Waymon Hudson

FL Amendment 2 Update: Leaked Emails Show More Illegal Campaigning

Filed By Waymon Hudson | October 30, 2008 7:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Fundie Watch, Living, Marriage Equality, Politics
Tags: Amendment 2, campaign finance law, Citizens For A Better America, Florida, Florida Family Action Committee, Florida4Marriage, John Stemberger, Marriage Protection Amendment, Yes2Marriage

Dirty tricks, money funneling, and lawsuits- oh my! My investigation into the misdeeds and dishonest campaign tactics of the backers of Florida's Amendment 2 just keeps getting nastier and more disturbing...

I reported earlier about Florida Red & Blue, the group behind the SayNo2 Campaign to defeat Amendment 2, filing a lawsuit in Miami-Dade Circuit Court asking a judge to force the group campaigning for Amendment 2 (Florida4Marriage) to disclose all of its donors and stop airing its TV ads. This came after a formal complaint with the Florida Election Commission asking for an investigation into Florida4Marriage illegal campaigning tactics.

In emails obtained exclusively by the Bilerico Project Florida, the proof of these money funneling activities is shown. And it turns out the dirty tricks and donor hiding goes a lot further than we previously thought...

See the emails, and much more, after the jump.

Florida4Marriage Illegally Hides Donors

JohnStemberget.jpgWe already knew John Stemberger, the head of Florida4Marriage, has sent emails detailing how donors could illegally skirt campaign finance reporting laws by funneling money through a non-profit organization, Florida Family Action, which he appears to have established for just that purpose. Stemberger sent out emails to contributors encouraging them to donate through the 501(c)(4) since donor names do not have to be publicly disclosed- to the tune of over $750,000 since 2005.

Here are some lowlights from the confidential email to his donors (you can view the full email here):

From: John Stemberger [mailto:stemberger@orlandolawyer.tv]
Sent: Tuesday, September 02, 2008 12:55 AM
To: stemberger@orlandolawyer.tv
Subject: Strategic Budget for Yes2Marriage.org

Dear Pro-Family Leader:

Would you please take 2 minutes to read this important plea?

Enclosed is a copy of our confidential and strategic budget for the remainder of the marriage amendment campaign in Florida. From the time we started collecting petitions in February of 2005, we have raised and spent in both cash and in kind contributions, just under one million dollars. For the remainder of our campaign, we need to raise an additional 2 million dollars at a minimum over the next 45 days to maximize the opportunity to reach the 60% vote needed to win on November 4, 2008. (Florida is the only state in the nation that requires a 60% vote to pass constitutional amendments)

...

The enclosed document is an itemized budget of the final 9 components we need to purchase in order to have a viable campaign and to be victorious.

...

If you have the ability to help this effort with a contribution we would be grateful. Or if know someone we could approach to request significant funding, please let me know. Please feel free to show this appeal to potential donors but this is a CONFIDENTIAL document as it contains key strategy elements so be very discreet in who you share it with and make sure they support the issue before forwarding these attachments.

...

John Stemberger
State Chairman, www.Yes2Marriage.org
President, Florida Family Policy Council www.FLfamily.org

PS- If you do not have the ability to help financially, would you please just earnestly pray for God's favor to open the storehouse of his resources? Political campaigns come and go and are funded with insane amounts of money. But it is once in a life time that we get the opportunity to preserve a human institution as important as marriage.

Attachments:
Budget Priorities Itemized
Quinnipiac Poll Map
Historical Comparison of Polling and Outcomes
Details on Options for Contributions
Fact Sheet on the Amendment

The important thing to note here is the "Details on Options for Contributions." In this attachment, he lays out the way for donors to remain anonymous, which is illegal under Florida Campaign Laws.

