Ethics panel to investigate anti-gay marriage group

Posted Oct. 01, 2009, at 12:34 p.m.

AUGUSTA, Maine – A national organization that has provided hefty sums to the fight against Maine’s gay marriage law will be the subject of an investigation into potential campaign finance violations.

Members of the Maine Ethics Commission voted 3-2 Thursday morning to look into whether the National Organization for Marriage has purposefully skirted campaign finance laws in order to hide the identities of donors.

The complaint, filed by the group Californians Against Hate, alleges that those donations were then funneled to Stand for Marriage Maine, the organization leading the battle to repeal Maine’s same-sex marriage law.

National Organization for Marriage contributed $160,000 to the referendum campaign to repeal the law during the last campaign reporting period, which ended in early July. The organization has since made additional large donations, which are expected to be detailed in Stand for Marriage Maine’s next financial disclosures, due in mid-October.

Several commissioners said Thursday that while they were not sure violations occurred, the allegations raised enough concerns to warrant an investigation. Ethics Commission staff had recommended not investigating the complaint.

Brian Brown, executive director of the Washington, D.C.-based group, said NOM is looking forward to the investigation to prove that no violations occurred. Brown accused Californians Against Hate of using baseless allegations to wage a smear campaign against NOM, which was key to winning California voters’ approval of Proposition 8 prohibiting same-sex marriage in that state.

“This [complaint] is nothing more than an attempt to intimidate and to harass people who believe marriage is a union between a man and a woman,” Brown said after the commission’s vote.

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