June 20, 2018
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No on 1 far ahead in funding

By Kevin Miller, BDN Staff

AUGUSTA, Maine — The campaign to keep Maine’s same-sex marriage law on the books has raised more than double the amount of the group trying to repeal the law, according to finance reports released Tuesday.

Supporters of gay marriage have amassed a $2.7 million campaign war chest so far in a political race that is attracting hefty donations to both sides from organizations and activists from around the country.

The anti-gay marriage group Stand for Marriage Maine had raised approximately $1.1 million as of Sept. 30, according to the report. The group has just more than $66,000 left in the bank with about $419,000 in debt.

By contrast, gay marriage supporters, led by the organization No on 1-Protect Maine Equality, reported having $462,000 cash on hand, with no outstanding debt.

“We certainly need some serious money to be able to compete with them,” Mark Mutty, a leader of Stand for Marriage Maine, said Tuesday evening. “There is no question we are being outspent. We are the underdog.”

On Nov. 3, Maine voters will cast ballots on Question 1 to decide whether to repeal the law signed by Gov. John Baldacci this spring that allows same-sex couples to marry. Clergy and churches are not required to perform the ceremonies under the now-suspended law.

Although the two camps repeatedly accuse the other of being driven by outside interests, financial contribution information released Tuesday show that both sides in the debate are filling their campaign coffers with non-Maine money.

Slightly less than half of the amount raised by the No on 1 campaign came from Maine residents, according to its leaders. But they pointed out that more than 12,000 people donated to their cause.

“We are very pleased with the support we are receiving both in Maine and around the country,” said Mark Sullivan, spokesman for No on 1. “We think this is an indication of the strength the campaign has in the state.”

Not surprisingly, the other side had a starkly different take on those figures.

Mutty said the reports undermine the opposition’s claim to be the “home-grown, locally supported campaign.” Instead, Mutty said in a statement that the race remains too close to call despite significant donations from “well-heeled political elite” and gay activists in other states and “the Democratic political machine.”

“Mainers won’t be bought,” Mutty said. “The Maine contributors to our campaign see through our opponent’s name-calling and smear tactics for what it is: an exceedingly well-funded effort from outside of Maine, yet one that simply cannot stand up against the facts we present.”

Reports show that Stand for Marriage Maine has also received the majority — more than $800,000 — of its donations from outside Maine, however.

That total includes $500,000 from the National Organization for Marriage in Washington, D.C., nearly $100,000 from Colorado-based Focus on the Family and more than $210,000 from Roman Catholic bishops and dioceses outside Maine.

The entire debate over who is more beholden to non-Maine interests puzzles Christian Potholm, a political scientist and government professor at Bowdoin College.

Potholm, who has studied Maine politics and polling for several decades, said where money comes from doesn’t appear to change votes but, instead, solidifies positions. Voters supporting a particular campaign see no problem with outside money flowing into those coffers; they just don’t want to see non-Maine money flowing to the other side.

“In no campaign for a candidate or a ballot question does it make any difference as to where the money comes from,” Potholm said. “The only question is if you have the money or if you don’t have the money.”

Money does make a difference, however, so Potholm said he would expect the next polls to show a jump in favor of gay-marriage supporters because of the ads that money will buy.

The campaign to defend Maine’s gay marriage law received thousands of individual donations, often of $100 or less. Web sites, such as ActBlue.com, were also a huge source of revenue for No on 1, with the average online donation coming in at about $95.

But just 29 individuals who donated $10,000 or more were responsible for nearly one-third of the campaign’s $2.7 million total. They included hedge fund investor Donald Sussman of Portland, who contributed $225,000, New York investor Paul Singer of Elliot Associates, who donated $100,000, and literary agency founder and Boston resident Esmond Harmsworth, who chipped in $100,000.

More than 8,000 Mainers and about 120 people from outside the state also have signed on as volunteers for the No on 1 campaign.

Mutty acknowledged that the fundraising disparity is a concern but said his organization will increase its appeals both in Maine and nationwide for support.

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