Stemberger's "Options for Contributions"

In this attachment, Stemberger tells donors how to remain anonymous by listing the groups he has created in "preferred donation" order, starting with his bogus non-profit (see a copy of the attachment here):

To support efforts for the Florida Marriage Protection Amendment, contributions can be made to any of these 3 organizations below. They are listed in the order of preference on which organizations we would like to see the gifts go to, but we can take contributions made payable to any three of these groups to further the cause:

Florida Family Action
501(c)(4) Lobbying Organization under the IRS code
Gifts ARE NOT tax deductible
EIN # 3311008736
Confidential Gift with no public disclosure

Florida4Marriage.org
Political Committee under Florida Law
Public Campaign Contribution
Gifts ARE NOT tax deductible
Gifts ARE publicly reported

Florida Family Policy Council
501(c)(3) non profit educational organization under the IRS code
Gifts ARE tax deductible
EIN # 522436800
Confidential Gift with no public disclosure but gifts are strictly limited to educational efforts, voter registration and pastors conferences.

There are no legal amount limitations on gifts made to any of the above organizations and either individual or corporate checks can be accepted to all 3 of these organizations.
All gifts can be mailed to this address:
4853 South Orange Avenue, Orlando, FL 32806 Phone 407-251-1957
Fax 407-251-0023

The intent to illegally funnel funds and hide donors is clear. All the organizations are run by Stemberger (note they all have the same address) and this attachment is a map on how to break Florida Law.

But what are they spending these illegal funds on? Where has that $750,000 gone? Let's look at the other attachment of interest, the "Budget Priorities Itemized."

Following Florida4Marriage's Dirty Money Trail

Stemberger lays out in the next attachment (view here) exactly what they need the secret money for:

Yes2Marriage.org Campaign Strategic Budget Items

August, 2008

1) Internal Voter File Scrub
1 million names, update addresses and names- $ 5,500.

2) Absentee Ballot Program
500,000 voters: ID, Direct Mail, Robo Call- $561,000.

3) Final Push Follow up Poll and Message Testing
801 Voters, 22 questions- $ 20,000.

4) Automated Rapid Response Robo Calls
3 million households, 30 seconds, 3 cents per call- $90,000.

5)GOTV Church Bulletin Inserts
4 Million Inserts Plus Freight Drop to 67 counties- $75,000.

6) Final Run of Yard Signs for GOTV:
50,000 signs and stands at $2 per sign- $100,000.

7) Soft Yes Radio Market: Oldies, Country, Latin, Gospel
2 Weeks-- Matching Grant of $75,000- $75,000.

8) Passion of the Christ E-mail Blast
3 separate blasts of 5 million voters in Florida- $15,000.

9) Television
Strategic Target Markets: 14 days- $1,000,000.


TOTAL $1,941,500.

Did they succeed in their scheme? It would appear so. Examples of the amount of campaign expenditures paid for "in-kind" by Florida Family Action are:

Campaign Expenditure (Paid for In-Kind by Florida Family Action)
Marketing/Advertising ($427,280)
Professional Services ($64,512)
Automated Telephone Calls ($40,000)
Printing (Signs, banners, bumper stickers, etc.) ($39,998)
Contract Labor ($22,798)
Focus Groups ($18,000)
Website & Technology ($14,583)

Of the total contributions to Florida4Marriage.org at last reporting (approximately $1,500,000), roughly 52% came from Florida Family Action.

Most recently, Florida4Marriage reported an in-kind contribution of $350,000 from Florida Family Action for the purchase of advertising. This is odd, since the ads all say "paid for and approved by Florida4Marriage", not Florida Family Action. In fact, at least three media outlets- WTSP Tampa, WTVT Tampa Bay, and WKMG Orlando- have confirmed that the name of the organization for which the purchases were made is Florida4Marriage.org although no direct expenditure from the campaign account for these media buys has been reported.

It seems illegal identification of ads goes along with the dirty money expenditures...

More Dirty, Anonymous Money from Out of State

Even with the lawsuit and campaign complaints, the money funneling scheme isn't stopping. In an email from the California based group "Citizens For A Better America" continues the scheme of not reporting donors (see the full email here):

Saturday, October 18, 2008

An Open Letter and Invitation To:
Florida Christian Pastors and Leaders
For Immediate Release:

Dear Christian Pastor or Leader:

We at Citizens For A Better America (R) (CFABA.ORG) are sending this Open Letter to Christian Pastors and Leaders in the state of Florida with public e-mail addresses on public websites. If you have received this Open Letter by mistake, my apologies.

...

If you believe with me that homosexual marriage is not supported by the Word of God, the Holy Bible, then please continue to read this letter.

