June 22, 2018
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Question 1 fueling a fundraising fight

By Kevin Miller, BDN Staff

AUGUSTA, Maine — With less than five weeks until Election Day, both camps in the battle over Question 1 are busy raising money to keep their ads on the air as Mainers prepare to cast ballots on whether to allow gay marriage in Maine.

The latest reporting period for campaign contributions ended Wednesday. That data will not be available for about two weeks. But supporters of Maine’s new law allowing same-sex couples to marry appeared to have had some success using the Sept. 30 deadline to drum up last-minute donations.

The No on 1/Protect Maine Equality campaign set a goal of raising $28,000 in online donations by 11:59 p.m. on Wednesday on a Web site, ActBlue.com, that describes itself as “a clearinghouse for Democratic action.”

But when the campaign breezed by that figure by Wednesday afternoon, the goal was bumped up to $40,000 — and then $50,000.

“We’re really excited about the support we are receiving from folks who want to contribute to this campaign,” said Jesse Connolly, spokesman for the group defending Maine’s same-sex marriage law.

The law legalizing same-sex marriage was to take effect Sept. 12, but was put on hold pending the outcome of the Nov. 3 people’s veto referendum.

To date, ActBlue.com claims to have funneled more than $810,000 to the No on 1 campaign. Those figures cannot be verified until campaign finance reports are released later this month.

The group on the other side of the debate, Stand for Marriage Maine, has been more closely guarded about its latest fundraising efforts.

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland recently asked churches to have a second collection during services to raise money for the effort to repeal Maine’s law allowing same-sex couples to marry. Stand for Marriage Maine has not released the tally from the special collections, so those contributions may not be known until the Maine Ethics Commission releases the latest campaign finance reports on Oct. 13.

Campaign spokesman Scott Fish said Stand for Marriage Maine is reaching out to supporters “in several different ways” but declined to go into specifics.

Asked about the opposing campaign’s online fundraising, Fish replied: “We are aware of it, but we are pressing on. We are appealing to our supporters in a number of ways.”

Both sides are receiving financial support from outside of Maine as the campaign grabs national attention.

The National Organization for Marriage, a New Jersey group that helps lead campaigns to prohibit gay marriage, contributed $160,000 of Stand for Marriage Maine’s $346,000 during the last period.

The ActBlue site contains a number of fundraising events being held elsewhere around the country to benefit the No on 1 campaign.

For instance, U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree from Maine’s 1st District and her daughter, House Speaker Hannah Pingree, D-North Haven, are listed as special guests at a fundraiser tonight in New York City. Other guests include U.S. Rep. Barney Frank, an openly gay congressman from Massachusetts, and several high-profile New York state and city politicians.

“These are folks both here in Maine and around the country who have contacted us to do what they can to help the campaign,” Connolly said of the organizers of the various fundraisers.

In related news, the staff at the Maine Ethics Commission has said that no investigation is warranted into fundraising by Stand for Marriage Maine and the National Organization for Marriage for possible campaign finance violations.

Californians Against Hate founder Fred Karger filed a complaint with the commission claiming the anti-gay marriage groups were not reporting the names of many donors as the law requires. The five-member commission will consider the case and the staff recommendation today.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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