John M. Becker

BREAKING: Maine Fines NOM for Ethics Violations

Filed By John M. Becker | May 28, 2014 11:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics
Tags: above the law, campaign finance, donor disclosure, Fred Karger, gay marriage, Maine, marriage equality, National Organization for Marriage, NOM, same-sex marriage, special rights

LGBT advocate Fred Karger, who's been tracking the National Organization for Marriage Discrimination's legal and ethical violations for years, reports via Twitter that the Maine Ethics Commission has just voted unanimously to accept their investigators' recommendation and fine NOM a record $50,250 for violating the state's election laws.

The vote will also require NOM to disclose the identity of its donors for the first time.

Karger also reports that NOM Chairman John Eastman is already pledging to disobey the ruling. "John Eastman[:] We're not going to comply with release of names and fine by #MaineEthicsCommission,'" Karger writes.

In other words, NOM -- which loves to whine about what it calls "lawlessness" whenever judges (correctly) strike down marriage discrimination amendments -- is itself acting lawlessly. If Karger's report is true, the group is now demanding special rights for its anti-LGBT donors.

NOM's rank hypocrisy may not be surprising, but it's galling nonetheless.

UPDATE: The Kennebec Journal provides some additional context. Check it out, after the jump.

Via the Kennebec Journal:

NOM executives, two of whom were present for the hearing, vowed to fight the ruling and protect the anonymity of the organization's donors. John Eastman, the attorney and board chairman for NOM, said revealing the donors would put them at risk of threats and harassment while hindering the organization's ability to raise money. Eastman said NOM would appeal Wednesday's ruling.

NOM's resistance means that more time is likely to pass before the donors to the 2009 campaign are publicly identified. Chris Plante, NOM's regional director, told the Portland Press Herald last week that the group will "do whatever it takes to defend this and protect our donors' anonymity."

In 2009, NOM poured more than $2 million into the $3 million referendum campaign to repeal the law. Brian Brown, the executive director of NOM, was an operating officer on Stand for Marriage Maine, the Maine-based ballot question committee that registered with the state. Prior to the vote, ethics commission members argued that Brown's dual roles on the Maine committee and NOM allowed the organization to shield its donors and skirt Maine's donor disclosure law.

The ethics investigation used bank statements and campaign literature to show that NOM used its nonprofit status to draw donations earmarked for the Maine referendum - a violation of Maine election law...

Michael Healy, a member of the five-member ethics commission, said Eastman's arguments didn't make sense. He said that Brown's dual roles effectively gave him control over the Maine ballot committee.

"Your organization gave two-thirds of the (campaign money) to the (Maine) committee," he said. "I have a hard time not concluding that you didn't control the ballot question committee." Ethics commission chairman Walter McKee said to accept NOM's explanation would be to "accept a mockery of Maine's election laws."...

Fred Karger, a gay-rights activist from California, filed the complaint against NOM with the Maine ethics commission in 2009. Karger said NOM effectively laundered its donations to conceal the identity of its donors.

"NOM definitely picked the wrong state to break the law," Karger said.

Karger said the ruling could assist an investigation that he filed in Iowa in 2013. He is also considering filing another complaint in New Hampshire, where NOM attempted to repeal that state's same-sex marriage law.

Read the full Kennebec Journal report here.

Thumbnail photo by Fred Karger, via Twitter.

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