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Yes on 8 Launches Blackmail Campaign

Campaign leaders seek to shake down small businesses.

Jim Burroway

October 23rd, 2008

CBS8 and the Associated Press are reporting that the Yes on 8 campaign has sent out threatening letters to several small businesses in an attempt to shake them down for contributions.

San Diego realtor Jim Abbot received one of those letters featuring a Yes on 8 letterhead demanding that he contribute $10,000 to the Yes on 8 campaign, which is equal to the amount that he had given to the No on 8 campaign. That letter read, in part:

Equality California is advertising on its website that it has received a contribution of at least $10,000 from you. … Make a donation of a like amount to ProtectMarriage.com which will help us correct this error and restore Traditional Marriage. … Were you to elect not to donate comparably, it would be a clear indication that you are in opposition to traditional marriage. You would leave us no other reasonable assumption. The names of any companies and organizations that choose not to donate in like manner to protectmarriage.com but have given to Equality California will be published.

Here is the entire Yes on 8 threat letter (PDF: 4KB/4 pages).

The letter was signed by four members of Yes on 8’s executive committee: campaign chairman Ron Prentice; Edward Dolejsi, executive director of the California Catholic Conference; Mark Jansson, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; and Andrew Pugno, ProtectMarriage.com’s lawyer. A donation form was included with the letter.

Jim Abbot, who married his same-sex partner at the end of August, refused to buckle:

We’re not caving, no. No, we’re going to support our employees. We’re going to support the freedom to marry. We think that’s a fundamental right to do what we can to make sure its not taken away.

When Yes on 8 was first asked about the letter, a spokeswoman denied that their campaign would use such tactics. The campaign later admitted to sending about thirty-five letters to California businesses. The spokeswoman defended the action, citing the boycott of the San Diego Manchester Grand Hyatt after Doug Manchester donated $125,000 thousand to the Yes campaign. At least one very large group canceled their reservations as a result.

All large donations to either campaign are a matter of public record. There is no evidence however, that anyone from the No on 8 campaign demanded money from Manchester or the Grand Hyatt in exchange for silence. That boycott was organized by Californians Against Hate, which is not affiliated with the No on 8 campaign.

Update: Yes on 8 complained that at least one very large group canceled their reservations at the Machester Grand Hyatt because of publicity over donations to the Yes campaign. I wonder if that group they’re referring to was GLAAD?

Comments

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Louie
October 23rd, 2008 | LINK

WOW! What sheer audacity of the yes on 8 campaign to shake down donors to no on prop. 8! While it is correct that the no on prop. 8 groups have chosen to publisize the names of major donors to yes on 8, that was it. No threatening letters were sent in advance shaking them down for money or else.

Al Capone would be extremely proud of these underhanded tactics by the yes on 8 committee.

They are doing everything they can to win this election: Lies, deceit, threats, false testimony, bigotry, prejudice and now blackmail!

WOW! These “Christians” certainly don’t seem to “walk the talk”. But, I suppose that their mantra has always been “Do as I say, not as I do!”

I will choose “free will”!

California – Vote “NO” on Prop. 8!
Arizona – Vote “NO” on Prop. 102! AGAIN!
Florida – Vote “NO” on Amendment 2!
Connecticut – Vote “NO” on Question 1!

Timothy Kincaid
October 23rd, 2008 | LINK

Unless I’m mistaken (help me out here legal types) this is blatant extortion. And extortion is a crime that is not taken lightly by the judicial system.

This is absolute lunacy and it seems hardly credible. Not only could they face criminal prosecution but there is almost no way to spin this story positively. It’s a complete PR nightmare.

Gab.
October 24th, 2008 | LINK

Have anybody tried showing it to some legal authorities?

(Even in the US of A, this blackmail must break some laws?)

Sapphocrat
October 24th, 2008 | LINK

I’m just waiting for them to come out with: “THEY did it FIRST!” — citing exposure of Yes on 8 donors (which, as you wrote, Jim, are publicly available anyway) and boycotts (which, as you wrote, Jim, are completely independent of the official No On 8 campaign).

