The Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender civil rights organization, praised a federal court ruling that upheld Minnesota’s campaign disclosure laws from a challenge by lawyers representing the National Organization for Marriage in its radical nationwide efforts to dismantle state laws that provide transparency about who is funding political campaigns. The decision comes as NOM has failed to disclose any of its political activities in Minnesota – and after controversial donations by Target and Best Buy to a committee supporting an anti-LGBT gubernatorial candidate saw the light of day because of the challenged law.
“Once again a court has denied the cynical efforts of NOM and its cohorts to bring down disclosure laws that provide the public with essential information about who is spending money on political campaigns,” said HRC Vice President of Communications and Marketing Fred Sainz. “And once again NOM is trying to evade the laws by failing to report its state electoral work. It begs the question: what is NOM secretly doing to try to take away LGBT Minnesotans’ civil rights, and why are they fighting so desperately to avoid public scrutiny of their activities?”
In rejecting the arguments made by NOM’s lawyers, Judge Donovan Frank wrote that “the voting public has an interest in knowing who is speaking about a candidate… and knowing the sources of election-related spending…. Invalidating the election laws at issue here would likely result in corporations [and organizations] making independent expenditures without any reporting or disclosure on the eve of the upcoming general election on November 2, 2010.”
The lawsuit brought by NOM’s lawyers is similar to other public disclosure challenges they have made across the country. The Minnesota decision follows legal defeats in Maine, where NOM remains under investigation by the Maine Ethics Commission for failing to register with the state as a ballot question committee and disclose the donors to its campaign to overturn Maine’s marriage equality law in 2009. In Washington State, NOM’s lawyers fought the state’s public records law all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court – and lost. A federal court in California has similarly rejected NOM’s efforts to hide its donors in the wake of Proposition 8.
In Minnesota, NOM has released television and radio ads against pro-equality candidates and sent a widely-condemned mailer targeting an openly-gay Republican candidate in his primary race – all while failing to disclose its campaign activities in the state. Questions have been raised about whether NOM is deliberately evading Minnesota’s public disclosure requirements.
“What we are seeing in Minnesota and increasingly across the country is a covert plan by NOM to evade and eviscerate public disclosure laws – all intended to achieve NOM’s end goal of avoiding legitimate scrutiny and accountability,” added Sainz. “Enough is enough. The public has the right to know who is working to elect candidates opposed to the basic civil rights of LGBT Minnesotans. It’s particularly galling that if NOM had their way, corporations like Target and Best Buy would be free to influence elections out of public view.”
HRC recently contributed $110,000 to WIN Minnesota, an independent expenditure committee working to elect pro-equality candidates this November. HRC has pledged an additional $40,000 in contributions to organizations and candidates in Minnesota that support LGBT civil rights.
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