Inside NOM’s Strategy: Play The Victim To Justify Hiding Donors’ Identities

Despite all the disturbing race-wedging, parent-scaring, and dummy celebrity-co-opting found in the National Organization for Marriage’s confidential memos, it’s important to remember one other aspect of the anti-gay group’s sneaky tactics — the very tactic that failed and allowed these documents to see the light of day. In every one of its efforts, NOM intentionally avoids any action that would require it to disclose the identities of its donors. Consider this passage from one of the memos:

A victory in 2009 in Maine is critical to stopping the momentum of the same-sex marriage movement in the Northeast. The total budget for Maine is $3.5 million. We cannot designate any money given to NOM to the Maine effort because of disclosure requirements. But we do plan to contribute a total of $1 million to the campaign.

In a later memo, NOM admitted to funding $1.8 million of the approximately $3 million raised in Maine. Regardless of whether the intention was to circumvent or outright violate Maine’s laws, the goal was the same: avoid falling under the purview of finance disclosure while still playing a significant role. Of course, it was thanks to NOM’s failed challenge to Maine’s laws that these documents have been released.

What’s particularly insidious about NOM’s fervent protection of its donor identities is the way the organization ties this effort to its messaging that the LGBT community is a violent threat to society. In one portion of the memos, NOM discusses its “State Emergency Reserve Fund,” an extra cache of cash set aside in case same-sex marriage suddenly appears as an issue in a state they haven’t budgeted for:


Given the threats of intimidation to donors who support marriage in California and nationwide, we face a serious hurdle in getting state ballot initiatives and candidate campaigns funded because donors must be disclosed. However, if NOM makes a contribution from its own resources that are not specifically designated for one of these efforts donor identities are NOT disclosed.

In other words, NOM believes it can anonymously influence any state-wide marriage effort so long as it acts as an independent player and that it deserves such anonymity because of the “threats” to its donors. Under the auspicious heading of “Donor Protection Litigation,” in another memo, NOM references its own campaigns “attempt to draw attention” to this supposed “antagonism”:

The antagonism faced during the campaign ultimately paled in comparison to the hatred leveled at Prop 8 supporters by gay marriage activists after the election. Boycotts, picketing, and occasional violence — much of it targeted at Latter-Day Saints and local family businesses — were orchestrated by local gay marriage advocates and tolerated by all the national and statewide organizations.

NOM was responsible for the only organized response attempting to draw attention to the bigotry and intolerance being displayed by the supposed forces of “tolerance.” NOM’s “” campaign gathered nearly 6,000 signers to a petition standing with the LDS church in the face of religiously motivated attacks — supporting their right to speak out in support of marriage.

Boycotts and picketing do not constitute “hatred” (unless NOM really “hates” Starbucks), no LGBT organization has ever condoned violence, and 6,000 signatures really isn’t that many, but all of that is beside the point. NOM’s effort to portray itself as the victim seems to serve as preemptive self-justification for circumventing campaign disclosure laws. But NOM has lost court challenges in both Washington and Maine, time seems to be telling that this plan isn’t just duplicitous, it’s just plain ineffective.