June 20, 2018
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Money fueling battle over gay marriage

By Kevin Miller, BDN Staff

AUGUSTA, Maine — With a week and a half to go before Election Day, the two campaigns in the battle over gay marriage continue to haul in large sums of money from donors both inside and outside of Maine.

The organization defending Maine’s same-sex marriage law continues to hold a sizable financial edge over the law’s detractors, although the gap has narrowed in recent weeks.

No on 1-Protect Maine Equality has raised more than $4 million so far — including about $1.4 million since Oct. 1 — for its campaign to make Maine the first state in the nation where voters have endorsed same-sex marriages.

The group working to repeal Maine’s gay marriage law, Stand for Marriage Maine, more than doubled its war chest in three weeks by raising roughly $1.4 million in October. Stand for Marriage Maine has raised a total of $2.6 million, according to reports filed Friday with the Maine Ethics Commission.

Stand for Marriage Maine’s financial disadvantage was not cause for alarm, campaign spokesman Scott Fish told The Associated Press on Friday night.

“Our hope is that this … will close the gap. We are working hard to get our message out,” said Fish, adding that an intense fundraising push will continue in the days ahead.

Click the play button below to listen to reporter Kevin Miller talk about the Question 1 campaign on Public Radio International’s To the Point with Warren Olney. Miller’s segment starts at 23:24.

But $1.1 million of the $1.4 million raised by Stand for Marriage Maine in October came from a single source: the National Organization for Marriage. In fact, the Washington, D.C., organization has bankrolled more than 60 percent of the campaign to ban same-sex marriages in Maine.

The No on 1 campaign, meanwhile, claims to have received contributions from more than 22,000 donors, compared to slightly more than 700 donors to the opposing camp.

Jesse Connolly, manager for No on 1, said he and other campaign workers are overwhelmed by the support.

“Four million dollars and more than 20,000 donors is just really humbling,” Connolly said Friday evening. “At the same time, looking at the Stand for Marriage Maine reports … our campaign is fueled by lots of small donors, and theirs is just one large donor.”

NOM’s financial role in the Maine campaign will be discussed in federal court in Portland on Monday when a judge hears arguments in a complaint the group filed against the state.

Earlier this month, the Maine Ethics Commission voted 3-2 to investigate whether NOM was skirting campaign finance laws in order to avoid disclosing the identities of contributors. A complaint against NOM alleges the organization, which played a key role in overturning California’s gay marriage law last November, funnels money to Stand for Marriage Maine while promising donors confidentiality.

NOM responded earlier this week by challenging the constitutionality of Maine’s law requiring “ballot question committees” to file detailed campaign finance reports.

While by far the largest, NOM is by no means the only large donor in the campaign. Both sides have received substantial sums from outside groups.

The pro-gay marriage organization Human Rights Campaign, based in Washington, D.C., has contributed more than $140,000 to the No on 1 campaign plus donated more than $80,000 worth of goods, services or staff time.

The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force has given the No on 1 campaign at least $75,000 plus donated nearly $65,000 in staff time or other materials.

On the other side, Focus on the Family, the Colorado-based group founded by evangelical leader James Dobson, has contributed $114,500 to Stand for Marriage Maine.

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland has poured more than $550,000 into the campaign to repeal the law, including more than $150,000 from its general treasury since Oct. 1. The Portland diocese also collected more than $200,000 for Stand for Marriage Maine from bishops and dioceses outside of Maine.

According to campaign finance reports, most contributions to both sides are in the $50 to $500 range. The No on 1 campaign said its average online donation was $58, while the average direct donation was $150.

But there are also significantly large donations from individuals as well.

For instance, hedge fund investor Donald Sussman has contributed more than $500,000 to the campaign to defend Maine’s gay marriage law — including $300,000 since Oct. 1. Stand for Marriage Maine’s report had numerous donations of $1,000 or more from individuals — with some as high as $25,000.

Both sides have been waging a nonstop television advertising war in recent weeks with each new ad from gay marriage opponents spawning an immediate response ad from same-sex marriage supporters.

Earlier this month, Stand for Marriage Maine sent out appeals for additional money — and fast — after the last financial reports showed they had raised just $1.1 million compared to $2.7 million for the No on 1 campaign.

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