I’m as curious as Timothy to hear from lawyers if this fits the legal definition of extortion.

It certainly fits the moral/ethical definition. My first thought was: “You pay us for ‘protection,’ or we’ll kneecap you.”

AJD
October 24th, 2008 | LINK

I’m no legal expert, but I’m not sure that counts as extortion because they’re not threatening to do anything illegal. Publicly denouncing companies that donate to the other side but not to yours isn’t against the law.

Still, as Sapphocrat said, that does meet the moral and ethical definition of extortion and blackmail, and it should be publicized as widely as possible.

Tina-cious.com
October 24th, 2008 | LINK

High moral values – hard at work.

Mirele
October 24th, 2008 | LINK

In honor of that blackmail, I just sent a donation to No on 8. I live in Arizona, we have our own nasty ballot initiative, and I happen to be an inactive member of the church that’s really pushing Yes on 8, but this is INSANE.

Thanks, Yes on 8. I got off my duff and donated.

Joe
October 24th, 2008 | LINK

TO counteract this, Tactical Syntax has some great banner ads. It’s a shame our crazy opposition has to lie.

Ephilei
October 24th, 2008 | LINK

Dare we say this is a new low?

AJD
October 24th, 2008 | LINK

I think the No On 8 campaign needs to do with this exactly what the Yes On 8 campaign did with Gavin Newsom’s speech: Turn it into a TV commercial and blow it out of proportion, making sure to liberally accuse them of blackmail. Give the morons a taste of their own Machiavellian medicine.

cowboy
October 24th, 2008 | LINK

I think their denial about the letters is the critical factor in all this horrendous PR mess.

Their rationale demonstrates a bit of desperation but I see also some indication of some internal organizational problems.

There is no way they could be proud of their actions and any justification will only be seen as silly.

They’re in a no-win situation.

It’s not something you think would come from a religious-based organization.

And…yes…I do have a smirk on my face right now. I’m beginning to think my donations to the NO campaigns has been well spent.

cowboy
October 24th, 2008 | LINK

“…have been well spent.”

I just got back from trying to VOTE.

kevin
October 24th, 2008 | LINK

What a surprise!

Rick Warren – the kinder, gentler Right-wing fundamentalist – has endorsed Prop 8!

http://www.onenewsnow.com/Church/Default.aspx?id=298544

I’m counting the days until he goes down in a shameful hot mess of flames, like they all do eventually.

Walt
October 24th, 2008 | LINK

I just wanted to point out that this extortion letter was not a routine fund raising letter sent out by mere staffers at the Yes On H8 group. It is signed by several high ranking members of the organization.

One of the signatories is Edward Dolejsi, who signs in his capacity as “Executive Director” of the California Catholic Conference. I think it is very important to note that the California Catholic Conference is not simply a right-wing Catholic hate group like the Catholic League. Rather, the California Catholic Conference bills itself as:

“A state Catholic Conference is a Church institution which represents the bishops (and their dioceses) and allows for the coordination of the concerns of the Church in state public policymaking.

The California Catholic Conference staff communicates the California bishops’ public policy priorities to the members of the legislative and administration branches of state governments and works cooperatively with other religious and secular agencies.”
http://www.cacatholic.org/about/about/about-the-california-catholic-conference.html

Therefore, I would query whether the California bishops want to disavow these practices. While I would hope that the Church leaders might want to be associated with the High Road, I am not holding my breath.

fannie
October 24th, 2008 | LINK

This is despicable.

fannie
October 24th, 2008 | LINK

Also, the Attorney General might be interested in this case under a blackmail analysis.

Alas, a blog » Blog Archive » “Yes On 8″ Threatens Boycott Of Businesses That Don’t Give Them Money
October 24th, 2008 | LINK

[…] Lovely. […]

Timothy Kincaid
October 24th, 2008 | LINK

An interesting thought: a district attorney may decide that this meets the qualifications of extortion as defined by California Penal Code 518 – 523 and may decide to bring charges.

