NOM loses in Maine, election laws are constitutional
August 19th, 2010
The National Organization for Marriage spent about 1.8 million dollars in Maine in 2009 to successfully support a referendum to block same-sex marriage. But in the process they refused to comply with Maine’s election laws about disclosure of expenditures and donors.
As part of their strategy, NOM sued the state in Federal court, claiming that campaign laws unconstitutionally burdened them and threatened their First Amendment rights to free speech. While this was not specifically tied to the Referendum 1 issue, but rather to NOM’s desire to anonymously fund campaign ads for or against specific candidates, it was their best chance at beating disclosure.
In this suit, they challenged:
* the definition of a Political Action Committee (PAC)
* independent expenditure requirements
* disclosure requirements.
Today District Judge Brock Hornby released his ruling. And – as some news sources are reporting – he agreed that the law is overly broad. But those areas of agreement with NOM were inconsequential to the conclusion: they must report the names of their donors.
Specifically, the judge found that within the language “for the purpose of promoting, defeating or influencing in any way the nomination or election of any candidate to political office”, the words “influencing in any way” were too broad and must be considered stricken from the language. But there is no ambiguity about NOM’s participation so this revision does not in any way impact NOM’s disclosure requirement.
The judge also struck down a requirement that any expenditure of $250 at any time must be disclosed within 24 hours as being unreasonably burdensome. But, again, this has no impact on NOM.
The judge recommended that the legislature tweak the law to adjust for those minor findings. (NPBN)
Anne Luther of the group Maine Citizens for Clean Elections is pleased with the court’s ruling.
“Our first reading of it is that this is 95 percent a vindication of Maine’s PAC reporting laws; that this is by and large upholding our reporting and disclosure laws. It’s entirely constitutional,” Luther says. “The judge carved out two very, very narrow exceptions, one of which may be able to be handled very easily by additional rule-making but these are very very narrow exceptions that leave the vast majority of our PAC reporting for this election coming up entirely intact.”
This is but one more victory leading up to the day that NOM is forced to disclose exactly on whose behalf they are a front. Current speculation is either the Mormon Church or the Catholic Church, but it could be any of several other wealthy but secretive sources.
But this ruling did disclose some information. For example, while they did have about 35,000 “members” last year, the dues from such membership only raised about $350,000, or around $10 each and there are not that many more contributions from small donors. NOM has a budget of about 13 million dollars for 2010. And about 90% of these funds will come in the form of large donors.
NOM is not a grass root organization.