The state of Maine has fined a pro-traditional marriage organization on grounds that it violated campaign finance laws and ordered the organization to disclose the identities of its donors.
Earlier this week, the state's Commission on Governmental Ethics found that National Organization for Marriage violated the law by not revealing the identities of the donors who had contributed to Stand for Marriage Maine. NOM contends that it obeyed Maine's campaign laws, but the Commission is conflating the group's national donors with donors for its Maine campaign.
A memo from the investigation also noted that NOM's president Brian Brown also served as one of the three members of the executive committee of Stand for Marriage Maine. According to state law, groups which "must register if they raise or spend more than $5,000 to influence a statewide ballot question," noted the Associated Press. Two million of the $3 million campaign to ban gay marriage came from NOM, which sought to suspend a law passed earlier in 2009 which had sanctioned gay marriage.
The investigation maintains that while thousands of NOM's profits went to defeat the bill, the organization did not allow donors to designate whether or not they wanted their money to directly impact the campaign and it also breached the $5,000 threshold.
Brown shot down the findings of the investigation, saying that NOM had followed the advice of legal counsel and accused the Commission of drawing "improper inferences from the circumstances of the campaign environment that they wrongly interpret as meaning that if someone gave to NOM somehow they designated their gift to support the Maine campaign."
"However, we have submitted direct sworn statements from donors saying they had no such intention and any inference from the Commission staff to the contrary is false," he said in a statement.
NOM intends to appeal the $50,000 fine and claimed that it was a "victim of selective prosecution since major groups on the other side of this same campaign engaged in the same approach we did."
The Commission said that a specific complaint launched its investigation into NOM and that the pro-traditional marriage group could have filed its own complaint against Human Rights Campaign, according to AP.
Brown added that NOM had already disclosed its contributions per Maine's law but did "not disclose our entire national donor list because those donors did not donate 'for the purpose of influencing' the Maine campaign, which is the trigger for reporting contributions that Maine law imposes."
NOM has long been protective about revealing the identities of its donor list due to the harassment that traditional marriage supporters have recieved from same-sex marriage supporters. Recently, for instance, Brenden Eich was ousted as CEO of Mozilla after it was discovered that he donated $1,000 to a campaign defending traditional marriage in California. In an April interview with The Christian Post, Joseph Grabowski, director of communications for NOM, said the Mozilla incident "is evidence of why donor names that are confidential should be kept confidential ... it is the same-sex marriage lobby's way to use harassment and intimidation to try and get people not to donate to [pro-traditional marriage] causes."
Fred Karger, whose pro-gay marriage organization Rights Equal Rights filed the complaint against NOM in 2009, called it a "very complex and duplicitous organization."
"After reading the Investigative Report, it is crystal clear that NOM blatantly and with intent ignored Maine's reporting requirements," Karger said in a statement. "In fact on October 1st, the very day of [the commission's] vote to investigate NOM, Brian Brown pulled in a $300,000 check which he turned over the Stand for Marriage Maine the very next day. NOM continued to raise over $1.5 million after the Commission voted for an ethic's investigation."