National Organization for Marriage (NOM) and their associates are continuing to pour money into elections and taking away rights by initiative and referendum, but they don’t want you or anyone else to know who they are. They lurk shadows, influencing elections in secret by hiding the identity of their campaign donors and the people who sign their referenda and initiative petitions.
NOM’s cabal includes Protect Marriage Washington, James Madison Center, ProtectMarriage.com – Yes on 8, American Principles in Action, Stand for Marriage Maine, Family Policy Institute of Washington and the ballot initiative promoter Tim Eyman. They’re all represented by the same law firm, Bopp, Coleson & Bostrum and together have reached their tentacles into at least five states: California, Iowa, Maine, Minnesota and Washington (twice).
And it doesn’t stop there. NOM and friends have been pursuing a two-prong agenda. These groups are using anti-LGBT political campaigns as a vehicle to challenge the public disclosure and campaign finance laws. The pattern that has emerged is this: They attack LGBT civil rights via referenda/initiatives or by backing anti-LGBT candidates or attacking pro-equality candidates, but they refuse to divulge the identities of their petition signers or campaign donors. Then, when pressed for the information that law-abiding organizations provide, they sue the state to challenging the law.
The lawsuits they file are purely challenges to campaign finance and public disclosure laws and are not in any way “LGBT cases”. But because they oppose equal rights for LGBT Americans and oppose any campaign regulations or public disclosure requirements, NOM often launches their lawsuits off of controversy they create with their campaigns attacking LGBT rights or pro-equality candidates. NOM & friends work hard to cloud their real intent in the public’s eye. They conflate the vehicles for their cases with the goal of their cases.
Back in June, after NOM and PMW suffered two colossal losses at their own game, I posed the question “How many times does NOM want to lose in Washington?”. Although a rhetorical question, the courts have since answered “at least twice more”.
On September 1st, U.S. District Court Judge Ronald B. Leighton read a ruling from the bench in Family PAC v. Reed (No. 3:09-cv-05662-RBL) that represents another major loss for NOM & friends. Judge Leighton ruled that Washington state’s laws are constitutional that require the disclosure of names and addresses of contributors giving more than $25 to a campaign and their occupations and employers when they contribute more than $100. Family PAC, as you may recall, was cynically created very late in the 2009 campaign season by Family Policy Institute of Washington solely to challenge Washington’s campaign finance disclosure laws. FPIW was a major player in the failed effort to overturn by referendum Washington’s new comprehensive domestic partnership law. Here is an excerpt from Judge Leighton’s ruling:
What is the government interest advanced by the disclosure statute and the regulations? It is the informational interest satisfied by allowing voters to follow the money – the ability for voters to know who it is that is trying to influence their vote. That interest is a vital interest of government and the people it serves.
Are the subject laws substantially related to that vital interest? Yes. Though the limits may seem low to the plaintiff, small contributions when aggregated by organizations of people – special interests as we so often refer to them in the political debate: unions, business interests, occupational guilds or associations – they can have a powerful impact on the debate, and voters can benefit from the information that disclosure provides. The disclosure [laws & regs] both meet the exacting scrutiny standard and are constitutional.
…The ability of voters to identify those who have invested in the effort to solicit their vote for a candidate or an issue is of vital importance to any effort to build and maintain open government. The right to receive information is an inherent corollary of the right to free speech. …The interest which the State of Washington seeks to advance in this statute is compelling.
A statement by Equal Rights Washington on the Family PAC ruling is below the fold.
Just two days after Judge Leighton’s ruling, Judge Richard Hicks from Thurston County Superior Court lifted a ban he had placed last October on the release of petitions from numerous Washington initiatives and referenda. The ban had been in response to a legal challenge brought by Tim Eyman and allies (Eyman v. Reed, No. 09-2-02477-0) who want to keep the petitions they circulated secret from voters. Judge Leighton lifted the ban in response to the recent 8-1 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Doe v. Reed. In the ruling, which was a colossal loss for NOM associate Protect Marriage Washington, the Court confirmed the constitutionality of Washington’s Public Records Act, which considers referenda and initiative petitions to be public records.
Incidentally, NOM & friends suffered yet another big loss on August 19th in Maine, when Maine District Court Judge D. Brock Hornby ruled in NOM v. McKee, NOM’s attack on Maine’s clean elections law, that besides an ambiguity in the meaning of the word “influence” in the laws and quibbles with the timetable for reporting expenditures, “…Maine’s laws governing PACs, independent campaign expenditures, and attribution and disclaimer requirements are constitutional and survive NOM’s challenges that they are unconstitutionally vague and overbroad and that they expose excessive budens that chill NOM’s speech preceding this fall’s elections and thereafter.” Local press coverage here and here.
Simply put, NOM & friends are consistently losing their attacks on state public disclosure and campaign finance laws, and their losses in Washington continue to mount.Statement from Equal Rights Washington:
I think that the decision in Family PAC v. Reed is yet another illustration of the willingness of the ultra radical right to harm openness and transparency in government in order to try to achieve their anti-gay agenda. In the Family PAC case the judge rightly recognized that the state’s existing disclosure laws were meant to protect the public trust and did not limit the ability of individuals to participate fully in the democratic process. Family PAC arguments that were rejected really boiled down to, ”we want to use the democratic process to bully marginalized populations by not having to show to voters who we are and how we fund our campaigns.” Had Family PAC been successful then the public would never be able to know who was behind ballot measures and who was really funding them.
We also need to pay attention to the many ways by which those involved with the wrongly named Family PAC are seeking to take away the rights of LGBT people and others in America. James Bopp the attorney in Family PAC has also been working to fund television advertisements that attack US Senator Patty Murray. We must connect the dots and understand that to stop Family PAC we must support Senator Patty Murray in the November election. Bopp and his cronies want to see the
anti-gay zealot Dino Rossi unseat Murray. Murray’s recent support of LGBT equality legislation includes co-sponsoring repeal of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” legislation, supporting passage of the trans-inclusive Employment Nondiscrimination Act, and voting for the Matthew Shepherd Hate crimes prevention law which was signed into law by President Obama.
Joshua A. Friedes
Equal Rights Washington