Karen Ocamb

Romney Wants Marriage Amendment; Amway Gave $500k to NOM

Filed By Karen Ocamb | February 01, 2012 11:00 AM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics
Tags: Amway, gay marriage, marriage amendment, marriage equality, Mitt Romney, National Organization for Marriage, NOM, same-sex marriage

With the Jan. 24 release of Mitt Romney's 2010 tax returns and a summation from 2011, the nation got a glimpse of how committed he is to his Mormon faith - tithing the expected 10% of his income to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, also known as the Mormon Church. In 2010, that contribution was $1.5 million or about 7% percent of his adjusted gross income. In 2011, Romney tithed $2.6 million, or 12.4 percent of his income, according to the Christian Science Monitor.

This is significant, considering the role the Mormon Church played in passing Prop 8 in California in 2008. After a public backlash, the Mormon Church fell quiet but, according to Mormon-watcher Fred Karger, they were just as involved in stripping rights for same sex couples the following year in Maine. But the Mormon Church was only one part of the troika: the other two significant players were Christian evangelicals and the Catholic-backed National Organization for Marriage. The Republican Establishment candidate Romney has signed NOM's antigay marriage pledge and the group has called him a "marriage champion."

On Monday, Jan 30, NOM posted a conference call with faith leaders during which Romney reiterated that pledge and perhaps made it more difficult for gay Republicans to support him. (Right Wing Watch has much more on the Romney call here.)

“There’s been an assault on marriage. I think [the President] is very aggressively trying to pave the path to same-sex marriage. I would, unlike this President, defend the Defense of Marriage Act. And I would also propose and promote once again an amendment to the Constitution to define marriage as a relationship between a man and a woman.” (Emphasis mine)

NOM, which is based on K Street in Washington DC, makes a big effort to skirt state financial disclosure laws and cover up their donors' names. According to the excellent MUST READ report by Sofia Resnick in the Washington Independent last December, "The Catholic charity group the Knights of Columbus donated $1.4 million to NOM in 2009, an amount that did not appear of NOM's Form 990."

Now there's another name to add to that short public list. According to a Jan. 29, story by Philadelphia columnist Joseph N. DiStefano, Amway contributed $500,000 to NOM's 5o1(c)3 charitable arm, the National Organization for Marriage Education Fund. Distefano writes:

The DeVoses are staunch Republicans, like their old friend and Grand Rapids neighbor, President Gerald Ford. The younger DeVos’ foundation gave away $10 million last year: $2.5 million to a family hospital foundation, $2 million to Christian schools in Grand Rapids, $500,000 to the mainstream-conservative American Enterprise Institute, and $500,000 to the Philadelphia-based National Organization for Marriage Education Fund, which opposes same-sex marriage, plus hundreds of smaller grants to schools and charities.

NOM's 501(c)(4) political advocacy group was launched in January 2008, with the 501(c)(3) NOM Education Fund created in July 2008. The charitable arm is not supposed to get involved in political campaigns, but they can apparently still advocate for their antigay positions: The Firefighters’ Defense Fund - created to fund the successful sexual harassment lawsuit by firemen who claim they were forced to participate in a gay pride parade, was a NOM Education Fund project, according to an extensive article in Wikipedia. UPDATE: Please note ThinkProgress’ extensive coverage of NOM’s 501 (c)(3) Ruth Institute, as well as of those who have contributed to the NOM Education Fund. Additionally, Jeremy Hooper at Good As You has excellent continuing coverage of NOM and the Ruth Institute.

On Jan. 18, NOM pledged to spend $250,000 on a primary challenge to any Washington State Republican who supports marriage rights for same sex couples in that state. Meanwhile, Karger told me in an email Sunday night, Jan. 29, that NOM is all over Maine, where LGBT advocates are trying to regain their marriage rights.

Maggie Gallagher and Brian Brown of NOM are skating on very thin ice these days. Not only do these bullies regularly threaten elected officials all over the country if they support of gay marriage, but they publicly promise to spend hundreds of thousands or sometimes millions of dollars to defeat them in their next election. Is it legal to basically try and blackmail elected officials publicly like that?

Now NOM is back in Maine where it has been under an active investigation for money laundering for over two years by the Maine Ethics Commission and the State Attorney General.

I, for one, will be keeping a watchful eye on their spending and reporting in Maine now that the voters will have a chance to bring back gay marriage this November.

One more note: Though not mentioned on their client list, NOM works with CRC Public Relations and refers media to Elizabeth Ray and Anath Hartmann at CRC to set up interviews. CRC provides "customized" PR, "strategic counsel to designing your media program to tactical implementation." CRC is run by Greg Mueller, who, according to the right wing Human Events publication, was a "former senior aide to Republican Presidential Candidates Pat Buchanan and Steve Forbes. Mueller also spearheaded communications for the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth." The Swift Boat Veterans for Truth claimed that Vietnam war hero Sen. John Kerry was not a war hero and used those falsehoods to help scuttle Kerry's 2004 presidential campaign. So one can imagine that NOM's advertising campaign may be more sophisticated than "The Gathering Storm."

And what, exactly, will that $500,000 from Amway pay for? Might NOM's charitable arm will fund Thomas Peters, the young writer and activist who is organizing a Next Generation for Marriage project for NOM. Or perhaps the money will help create "educational" advertising about the assault on religious liberty?

On Thursday, Jan. 12, NOM's Brian Brown wrote an interesting missive on the NOM blog on some of the themes we can expect:

But I want to call your attention to something important which happened this week: The same-sex marriage attack on religious liberty became a campaign issue.

I have to give credit to Newt Gingrich for first bringing up the issue, receiving wild audience applause, and to Gov. Romney, who quickly stepped in to validate and affirm Gingrich’s critique from his Massachusetts experience.

