Gay marriage supporters continue to raise nearly 20 times as much as opponents

Posted July 25, 2012, at 9:17 a.m.
Last modified July 25, 2012, at 5:45 p.m.

AUGUSTA, Maine — The fundraising gap between supporters and opponents of same-sex marriage continues to grow, according to financial reports filed Tuesday with the Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices.

Between May 30 and July 17, Mainers United for Marriage raised $597,579 in its effort to gain voter approval of same-sex marriage, while Protect Marriage Maine, which opposes the ballot initiative, raised $30,871. So far this year, supporters have pulled in nearly $1.1 million while opponents lag far behind in their efforts. Protect Marriage Maine reported raising $42,311 since Jan. 1.

Supporters also have outspent opponents during the most recent reporting period. Mainers United spent nearly $550,000, mostly on salaries for campaign staff, during the period, while Protect Marriage Maine’s expenses totaled about $31,000. That left supporters with nearly $300,000 in their coffers with no debt on July 17 and opponents with about $22,000 in the bank, but with unpaid debts of more than $35,000.

Under Maine election law, political action committees involved in referendum campaigns had to file reports before 11:59 p.m. Tuesday. Reports include money raised and spent between May 30 and July 17.

Mainers will vote Nov. 6 on whether to allow marriage licenses to be issued to same-sex couples. The referendum question in February was placed on the ballot after the secretary of state’s office validated the nearly 60,000 signatures on petitions submitted by supporters the previous month.

“Our strong fundraising shows the growing support for allowing same-sex couples to receive a marriage license,” Matt McTighe, campaign manager for Mainers United for Marriage, said in a press release issued Wednesday. “The grass-roots support for the campaign is incredible and mirrors the positive conversations we’re having as volunteers talk to their friends and neighbors all over Maine.”

More than 7,261 donors have contributed to the campaign. Of those, 4,761, or two-thirds, are from Maine, the press release said. The majority of the money donated to the campaign is from Maine, and 84 percent of the contributions have been for $50 or less.

The largest donation came from the Freedom to Marry PAC, created to receive funds from Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes. It reported taking in $225,200 and paying out $200,000 to Mainers United for Marriage. Hughes, who is the editor-in-chief of the liberal magazine The New Republic and owns 1 percent of Facebook, pledged supporters of same-sex marriage $100,000 if they raised $100,000 to match it.

Tim Gill, a software entrepreneur and philanthropist, launched a $100,000 fundraising challenge Wednesday to support Mainers United for Marriage, the coalition announced.

Gill, the founder and former chairman of Quark Inc., a page-layout and design software company, will match dollar for dollar every donation to Mainers United between Wednesday and Aug. 10. The $100,000 matching challenge comes in honor of the last 100 days of the campaign, which begins on July 29, according to a Mainers United press release.

Bob Emrich, spokesman for Protect Marriage Maine, said Wednesday that the fundraising gap was a concern but not a surprise.

“I’m not worried,” he said. “They don’t win just because they have more money. What we lack in funding we have to make up for in hard work.”

In the successful campaign to repeal same-sex marriage in 2009, supporters of the law passed by the Legislature, then controlled by Democrats, and signed by Gov. John Baldacci raised $4 million compared with the $2.5 million raised by opponents.

Most of the money raised by referendum opponents came from churches, according to information filed Tuesday. Protect Marriage Maine asked churches to take up a special collection for the campaign on Father s Day.

Protect Marriage Maine’s largest donor was Faith Evangelical Church in Waterville, which reported raising $7,025 in June. Organizations raising $5,000 or more in a calendar year are required to register as a PAC.

A total of 15 PACS — eight supporting and seven opposing — are registered under the referendum question with the commission. One, the Dirigo Family PAC, has been terminated and No on 1 Protect Maine Equality reported no activity.

The two newest ones were both supporters: Mid-Coast for Freedom to Marry, based in Thomaston, and the Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders PAC, based in Boston. The Mid-Coast PAC reported raising $5,042 and spending just $18 for postage during the period. GLAD, the legal organization that successfully sued Massachusetts to legalize same-sex marriage, reported no activity for the period.

The PAC for EqualityMaine, the organization that circulated the petitions to get the question on the ballot, reported contributing about $1,100 in an in-kind contribution of one staff member’s time. EqualityMaine, however, is paying 50 percent of the rent and expenses for the pro side’s offices in Portland, Lewiston and Bangor, according to the 110-page report filed by Mainers United.

The next reporting deadline is Oct. 5.

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