Anti-gay marriage groups say they won’t follow new campaign finance guidelines

Posted on: October 4th, 2011 by The American Independent No Comments

A coalition of groups working to convince voters to pass a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage said on Tuesday that it would not follow new rules being proposed by the Minnesota campaign finance board, which watchdog groups say would violate the law.

Minnesota for Marriage is a partnership between the Minnesota Family Council, the Minnesota Catholic Conference and the National Organization for Marriage.

Last week, the Minnesota Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board announced it was considering updating its rules to close loopholes in the ballot initiative’s reporting requirements. The board released guidance to outside groups that want to donate to ballot campaigns such as Minnesota for Marriage which supports the amendment or Minnesotans United for All Families which opposes the amendment, and spelled out how those donations would be disclosed.

The guidance would heighten public disclosure around campaign spending and will be debated before the board this week.

On Tuesday, Minnesota for Marriage cried foul and said it would only do what it had planned to in the past, calling the new guidance “illegal.”

“Minnesota for Marriage will disclose all donations we receive, as well as all expenditures that we make, consistent with longstanding Minnesota law,” said John Helmberger, MFM’s chairman. “However, what [campaign finance board] bureaucrats are attempting to do goes well beyond what the law requires, substituting themselves for the Legislature in an illegal attempt to compel disclosure of information not required by law. We oppose such illegal regulations.”

The National Organization for Marriage, which is a part of Minnesota for Marriage, has opposed regulations of its campaign activity in almost every state it has operated in. And in many of those states, the organization has lost its case.

“The CFB cannot illegally force us to report information the law does not require,” said Brian Brown, president of NOM.

In a letter to the board, NOM accused the board of singling it out for special treatment.

“[I]t is apparent that NOM is a singular target of the Board’s proposed new reporting and disclosure regime,” NOM wrote. “The deliberate targeting by the government of a particular citizens organization such as NOM is a violation of NOM’s First Amendment rights protecting it from such government assault.”

NOM is demanding all documentation related to NOM at the campaign finance board.

Tom Prichard of the Minnesota Family Council, another member of Minnesota for Marriage, recently told the campaign finance board that he thinks Minnesota for Marriage should not have to disclose any of the contributions it takes in or the people or entities that donate.

Common Cause Minnesota saw Minnesota for Marriage’s announcement as the prelude to a lawsuit. NOM has filed lawsuit in a half dozen states including Iowa, Maine and California where judges have upheld those states’ campaign disclosure laws.

“Minnesota has become ground zero for a national fight over whether the public should know who is behind political spending,” said Mike Dean, Executive Director of Common Cause Minnesota. “Last year, the legislature and governor required that all political spending by independent expenditure groups and groups supporting constitutional amendments be disclosed.”

He said that Minnesota for Marriage “announced their intention to violate this very provision of Minnesota’s disclosure law.”

“The Supreme Court has made it clear that the public has a right to know who is behind political spending during an election,” said Dean. “This attack on Minnesota’s disclosure law is [an] attack on Minnesota’s desire for fair and open elections.”

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