Anti-gay marriage campaign keeps donors a secret

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A national anti-gay-marriage group that has fought to keep its donor list confidential omitted contributors’ names from its campaign disclosure filing in a referendum on gay marriage, earning criticism from gay-marriage supporters who say it refuses to abide by the rules.

The National Organization for Marriage’s quarterly filing with the state ethics commission indicated its political action committee raised about $250,000, which went to a group that will soon launch television ads. NOM also declined to release donors’ names in a 2009 gay-marriage referendum, when it donated $1.9 million.

Maine’s law requiring disclosure of contributors has been upheld in the courts. For now, though, the 2009 case has yet to be resolved with the ethics commission.

Matt McTighe, campaign manager for Mainers United for Marriage, which supports the new referendum asking voters to legalize same-sex marriage, said NOM should be required to release the donor list.

“Maine voters deserve to know who is trying to influence this election,” he said. “Maine law is clear, and NOM refuses to follow the same rules that every other campaign in the state must abide by.”

Voters repealed Maine’s gay-marriage law in 2009, but it’s on the ballot again in the Nov. 6 election.

Same-sex marriage is legal in New York, Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont and Washington, D.C.

Besides Maine, Maryland and Washington also will vote this fall on proposals to authorize gay marriage. Minnesota voters will be asked if they want to prohibit gay marriage in their state constitution.

This past marked a deadline for campaign finance reports in Maine.

Gay-marriage supporters have raised far more money so far.

Mainers United for Marriage, which is leading the drive to legalize same-sex marriage, said $2.2 million was raised during the latest financial reporting period, pushing the total to about $3.4 million.

Protect Marriage Maine PAC, which is fighting the referendum, said it raised $370,000, which includes the NOM money, in the latest reporting period, for a total of $415,000, said Carroll Conley Jr., executive director of the Christian Civic League of Maine and a member of the PAC.

Maine’s campaign disclosure law requires groups that raise or spend more than $5,000 to influence elections to register and disclose donors. NOM has argued that releasing the donor list would stymie free speech and subject donors to harassment, but the lower court refused to throw out the law.

The U.S. Supreme Court earlier this month declined to hear NOM’s appeal, leaving the state law intact. But the ethics commission is still investigating, and NOM is fighting subpoenas in state court.

NOM Chairman John Eastman said that the situation is far from resolved. He contends NOM doesn’t have to release the names of people who gave to its general treasury, and he previously suggested there was little if any money that was earmarked for the 2009 campaign in Maine.

“NOM has always been willing to fully disclose any donations it receives that are earmarked for a particular campaign,” he said. “The issue in the 2009 case concerns how the state characterizes donations in this regard. We will be working with the state to discuss any remaining issues.”