Anti-Gay Groups Abuse Campaign Finance Loophole To Shield Donors In Minnesota

The National Organization for Marriage has raised more than $284,000 to promote Minnesota’s marriage inequality amendment, but listed zero donors as the source of the cash. The organization explained that the contributions came from “membership dues,” which allows it to avoid disclosing donors under a loophole in Minnesota law. The only problem is that NOM does not have a membership structure nor has it ever collected dues in any form — at least not publicly. NOM’s website offers only one method for contributing to its efforts, and that is to donate:

In fact, in its 2010 tax returns, NOM did not claim any revenue from “Membership Dues”:

It seems that NOM is attempting to justify that it hasn’t specifically asked for money in Minnesota, even though it regularly highlights its own work there. Then, it is spinning the idea that its regular donations come from “members” who are paying “dues,” even though its structure is devoid of such language. This is bogus manipulation that is clearly designed to circumvent the state’s disclosure laws, as the organization has tried to do in countless other states. Though NOM continues to lose these fights in states like Maine, California, and Washington, the tactic allows its supporters to stay hidden for years after the campaigns for which they should have been disclosed.

NOM’s partners in the “Minnesota for Marriage” anti-gay coalition seem to be in on the scheme. The Minnesota Family Council gave $346,994.05 to the coalition in 2011 — more than twice its revenue in 2010 — without disclosing any sources for the extra cashflow. The Minnesota Catholic Conference similarly contributed $350,000 from “business interest accounts,” which also have no donors. It is telling that Minnesota for Marriage’s filing was only eight pages long while Minnesotans United for All Families — the organization fighting the anti-gay amendment — offered a 348-page report highlighting its donors.


The Human Rights Campaign has called on the Minnesota Campaign Finance and Disclosure Board to investigate NOM’s financial activity. HRC President Joe Solmonese outright suggested that “NOM and others may be secretly telling people to contribute to them instead of directly to the campaign so that they can avoid public disclosure.” Given how consolidated NOM’s financiers seem to be, Solmonese’s implication makes a lot of sense.