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NOM argues in Maine that it doesn’t have to reveal donor list

Thursday, April 11, 2013

PORTLAND, Maine — A lawyer for the leading national advocacy group opposing same-sex marriage told Maine’s highest court Thursday that the First Amendment shields it from having to reveal its donor list to state officials.

Forcing donor names to be disclosed in connection with the state’s 2009 referendum that overturned the state’s Legislature-enacted gay marriage law would have a chilling effect on donors, said Kaylan Phillips, representing the National Organization for Marriage, a Washington, D.C.-based group that has campaigned against same-sex marriage initiatives nationwide.

NOM President Brian Brown

The Maine Ethics Commission demanded to see the names of the organization’s donors, and a lower court judge refused to throw out the subpoenas. The National Organization for Marriage is appealing that ruling.

NOM was the primary donor when it gave $1.9 million to Stand for Marriage Maine, a political action committee that helped repeal Maine’s same-sex marriage law.

The Ethics Commission says it needs the list of donors to determine if the organization should have registered and disclosed donors. State law requires groups to register as ballot question committees if they raise or spend more than $5,000 to influence a statewide ballot question.

Phillips told justices that the group shouldn’t have to turn over the donor names since none of the contributions were earmarked specifically to fight Maine’s gay marriage law. Donors shouldn’t be subjected to phone calls from the Ethics Commission to determine if the organization should have registered, she said, or possibly to have their names publicly disclosed.

“This is a very controversial issue, as I see in my everyday life, even with death threats to my law firm,” said Phillips, who is from Indianapolis.

Assistant Attorney General Phyllis Gardiner told justices that both federal and state courts have already rejected the group’s argument.

To determine whether NOM should have registered as a ballot question committee, the Ethics Commission needs to ask donors whether the group made specific reference to Maine’s referendum when soliciting donations, Gardiner said.

If the supreme court denies the appeal, the group could be required to disclose the names of donors for the Ethics Commission’s investigators.

If the Ethics Commission determines that the organization falls under the state’s ballot question committee requirements, then NOM could be required to register as such, at which time it would have to reveal the names of all donors who contributed to the 2009 effort to repeal Maine’s gay marriage law.

Maine voters in November approved same-sex marriage in a statewide referendum. The law went into effect in late December.

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10 more reader comments:

  1. if they were above board and beyond reproach, they wouldn’t care.

    Posted on Thursday, April 11, 2013 at 11:45am
  2. I say pull the covers off this group! See who is really hiding and funding this hate group.

    Posted on Thursday, April 11, 2013 at 11:46am
  3. Hopefully this is one organization headed for the dustbin of history.

    Posted on Thursday, April 11, 2013 at 11:47am
  4. It is mostly funded by the Mormon Church and Mitt Romney. http://www.hrc.org/nomexposed

    Posted on Thursday, April 11, 2013 at 11:52am
  5. They tried this in Washington State back in 2009 during the R-71 campaign to legalize civil unions here. (They claimed fear of retaliation!) It went all the way to the US Supreme Court which ruled them.

    Posted on Thursday, April 11, 2013 at 11:53am
  6. (BTW, we now have full marriage which voters approved last November.)

    Posted on Thursday, April 11, 2013 at 11:56am
  7. How is their donor list protected by freedom of speech? It’s not.

    Posted on Thursday, April 11, 2013 at 12:10pm
  8. What are They Afraid Of? Being Glitter Bombed?

    Posted on Thursday, April 11, 2013 at 12:16pm
  9. fine. Then Obama doesn’t have to reveal his “real” birth certificate, or tell the truth about Benghazi, or any other half-assed conspiracy theories the right vomits out.

    Please visit my page ~ http://www.facebook.com/pages/Spotlight-On-Hypocrisy/477176645648116

    Posted on Thursday, April 11, 2013 at 1:04pm
  10. Don’t see a thing in Amendment #1 that prohibits telling who donated. It just says the gov’t can’t keep us from talking.

    Posted on Thursday, April 11, 2013 at 1:13pm