Gingrich jumped in to point out media bias: “You don’t hear the opposite question asked: Should the Catholic Church be forced to close its adoption services in Massachusetts because it won’t accept gay couples? …Should the Catholic Church find itself discriminated against by the Obama administration on key delivery of services because of the bias and bigotry of the Administration? The bigotry question goes both ways… and none of it gets covered by the media.”

(He’s right about that. That’s why we launched our new Marriage Anti-Defamation Alliance, to bring you the news the media is not covering. More on that in a second.)

Romney stepped in to strongly affirm that Gingrich was right about what happened in Massachusetts. “This decision about what we call marriage has consequences,” Gov. Romney said. “…Calling it marriage creates a whole host of problems for family, for the law, for the practice of religion, for education. Let me say this: 3000 years of human history shouldn’t be discarded so quickly.”

Kudos to both men for braving the media firestorm, and to Rick Santorum for bravely defending marriage as well.....

Do you know who else just jumped in to validate our concerns about marriage and religious liberty?

The US Catholic Bishops just released this morning an important letter from an interfaith group of religious leaders from the “Anglican, Baptist, Catholic, Evangelical, Jewish, Lutheran, Mormon, and Pentecostal communities” calling on people of good will to reject efforts to equate traditional views on sex and marriage with racial bigotry.

These leaders point out that the real danger is not that clergy will be forced to perform same-sex marriage: “While we cannot rule out this possibility entirely, we believe that the First Amendment creates a very high bar to such attempts.”

Instead, they point out, “the most urgent peril is this: forcing or pressuring both individuals and religious organizations--throughout their operations, well beyond religious ceremonies--to treat same-sex sexual conduct as the moral equivalent of marital sexual conduct.”

Can we really create an America where people who believe sex should be confined to the union of husband and wife are treated like racial bigots?

These leaders say the answer is yes, and the threat is “urgent”:

“In short, the refusal of these religious organizations to treat same-sex sexual relationship as if it were a marriage marked them and their members as bigots, subjecting them to the full arsenal of government punishments and pressures reserved for racists.”

They conclude with this call: “Therefore, we encourage all people of good will to protect marriage as the union between one man and one woman, and to consider carefully the far-reaching consequences for the religious freedom of all Americans if marriage is redefined.”

For an example of the future Human Rights Campaign is working hard to create for religious people and our institutions, look no further than the state of Washington. There, Mary Margaret Haugen, a Democratic state senator who told her constituents that gay marriage would not happen in that state without a vote of the people, met with this over-the-top response from an angry pro-gay-marriage activist, according to news reports:

“One constituent likened denial of marriage rights to gays and lesbians to racial apartheid in South Africa. ‘I saw apartheid, I was in South Africa and I can tell you this is different,’ Haugen shot back. She recalled the ‘necklacing’ practice in which victims were stuffed in a tire which was then set afire.”

Let’s get real here!

No major spokesman or leader in America wants to hurt gay people, or deny them the civil rights we all share.

The right to redefine marriage is a made-up right, it’s not real; it has no roots in our constitution, our history, our traditions, or common sense.

Being denied the right to call a same-sex relationship a marriage is not like what happened to South Africans, or African-Americans.

A movement which makes this argument is rooting itself in wishful self-aggrandizing fantasies which will backfire in the end.

The great thing about working for marriage is that it is an issue that transcends the usual political divides--of creed, of race, and of party.

Democratic leaders are stepping forward on the local level to stand proudly for marriage and we are very grateful to them for their courage!

Another such hero is Maryland Senate President Mike Miller, a lifelong Democrat, who firmly announced he opposes same-sex marriage and predicts the people of Maryland will reject it if the legislature tries to pass it.

And, of course, this week another strong voice made one of his most powerful statements on the need to protect marriage.

According to Reuters, Pope Benedict told diplomats from nearly 180 countries that the education of children needed proper “settings” and that “pride of place goes to the family, based on the marriage of a man and a woman.”

“This is not a simple social convention, but rather the fundamental cell of every society. Consequently, policies which undermine the family threaten human dignity and the future of humanity itself,” he said.

Wow.

We have fights bursting out all over in the next few weeks. Gay-marriage activists are trying to block the GOP from reversing gay marriage in New Hampshire, and push through gay marriage bills quickly in New Jersey, Washington state, and Maryland, and possibly Maine. They are laying the groundwork for a fight to push gay marriage in Illinois. We have a chance to pass a marriage amendment in Minnesota in November.

The fight is heating up all over this country, in states and on the national level:

Are we going to discard 3000 years of human history, and redefine our country’s Biblical traditions on sex and marriage as the equivalent of bigotry?

Or are we going to fight for marriage--and win?

Thank you for all the victories you’ve made possible in this good fight.

How bad can things get if we do not show courage now?

NOM’s Marriage Anti-Defamation Alliance just released this incredibly moving--and yet chilling--video interviewing Eunice and Owen Johns, a black Pentecostal married couple in Great Britain whose own government told them they were not fit to foster a child unless they were willing to advocate for gay sex.

Mrs. Johns is especially tender and moving, about how much she wanted to love a child, any child--gay, straight, black or white.

The empty spare room in their modest home filled with love is a distressing example of how far government may go, in some cases, in condemning traditional Christian views on sex and marriage as bigotry and discrimination.

It’s an outrage because just as with Catholic Charities and other religious adoption agencies, the true victims are some of our most vulnerable children in need of care.

Pray for me and for everyone on the front lines of this great and good fight.

While Brown might seem ridiculous and disingenuous to some, these clever manipulations of the truth work. Hopefully NOM Exposed, HRC, or the Courage Campaign will talk to Amway about who they’re in bed with – as well as continue to press for campaign and financial transparency.


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