The Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) civil rights organization, today called on the National Organization for Marriage to stop its radical national strategy of hiding its election activities and eviscerating public disclosure laws, in the wake of today’s federal court ruling in Maine upholding the state’s campaign finance framework against NOM’s challenge.
“Time and again NOM has tried to evade or eviscerate popular disclosure laws that provide the public with critical information about who spends money on campaigns, and as usual they’ve come up short,” said Fred Sainz, the Human Rights Campaign’s Vice President of Communications. “It begs the questions: what does NOM want to hide about their efforts to strip millions of Americans of their basic civil rights, and why are they fighting so hard to hide it?”
Today, a federal judge in Portland, Maine ruled against NOM by upholding laws requiring organizations engaged in Maine elections to register as political action committees, disclose their independent expenditures and provide disclaimers on campaign advertisements. The court found two lesser legal provisions defective but noted that they could likely be cured by new legislation.
In rejecting most of NOM’s lawsuit, Judge D. Brock Hornby ruled that “Maine… has a compelling reason for compiling information about PACs – the goal of providing information to Maine voters about the interest groups that spend money referring to candidates in an election – and indeed Maine has polling data demonstrating the public’s interest in such information.” The judge found that “NOM’s desire to limit campaign finance disclosures … would yield perverse results, totally at odds with the interest in ‘transparency’ recognized in Citizens United,” the recent Supreme Court decision that allowed for unlimited corporate spending in elections but accepted the government’s compelling interest in requiring public disclosure.
NOM’s lawsuit is part of escalating tensions between the group and ethics officials in Maine. 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. NOM provided more than $1.9 million of the $3 million spent by opponents of marriage equality to pass Question 1 – but it failed to disclose where the money came from. The organization has stonewalled the ethics investigation over its Question 1 involvement, which is the subject of a separate ongoing lawsuit.
Today’s decision follows similar defeats in Washington state, where 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 similarly rejected NOM’s efforts to hide its donors in the wake of Proposition 8.
“NOM’s agenda of hiding their political activities from legitimate scrutiny and accountability has gone on long enough,” added Sainz. “The public has a right to know who is behind their efforts to take away the fundamental rights of people living in Maine, California, Washington and elsewhere across the country. It’s time for NOM to own up and play by rules that serve the public interest.”
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