...

05. Please seriously consider helping us to counteract the opposition's message. You can do so by sending a contribution of up to $199.00, without us having to list your identity with Federal election commission (FEC.GOV).

If you just cannot afford to send as a contribution of $199.00, then please send us $20 to support 2. Then, tell 20 friends to vote "YES on 2", and ask them to tell 20 more friends...

Again the idea is to shield donors from public campaign disclosure laws.

Stemberger Admits to Dirty Money Scheme

In an interview with the Florida-Times Union Newspaper, Stemberger said he was indeed shielding donors:

Some people want to remain anonymous. It's because of the intimidation of our opponents.

These secret donors may be ashamed of donating to this amendment, but the law says they must disclose their actions.

So where does this leave Florida4Marriage and Stemberger? It leaves them fighting to keep their ads on the air, as well as keep public opinion from turning further against them. After all, if a campaign is willing to so blatantly break the law and lie, it creates public doubt about their motives and the truth of their message in general.

This pattern of behavior only highlights what we already know- this campaign is based on lies. They have lied about donors and money sources- and most importantly, about the true impact of this dangerous Amendment.


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Waymon, have you forgotten the 11th Commandment in the New Testament????

Thou shalt not lie unless you are "protecting" marriage and family values.

http://www.SayNo2.com

That made me smile, Dianne. Thanks. ;)

Waymon, this is a great job of investigative reporting. Where do you go with it? Is there anybody honest in the Florida election authority that will prosecute this guy? Are there any major media in Florida that will air the story?

State media is covering the lawsuit and election complaint, but the wheels are slow. And it hasn't gotten the traction it should. This is an obvious problem that needs lots of airtime. I'm doing my best to push it out as much as possible...

We love you Waymon.
Now, gather up your gang and get to the polls.

Our gang is not only going to be voting at the polls, but working them as well to spread the word to SayNo2.

And I love you too, Banshii. ;)

This is too much and ought to be prosecuted.

But if you're on the right email list to get one of those Passion of the Christ emails, can you pass it along? It sounds fun.

"Passion of the Christ Emails"??

Isn't that weird? I'm not even sure what that expenditure means, but for $15,000 they better be something really spectacular...

Eh, don't get your hopes up. You just think you've got a Passion of the Christ e-mail, but really it's just a Middle Eastern guy trying to sell Viagra.

Gee, does that mean I've been getting the Passion of Joe Six-pack in my inbox for the last year?

Seriously, great job, Waymon - keep up the good work.

William D. Lindsey William D. Lindsey | October 31, 2008 8:14 AM

Waymon, what a model of good investigative reporting. Please keep at it. One day, I'd like to see a list of all those anonymous donors posted before God and everybody. After all, if they're giving to a noble cause, why on earth should they want to be anonymous?

I agree, Bill. If they are doing "the Lord's work", why not stand up and bear witness? Why hide your donations?

I'm not going to rest until I get those names...

The christian bigots chose these fights and have a lot invested in them. That's why they're so desperate. For the moment the polls seem to be tightening but it's hard to tell what that means. I think we have to have more than 55% in the polls to win because of the likely GLBT equivalent of the Bradley Effect.

The robocalling is probably the work of Republican political operatives and that needs to be traced. Whatever the outcome we have to go after the cults for interfering in civil affairs and specifically go after yeson8 and the others for blackmail and other illegalities. That kind of stuff is actually against the law, although it's not strictly or often enforced by DA’s from parties that pander to the cult vote like Democrats and Republicans.

Another thing we need is for liberals and Democrats to tell Obama and Biden to about their bigoted opposition to same sex marriage. It hurts us badly in California, Arizona, and Florida. I'd expected GLBT folks in the Democratic Party to raise a stink about this but considering that they have no, zero, nada clout and that Obama refuses to mention the terms GLBT in his platform why would he pay attention now?

McCain is a rancid right-winger with the Clintons DOMA attached at the hip.

Obama is Bill Clinton (DOMA, DADT, NAFTA) in drag with the bigot-war criminal Colin Powell newly attached at the hip.

Same old, same old.

I hope you are saving this on hardcopy and sending it to the appropriate group(s) that are responsible for fair elections.