Common Cause Minnesota had filed the complaints claiming that advertisements run in print, radio, and television by the Minnesota Family Council (MFC) and the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) regarding the anti-gay marriage amendment in 2010 constituted lobbying.
The board ruled that the ads were “too vague to trigger the registration requirement for lobbyists.”
As part of the complaint, Common Cause Minnesota had asked for financial penalties and an audit of NOM’s spending in Minnesota.
The Minnesota Independent reported that both organizations had spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on the TV and radio ads.
MFC’s CEO John Helmberger told the board:
“Because of their shared goals of preserving traditional marriage in Minnesota, National Organization for Marriage asked MFC to help plan the production and placement of the [subject] ads. While MFC had input as to the production and placement of these ads, MFC did not pay for any part of their production or broadcast, nor is it obligated to reimburse the National Organization for Marriage for any part of the cost of producing or broadcasting the ads. Further, during 2010 MFC did not make any contribution to the National Organization for Marriage.”
Based on that, the board dismissed the complaint from the group.
The board noted in its dismissal of the the complaint against the Minnesota Family Council, that despite the fact that the ads stated, “Paid for by the Minnesota Family Council and the National Organization for Marriage,” the Minnesota Family Council did not actually contribute any funds to the ad campaign.
The NOM spent $709,000 on radio and television ads during the gubernatorial campaign in 2010. The ads targeted candidates Mark Dayton (now Governor) and Tom Horner for their support for marriage equality, and lent support for the campaign of failed Republican candidate Tom Emmer, who supported a constitutional amendment barring same-sex marriage.
The Board, however, previously ruled that corporate donations to groups advocating for or against a constitutional amendment that would ban same-sex marriage must be disclosed. That ruling applies to both the NOM and the MFC, who claim that their supporters would be subjected to harassment and violence if they are forced to disclose their donor information.
The Minnesota legislature this year approved a constitutional amendment that would restrict marriage to the union of a man and a woman. Voters will consider the amendment in 2012.