And I believe that in the case of Jim Abbot, the San Diego DA Bonnie Dumanis would be the appropriate party. Hmmmm. I seem to recall that she just married Denise Neleson, her partner of 11 years.

Amii Lockhart
October 24th, 2008 | LINK

This is really creepy and scary (along with the crazy Dividers). These people will stop at nothing. If I thought anyone was evil in the religious sense, it would be the yes on 8 freaks. They are going against everything Jesus has taught.

I’ve never wished so much to have discretionary money. In addition to bankrolling no on 8 I’d give to each of the business that received that horrible letter. Ah, if wishes were fishes….

AJD
October 24th, 2008 | LINK

Amii,

A friend of mine used to say “You can’t reason out what wasn’t reasoned in.” I’m not sure if he coined that particular quip, but it certainly applies to this latest example of the Yes On 8 people employing the lowliest of tactics to achieve their goal.

The very nature of what they’re doing is mean-spirited and, dare I say, evil; in this instance, I would define evil as being so utterly convinced that you mean well and are doing good that you utterly ignore the harm you cause others in the process.

As such, we shouldn’t be surprised when they stoop to the basest mendacity and charlatanry in their irrevocable drive to get what they want.

Sapphocrat
October 24th, 2008 | LINK

Timothy, I just read the Code. I’m no lawyer, but it certainly sounds like it fits the definition.

AJD, re: “they’re not threatening to do anything illegal” — true. But one lone comment over at Balloon Juice had me nodding in agreement:

“Uh, they demanded money to not do something. That pretty much makes it blackmail, regardless of how public the information was.”

And, if it really is extortion, consider this encouraging thought, from another commenter:

“If even one of these letters crossed state lines, then we can get the DOJ involved with some tasty RICO and other misuse of mail federal crimes, in addition to state law crimes.”

This is the first time I ever wished I was a lawyer!

AJD
October 24th, 2008 | LINK

Sapphocrat, you have a point there… Still, I think you’d have to threaten the person or property of the No On 8 people for it to legally constitute extortion. Still, as I said, I’m not a legal expert, so I’m just conjecturing.

Louie
October 24th, 2008 | LINK

These letters seem to fit the definition of “extortion”, as defined by FindLaw.com:

Extortion:
Most states define extortion as the gaining of property or money by almost any kind of force, or threat of 1) violence, 2) property damage, 3) harm to reputation, or 4) unfavorable government action. While usually viewed as a form of theft/larceny, extortion differs from robbery in that the threat in question does not pose an imminent physical danger to the victim.

For example, Dan goes to Victor’s place of business and demands monthly payment from Victor for the business’s “protection” from vandalism and after-hours theft. Fearing that he or his business will suffer harm otherwise, Victor agrees to pay Dan.

Seems to me like the yes on prop 8 committee has definitely committed an act of extortion!

California – Vote “NO” on Prop. 8!
Arizona – Vote “NO” on Prop. 102! AGAIN!
Florida – Vote “NO” on Amendment 2!
Connecticut – Vote “NO” on Question 1!

Phil
October 24th, 2008 | LINK

I’m no legal expert, but I’m not sure that counts as extortion because they’re not threatening to do anything illegal.

I’m no lawyer, but consider that a person threatening to expose a wealthy businessman’s extramarital affair is also not threatening to do anything illegal. That would be a classic case of blackmail.

John
October 24th, 2008 | LINK

This reminds me that I meant to look closely at the list of donors to Yes on Proposition 8 to see if there were any businesses that I might prefer not to patronize in the future.

AJD
October 24th, 2008 | LINK

Hey, add Bill Maher to the list of celebrity endorsements against Prop 8! He just announced it on “Real Time” tonight…

cowboy
October 25th, 2008 | LINK

Can I remind my friends here: VOTE EARLY!

I have gone twice to vote and the queue has been out the door and around the building. Imagine what it is going to be like on November 4th!

