AUGUSTA, Maine — The National Organization for Marriage has filed details of its financial activities related to a 2009 effort to repeal Maine’s same-sex marriage law after a more than five-year legal battle over Maine’s campaign finance laws.
Brian Brown, president and co-founded of the National Organization for Marriage, said by phone Monday that being forced to disclose donors was a “gross injustice” to his organization.
“We did not do anything wrong or in violation of the law,” he said.
Jonathan Wayne, executive director of the Maine Ethics Commission, said in a written statement Monday morning the list had been filed on the commission’s website and the organization has indicated it will not fight the matter through the courts any further.
“The investigation, commission decision and litigation have been a long haul, but they have had the effect of strengthening Maine’s campaign finance laws,” Wayne wrote.
Joseph A Vanderhulst, one of the attorneys who represented National Organization for Marriage in the Maine case, said Monday’s disclosure marks the end of the years-long conflict.
“There’s nowhere else to appeal and the whole point of the appeal was to reverse the [ethics commission’s disclosure order],” he said. “Once names like these are disclosed, there’s no way to undo that. The harm is irrevocable.”
In early August, the Maine Supreme Judicial Court denied an attempt by the National Organization for Marriage for a stay on releasing the list while its case against a prior ethics commission ruling was pending. The Aug. 4 decision essentially denied that request and suggested that the National Organization for Marriage’s argument was not strong in the overall case.
The National Organization for Marriage funneled more than $2 million to a political action committee called Stand for Marriage Maine, which represented about 64 percent of the PAC’s spending on the referendum that repealed a same-sex marriage law enacted by the Legislature and Gov. John Baldacci. Same-sex marriage became law in Maine after voters endorsed it through another referendum in 2012.
The National Organization for Marriage, which has been arguing that Maine’s campaign finance law should not apply to the disclosure of national-level donors, already has paid a record fine to the state of more than $50,000 in the matter. Wayne said Monday the filing appears on initial inspection to satisfy Maine’s campaign finance reporting requirements.
“In 2009, the National Organization for Marriage was relatively young and it relied heavily on major donors for funding,” Wayne said. “NOM spent about $2 million to promote the referendum in 2009 and with this filing it is stating that the funding largely came from five of its major donors.”
The donor list includes one Mainer and four out-of-state donors who gave the National Organization for Marriage between $50,000 and $750,000 in individual donations.
— Richard Kurtz of Cape Elizabeth, $50,000 on Aug. 5, 2009.
— John Templeton of Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, $300,000 on Oct.1, 2009.
— Terrence Caster of San Diego, California, $300,000 on Oct. 9, 2009.
— Knights of Columbus of New Haven, Connecticut, $140,000 on Sept. 4, 2009.
— Sam Fieler of New York City, $750,000 on July 15, 2009, and $500,000 on Oct. 13, 2009.
— There were an additional $5,279 in smaller contributions that were not itemized on the report.
The report also shows dozens of deposits to Stand for Marriage Maine, including $1.4 million in October 2009 alone.
Brown said his organization argued during the case the national Human Rights Campaign, which supported same-sex marriage, also funnelled money to Maine groups leading up to the 2009 referendum but was told it was too late to file a complaint.
“Only a few donor names were disclosed,” Brown said. “The bigger issue is whether everyone is going to be treated the same.”
The ethics commission’s original investigation of the case was in response to a 2009 complaint filed by an activist in California, who argued the National Organization for Marriage should have been required to register as a ballot question committee. In general, responding to complaints is how ethics commission cases start.
“Campaign finance disclosure is based on self-reporting by the groups who are raising and spending money,” Wayne said. “As long as the financial disclosure seems to be complete and compliant, the commission does not conduct an investigation. We do our best to educate the different groups on what the laws are, what they have to disclose and most of them seem to understand their responsibilities and fulfill them.”