Former Republican presidential candidate Fred Karger has made it his personal goal to hold the National Organization for Marriage accountable for its campaign efforts, and NOM is not happy about it. Responding to a complaint Karger filed, the Iowa Ethics & Campaign Disclosure Board voted unanimously this week to investigate NOM’s spending in the state to try to oust Supreme Court Justices who ruled in favor of marriage equality — $635,000 in 2010 and about $100,000 in 2012. If NOM directly solicited money for those campaigns — which it did — then it’s responsible for disclosing its donors — which it didn’t:
Megan Tooker, the ethics board’s lawyer and executive director, noted that the National Organization for Marriage was “absolutely wrong” in several of its interpretations of state law. […]
In its written response, the marriage organization argued that the release of donors isn’t required if funds are raised through phone calls and emails.
“That’s absolutely false,” Tooker said.
NOM reacted lividly to the decision, trying to frame it as an issue of free speech and civil rights. NOM President Brian Brown even launched ad hominem attacks at Karger as part of his spin:
BROWN: The National Organization for Marriage has violated no campaign finance rules in Iowa, and we decry the decision by the Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board to open an investigation. This inquiry is a witch hunt spawned by a delusional homosexual activist who fancies himself becoming the president of the United States and who is a serial filer of frivolous allegations against us whenever we stand up for traditional marriage. The complaint is another attempt to shut down criticism of activist judges and politicians who wish to redefine marriage.
All that the decision today means is that Karger has alleged actions that, if proven true, would possibly constitute violations of campaign finance rules. But the allegations are dead wrong and the Board action today in no way means that the Board agrees with Karger’s frivolous allegations. We are concerned about the continual use of the legal system by Karger and other homosexual marriage advocates who are intent on denying us and the people of Iowa their civil rights to defend marriage as God created it.
Brown’s response is rife with falsehoods and hypocrisies. First, nothing about campaign finance disclosure laws can “shut down criticism” or “deny civil rights”; NOM was perfectly entitled to spend all the money it spent on those campaigns. All NOM had to do was provide information about its donors so as to help preserve an open democracy where the sources of campaign spending can be identified. It didn’t.
Moreover, NOM has filed its own share of frivolous lawsuits directly challenging various state campaign finance disclosure laws, including in Washington, California, Maine, Minnesota, New York, Rhode Island, and even in Iowa. The organization has been represented in these cases by attorney James Bopp, who also represented the group Citizens United in its infamous Supreme Court case. It’s not just that NOM has allegedly skirted campaign finance laws; it specifically goes out of its way to challenge and circumvent them to hide its donors.
Brown’s comments are revealing in one other way: noting that NOM is trying to “defend marriage as God created it.” Though the organization usually avoids religious rhetoric in most of its efforts, this is another reminder that the mostly-Catholic organization is trying to impose a religious view on civil society. And they want to do it without anybody knowing who’s paying for it.