Views & Voices

Marinelli: NOM staff spent money on $500 dinners and gambling


Former National Organization for Marriage ally Louis J. Marinelli is now claiming that during last year’s dismal “Summer for Marriage” tour, the organization’s staff spent money on $500 dinners and gambling.

Marinelli was once affiliated with NOM, where he helped to plan and served as bus driver during the organization’s “Summer for Marriage” tour.

Louis Marinelli with the NOM Summer for Marriage 2010 tour bus.

It was during this tour, according to Marinelli, that he noticed that NOM’s staff were acting most un-Christian in certain ways:

… I noticed how money was being spent in ways that I didn’t consider to be very Christian-like, even though the face of their movement, their press releases, their highly scripted and scrutinized videos, their advertisements and their talking points are all appealing to many conservative Christians. If they were to know how NOM spends its money behind the scenes, though, I have a feeling many of them would be disappointed in the organization and feel as though their donations were being used in ways unbecoming a Christian.

Don’t get me wrong, it was a nice and generous gesture for the organization to treat the whole team to lunch and/or dinner everyday for our efforts on the tour. I was just uncomfortable that so much money was being spent on expensive dinners in moderately high to highly priced restaurants each putting in excess of a $500 dent into NOM’s bank account each night. Multiply that by the thirty nights we spent on the tour.

What is that, fifteen thousand dollars on food for a month? That’s a lot of money. To put it in perspective, I’m running a cross-country tour next month and the sum of my tour costs less than NOM spent on just the lobster or steak dinners we ate last year.

Marinelli also claimed that NOM staff went to casinos to gamble:

On at least two occasions during the thirty day summer tour, the Catholic NOM staff made its way to a casino to smoke some cigars and gamble away what I consider pretty significant amounts of money. I can’t remember specifically how much was gambled away but I remember feeling how poor I was because I wasn’t able to just throw that much money away at a game of blackjack.

One of these casinos was in Sioux City, Iowa and the second casino was in Mississippi. Yes, the NOM tour bus and staff made a small detour on the way to Atlanta to “stop for dinner” at Harrah’s Casino in a town called Tunica in Mississippi. We were on our way to Atlanta from St. Louis and driving there via I-55 and I-22 which took us through Memphis, Tennessee. It was about thirty miles out of the way (sixty combined) but the steak and fries dinner was real nice. I feel bad writing this because it was truly nice of them to treat us to these dinners but the reason I want to talk about it is because the money that people send NOM goes to paying for this kind of stuff, too.

It was funny at the time but Brian Brown wanted to make sure we parked the NOM bus far away from the casino. He was well-aware of how bad it would look if the NOM bus was found parked at Harrah’s Casino and someone took a picture of it. So yes, we parked the NOM bus by itself in one of the empty parking lots far away from the other cars.

Now in all honesty, this is just Marinelli’s version of events and they haven’t been verified. Also, there doesn’t seem to be any evidence of illegality on the part of NOM.

Still, if Marinelli’s claims are accurate, it does raise more questions about NOM’s ethical behavior. Already, the organization has fought in six states to keep its donor list secret.

Also, according to the website NOM Exposed, there are further questions in terms of how NOM monies goes into the pockets of staff:

In its first year of operation, NOM paid nearly 14% of its budget to Brian Brown and Maggie Gallagher. The subsequent year, when NOM’s budget increased significantly, Brown and Gallagher both received larger paychecks, though it represented a smaller percentage of NOM’s overall budget at just 5%. Brown is now paid over $130,000 and Gallagher nearly $27,000. As president of the Institute for Marriage and Public Policy, Gallagher makes an additional $125,000 per year – an amount that’s over half of the organization’s total budget.

Additionally, NOM seems to be attempting to hide a $166,000 consulting payment to Common Sense America. While it appears on the version of their Form 990 available from the IRS, they have removed it from the version of the Form 990 that NOM makes available through their website. Common Sense America’s registered agent is Maggie Gallagher’s son Patrick and Brian Brown sits on the Common Sense America’s board.

Marinelli, by the way, defected from NOM and is now a proponent of marriage equality. He founded the National Organization for Marriage Equality and is now planning another tour where he intends to go to 17 states in an effort to drum up Republican and conservative support for marriage equality.

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