Good news and bad news from Washington State. The good news is that a federal judge in Tacoma denied the attempt of the local Focus on the Family affiliate Family Policy Institute of Washington (via its Family PAC) to gut Washington state’s campaign finance laws a week before the election. From the Washington Families Standing Together press release (link added).
In denying the Reject 71 campaign’s motion, the judge said “The State has a real and vital interest in showing the money trail…I do not believe it is in the public interest for the court to intervene and change the rules of the game at the last minute.”
Judge Leighton, who was appointed by former president George W. Bush, added, “I do not believe there is a real emergency. The constraints imposed upon the plaintiff are self-inflicted.”
The emergency suit was filed by Family PAC, a new political action committee formed to challenge the law and accept money from out of state special interests. It has the same board of directors and address as the Family Policy Institute of Washington, and its only contributor is the National Organization for Marriage (NOM). On the same day Family PAC filed its motion in Washington, NOM filed a nearly identical lawsuit in Maine, challenging the constitutionality of that state’s financial reporting requirements. NOM is also the single largest contributor to a pending ballot initiative in Maine, where they are trying to overturn Maine’s civil marriage equality law.
This is a real victory for the good guys, and prevents NOM, FotF and local anti-gay organizations from pooling their money for such things as giant media buys.
The bad news is that NOM, FOTF or other organizations can still legally spend money in Washington in an effort to kill Referendum 71 and strip senior citizens and gay and lesbian domestic partners of vital legal protections. Well, not just can spend. The operative word is actually is spending. More on that below.Dominic Holden over at SLOG broke this story. It seems that Focus on the Family’s Focus on the Family Action (FOTFA) has dumped almost $92,000 so far into the Referendum 71 campaign in the last few weeks. About $10,000 went to glossy mailers and $80,000 to radio buys.
From Dominic’s article
So what’s an out-of-state organization doing campaigning-using disengenuous arguments, no less-on a measure in Washington? Focus on the Family Action hasn’t registered to work on a specific ballot measure, according to the state’s Public Disclosure Commission (PDC). Nor have any of the campaigns that are designated to advocate around R-71 reported a contribution from FOTFA. But, it turns out, state laws allow FOTFA to register as an independent expenditure campaign to spend money on any issue as it sees fit. …
“If they already have money and they don’t have to go out and raise it and they want to spend it to share their message, there are no limits,” says Lori Anderson, a spokeswoman for the Washington State Public Disclosure Commission. …
[E]ven though the Family PAC lawsuit was delayed yesterday, Focus on the Family Action doesn’t need to wait to spend big money here. It also doesn’t have to report how much money it has, where its money came from, or how much it plans to spend. “They get to spend as much as they want whenever they want. Their only requirement is that they report what they spend and report it within 24 hours,” she says.
How much does the organization have? That’s unclear. But to give you a sense, the annual report for Focus on the Family Action shows the group raised $10,544,226 last year.
And what message is FOTFA bringing to Washington? I bet you can get it in one guess. Their mailer says that
…if Referendum 71 is passed, “public schools will be required to teach kids as young as kindergartners that domestic partnerships are the equivalent to marriage. … Do you want your kids or grandkids to be taught about gay partnerships?”
Same old, same old. Dominic concludes:
So anti-gay campaigns in Washington don’t need to accept large, out-of-state donations to push expensive propaganda campaigns that claim R-71 will change the curriculum of public schools. (For the record, R-71 doesn’t say anything about curriculum, and even if it were rejected, two other domestic partnership bills would remain on the books, and those haven’t changed curriculum.) Focus on the Family Action can spend as much as it wants from afar. It’s already started. And that’s perfectly legal.
And something tells me that FOTFA isn’t the only national anti-gay organization that’ll be peddling fear in Washington this week.
Maybe now would be a good time to remind folks to help the Approve 71 campaign preserve the domestic partnership law by signing up to canvass or to phone bank, or make a donation to keep the Approve 71 t.v. ads on the air. And if you’re a Washingtonian, vote “approved”. And make sure everyone you know votes “approve”.