Anti-gay marriage organization given reprieve from disclosing donors; $50,250 fine still stands

Posted June 25, 2014, at 4:53 p.m.

AUGUSTA, Maine — The Maine Ethics Commission gave the National Organization for Marriage a reprieve Wednesday on disclosing the donor list from its 2009 campaign against same-sex marriage in Maine. But the five-person commission did not back down on its demand for the national organization to pay a $50,250 fine for violating the state’s campaign finance and disclosure laws.

Jonathan Wayne, the commission’s executive director, said Wednesday the commission unanimously approved a temporary delay on the disclosure of the national organization’s donors because the group has pledged to take its case to the Maine Superior Court, which would likely allow NOM to keep its donor list private while the case is active. The vote to uphold the fine was also unanimous.

Meanwhile, according to Wayne, NOM has filed complaints against two other national groups, the Human Rights Campaign and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, which supported same-sex marriage in Maine in 2009, for either not registering as political action committees or not disclosing donors. Those complaints will be considered by the commission at its July 31 meeting.

At issue is more than $1.4 million NOM funneled into Maine through its Stand for Marriage Maine Political Action Committee in 2009, after a law allowing same-sex marriage was passed by the Legislature and enacted with the signature of Democratic Gov. John Baldacci.

A citizen petition put the question of repealing the law on that year’s statewide November ballot, which is where NOM’s spending — most of it during the month of October — was focused.

The effort to repeal the law succeeded in 2009, but Maine voters returned to the polls in 2012 to approve same-sex marriage — with 53 percent of those who cast ballots supporting the measure.

NOM, through its attorneys, has argued that disclosing the names of its financial supporters could subject the donors to personal attacks and harassment.

“Absent a stay, NOM will be irreparably harmed,” wrote the organization in a June 23 letter to the commission. NOM fought for years to shield its donor list from the commission but lost that battle in U.S. District Court.

The resolution of an unrelated NOM lawsuit this week highlights the organization’s efforts to conceal its donor lists. The Internal Revenue Service agreed earlier this week to pay NOM $50,000 to settle a lawsuit filed by NOM after the IRS disclosed confidential tax information that revealed the names of some donors.

NOM on June 23 requested a waiver of the $50,250 penalty the commission imposed last month. That request came several weeks after the May 6 deadline to request a waiver of the fine proposed by ethics commission staff, and the commission opted not to grant that stay on Wednesday. Instead, the panel ratified an order that Wayne said will be sent to the organization this week.

NOM will have 30 days following the receipt of that letter to pay the fine. The commission has also required the organization to register as a ballot question committee in Maine.

 

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