NOM, the National Organization For Marriage, is accused of skirting campaign finance laws, money-laundering, and being funded by literally a handful of major donors, according to a new, extensive, and shocking exposé by E.J. Graff at The Advocate. In “Dirty Money,” Graff points to NOM’s increasingly harsher rhetoric, greater willingness to attack homosexuality and LGBT people, totuting its ability to protect donors’ identities, and state-by-state lawsuits attempting to overturn financial disclosure laws.
“In internal documents (which came to light because of a lawsuit that NOM brought against campaign finance disclosure, NOM v. McKee), NOM wrote, ‘One key advantage we now have is the capacity to protect the identity of our donors,’” Graff reports.
“NOM puts its hundreds of thousands of dollars into state campaigns in ways that protect its donors from being identified,” Graff writes:
Its campaign finance philosophy is that the best defense is a good offense: With the help of James Bopp, the lawyer who brought the notorious Citizens United lawsuit to the Supreme Court, NOM has repeatedly launched lawsuits arguing that states’ campaign reporting laws are unconstitutional efforts to chill free speech, even though it has just as repeatedly lost.
Watching NOM closely is Fred Karger, a gay California Republican who believes that NOM is a secret cabal actively conspiring to undermine campaign finance laws. Karger writes to state election commissions to convince them of the same. At Karger’s prompting, California, Maine, and Minnesota are investigating NOM’s campaign finance tactics.
Each year, according to NOM’s tax filings, two or three donors give NOM between $1 million and $3.5 million apiece; another two or three give between $100,000 and $750,000; and 10 or so others give between $5,000 and $95,000. In 2009 the top five donors made up three fourths of NOM’s budget; in 2010 the top two donors gave two thirds of the year’s total donations; and in 2011 the top two donors gave three fourths of NOM’s total income. But those funders’ identities are a mystery. Their names are redacted on NOM’s federal tax returns. Under federal campaign laws, none of those names have to be disclosed.
But if, as Karger alleges, those donors are actually using NOM as a way to contribute to state issue campaigns, that would be illegal. The states in which NOM runs campaigns (via locally registered groups) require donors to publicly disclose their names and addresses and sometimes their employers. The allegation is that NOM establishes state campaign organizations against marriage equality as pass-through groups, with local partners that do little. NOM solicits major donations from its large contributors for these campaigns and donates to the local fights so that NOM, not the individual, will be listed as the donor. If true, that’s fraud and “financial structuring,” the technical term for money laundering. (Calls to the four state organizations asking for comment were not returned.)
And then there’s the matter of just how unhinged and on-edge NOM president Brian Brown appears:
When asked why so many more people were willing to be listed as donors to the marriage equality campaigns than to the other side, Brown was impatient and exploded with anger at how LGBT extremists — condoned, in his view, by the marriage equality movement at large — attacked his side with “a campaign of intimidation, hatred, and attacking donors.” Gay extremists, he said, are attempting to “punish people…for exercising their First Amendment rights to speak up and stand for what they believe in, to donate to what they believe in…. They want to hurt people. They want to hurt people! Put that in the article! They want to hurt people!”
When questioned on this, Brown became ever more emphatic. “I don’t think you understand the reality that donors on our side get death threats, I don’t think you understand the reality that it’s not a joke when a guy [Floyd Lee Corkins] comes into the Family Research Council with a gun, I don’t think you understand that creating an environment in which it’s OK to demean human beings because of their views is wrong. I can respect people and I support their constitutional right to give and to support their position to advance gay marriage. What we are asking for is the same respect. And at this point we are not getting it.”
And then comes the truth that NOM is really not willing to publicly promote, but that sits at the heart of the anti-gay organization:
The head of NOM’s nonprofit educational arm, the Ruth Institute, Jennifer Roback Morse, promotes her stance with a prominent article headlined “Why Opposing the Gay Lobby Is Not Antigay.”
However, since Maggie Gallagher ceased being NOM’s board chair, the Ruth Institute has skated over the edge of being actively antigay. Last year Carlos Maza of Equality Matters attended the Ruth Institute’s annual training program for “emerging leaders” in how to talk about marriage and LGBT issues. He writes, “What I saw at the conference — selling a book that labels gay people as pedophiles worthy of death, distributing Bible quotes to college students similarly calling for gays to be killed, hosting entire speeches devoted to condemning gays and lesbians as deviant sinners — represented a brand of antigay extremism that I assumed even NOM would have shied away from.” He listened to a lecture from antigay author Robert A.J. Gagnon announcing that homosexuality was “self-degrading,” inflicts “measurable harm,” is unhealthy, emotionally dangerous, unacceptable to God, and leads to depression, substance abuse, and disease. The weekend, Maza writes, taught “that gays and lesbians — including me — are unstable, dangerous, and unworthy of raising their own families.” The reading list included materials saying that lesbians and gay men are in a “rebellion against God,” that our relationships are inherently “unstable, unhealthy, and promiscuous,” and relying on such discredited authors as George Gilder and Paul Cameron.
Graff notes an important point, one with which we agree: since Gallagher’s supposed resignation, NOM has become increasingly hate-filled and “religious” — and it seems clear Brian Brown is, if not the cause, at the very least the messenger.
Graff’s article in The Advocate is important and one that many need to read. For all those who think this is a simple case of differences of opinion in the culture wars, Graff proves it’s anything but.
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