There could be mechanical problems with the new voting machines, weather, long lines on that Tuesday…so do it now! You’ll be happier with one less chore to do on that day.

Louie
October 25th, 2008 | LINK

My husband and I opted for the early mail-in ballots here in AZ. We filled them out from the convenience of our home and then mailed them in! So, we’re all done!


California – Vote “NO” on Prop. 8!
Arizona – Vote “NO” on Prop. 102! AGAIN!
Florida – Vote “NO” on Amendment 2!
Connecticut – Vote “NO” on Question 1!

Jim Burroway
October 25th, 2008 | LINK

Update: Yes on 8 complained that at least one very large group canceled their reservations at the Machester Grand Hyatt because of publicity over donations to the Yes campaign. I wonder if that group they’re referring to was GLAAD?

Sapphocrat
October 25th, 2008 | LINK

Jim:

Also “…the county retirement board and the Association of American Law Schools…”

http://www.signonsandiego.com/news/metro/20080827-9999-1n27boycott.html

GDad
October 26th, 2008 | LINK

I hope the California Bar Association hears about this. Even if “Andrew Pugno, General Counsel” hasn’t committed anything illegal, he may have acted unethically, and could get slapped by the bar.

Ben in Oakland
October 26th, 2008 | LINK

I would suggest everyone click on Rev. Baytzim’s name. very interesting reading.

quiquincho
October 29th, 2008 | LINK

At this point, I would be doubtful about these accusations. The letter could easily be a fake. No on 8 has also been accused of several bad things. You believe what you want to believe.

AJD
October 29th, 2008 | LINK

The letter isn’t fake at all. The Yes On 8 campaign openly admitted to writing it.

Timothy Kincaid
October 29th, 2008 | LINK

Quiquincho,

You do bring up a good point in your final sentence.

The Yes on 8 Campaign has been based entirely on ignoring facts, law, legal opinion, and precedent and instead believing what they want to believe. It doesn’t matter if every reputable authority says that schools and churches are not impacted in any way by Proposition 8, they believe what they want to believe.

And its the same with their supporters. It doesn’t matter if the Yes on 8 Campaign admits to sending blackmail letters, those who are looking for justification will believe what they want to believe. And it doesn’t matter if they know deep in their hearts that this effort is based on discrimination and on a desire to force secular society to like according to the rules of a few religious organizations, they will believe what they want to believe.

What do you believe, Quiquincho? It’s your choice.

Die Evangelikale Strategie: Erpresserbriefe, Nazivergleiche und brutale Gewalt « The Gay Dissenter
October 31st, 2008 | LINK

[…] heißt es darin (via Box Turtle Bulletin). […]

Chairm
November 17th, 2008 | LINK

The No side had already advertized that Abbot & Associates had given a large donation to the No side.

No threat hung over the company’s head.

The letter asks if, by that contribution, the company had chosen sides.

If not, then, a like contribution to the Yes side would be more even-handed especially since their clientle was split on the issue — the elecotrate evenly divided.

If the contribution to the No side was a demonstration of showing the company had picked a side on this issue, then, the Yes side would underline what the No side had already advertized.

To publish, in this case, is not to punish. It is to clarify. In fact, the letter would be followed-up for confirmation.

To emphasize the confirmation, if the Yes side chose to do so, would not be a punishment. So the explanation does not stand as a threat, much as extortion.

Note that the representative of Abbot & Associates said he had chosen sides. That a quarter of his employees, he said, were gay and lesbian. Fair enough.

Anyway, the company acted with the confidence that Yes supporters would not crowd into the company’s head office and put on something reminiscent of a Soviet show trial.

And the Yes supporters, to their credit, have not done such a thing.

The activist voices on the No side are clamoring for a blacklist against individuals who contributed even small amounts to the Yes campaign — and, by association, the employers of those individuals — and the religious organizations of those individuals.

The supporters of the No side keep showing that the Yes side was right.

