances-probed/#

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Californians Against Hate Encouraged by Maine Ethics Commission Decision

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Source: Californians Against Hate
On Thursday October 1, 2009
PRESS CONTACT:
Fred Karger
Founder, Californians Against Hate
Tel: (619) 592-2008
Email: info@californiansagainsthate.com

Californians Against Hate Encouraged by Maine Ethics Commission Decision
Allegations of Election Irregularities in Upcoming Election Will Be Investigated

Augusta, Maine, October 1, 2009 — Californians Against Hate is encouraged to learn the State of Maine’s Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices will further investigate accusations made against the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) and Stand for Marriage Maine PAC (SFMM).

Today’s hearing in Augusta, Maine resulted from allegations of election irregularities leveled by Californians Against Hate founder Fred Karger. Reacting to the Commission’s decision to pursue an investigation, Karger stated, “I’m extremely grateful for the courageous stand the commission took today.”

In a letter, dated September 21, 2009, NOM’s and SFMM’s legal representatives, Bopp, Coleson &Bostrom, indicate that NOM “makes large contributions to various state ballot measure committees from its general treasury,” but claim that, with a few exceptions, the organization “did not solicit or accept designated donations for Maine.” The letter also insists that Maine’s registration statute for non-political committees is “unconstitutional because it burdens an association’s right of free speech by requiring such to register and report as if they were political action committees, when they are not political action committees, and when they do not have the major purpose of influencing a Maine ballot question.”

The State of California, which investigates fewer than 5% of similar complaints, felt compelled to investigate allegations of election campaign irregularities on the part of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and, among others, the National Organization for Marriage. That investigation, instigated by a complaint filed by Californians Against Hate, is now in its tenth month.

The State of Iowa is currently contemplating its own investigation, as a result of similar allegations against the National Organization for Marriage lodged by the state’s Interfaith Alliance Action Fund and One Iowa, into NOM’s independent expenditure of $86,060 to influence Iowa District 90’s special election.

NOM is aggressively endeavoring to effect bans on same-sex marriage in some 29 states. The aforementioned letter filed by NOM’s legal representation reveals the organization’s projected 2009 operating budget to be $7 million.

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Californians Against Hate is the new political watchdog for the LGBT community, and closely monitors all who oppose our civil rights. Individuals and organizations who give millions of dollars to deny LGBT full equality will be held accountable.

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Copies of the letters from Bopp, Coleson & Bostrom can be found in PDF form online at the link.

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