Go ahead, push for political retribution with frivolous accusations of blackmail and extortion.

Even the fanciful suggestion, much less an actual attempt to charge blackmail or extortion, would help clarify the compassionate and peaceful message the No side would like to deliver to your fellow citizens.

Especially in the aftermath of losing yet another popular vote in which you had millions of dollars worth of bias in the major newsmedia in California.

The clarity of such message would be welcomed by all freedom-loving and tolerant Americans.

Timothy Kincaid
November 17th, 2008 | LINK

Chairm,

You are factually mistaken.

The letter demanded money in exchange for not being included on a list. Were this outside the political sphere, those who signed the letter would already be in jail.

And if, by chance, you think that this letter reflects favorably on the Yes on 8 Campaign, then by all means print out dozens of copies and give them to everyone you know. Go on, spread that “compassionate and peaceful” message.

Please.

Jason D
November 17th, 2008 | LINK

The letter states (bold is mine):

“We respectfully request that Abbot & Associates withdraw it’s support of Equality California. Make a donation of a like amount to ProtectMarriage.com which will help us correct this error and restore Traditional Marriage. A donation form is enclosed. We will be most grateful and will advertise on our website Abbot & Associates generous contribution.”

They clearly wanted the company to stop supporting No on Prop 8, and to start supporting Yes.

and here’s the punch:

“Were you to elect not to donate comparably, it would be a clear indication that you are in opposition to traditional marriage. You would leave us no other reasonable assumption. The names of any companies and organizations that choose not to donate in like manner to ProtectMarriage.com but have given to Equality California will be published.

Now, the names of whoever donated to either side is a matter of public record. While it would be easy to pull the data and figure it out for yourself, that’s not what Yes on 8 was planning.

It’s one thing for a person to look at public records, find out who donated, and tell their friends and readers. It’s another for the campaign to use the donations as an attempt to get funds and attempt to shame those who do not give.

Was No on 8 doing anything of the kind with CMT? No, it was individual people, none of whom were in the leadership of No on 8.

Chairm
November 21st, 2008 | LINK

Timothy Kincaid,

Which, if any facts, in my comment do you believe to be disputable?

Please be precise.

* * *

You asserted:

The letter demanded money in exchange for not being included on a list. Were this outside the political sphere, those who signed the letter would already be in jail.

You made an allegation of criminal behavior. No charges have been made by the proper authorities. Neither the No campaign nor the company involved has pressed for charges.

If you think they should go to jail, then, present your evidence and press for criminal charges on behalf of your readership and all the people who’d agree with you about this.

But you haven’t and you won’t because you can’t.

What you can do, instead, is build-in an excuse that this letter rests in the “political sphere” — and yet, Timothy, that is the problem with your complaint overall.

The letter was for political fundraising. Your interpretation of it is highy prejudiced. A reasonable person would recognize that a case was made in that letter for the company’s neutrality and for supporting the Yes side. No threat to silence the company was made.

To the contrary, the No campaign had publicized the company’s financial contribution. The letter was a response to that publicity. The letter invited clarification.

THAT clarification — the company’s position of neutrality or of taking sides (one way or the other) — would be underscored should the Yes side publish THAT clarification.

No demand for silence was made. No threat was made. If anything the Yes side would make the company’s policy known — it would amplify the company’s voice on this ballot issue.

Timothy Kincaid
November 21st, 2008 | LINK

Chairm,

The letter is right there to read.

Were you to elect not to donate comparably, it would be a clear indication that you are in opposition to traditional marriage. You would leave us no other reasonable assumption. The names of any companies and organizations that choose not to donate in like manner to ProtectMarriage.com but have give to Equality California will be published.

I’ll let others decide whether it was, as you say, an invitation for clarification.

Mark Hefflinger: Anti-Gay Groups Playing the Victim in Court
August 2nd, 2012 | LINK

[…] course, Yes on 8 supporters threatened to boycott businesses that donated to the No on 8 campaign. One could also contrast these election-related boycotts with […]

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