Anti-Gay Marriage Group Surrenders Donor List
AUGUSTA, Maine — A five-year legal battle over campaign funding disclosure came to an official end today as the national group behind an effort to repeal same-sex marriage in Maine submitted a list of contributors to state officials.
The Maine Legislature legalized same-sex marriage in 2009. That same year, the National Organization for Marriage contributed more than $2 million dollars to the effort to force its repeal at the ballot box.
The Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices pressed NOM to disclose its donors in accordance with state law, but NOM refused. The commission's Executive Director Jonathan Wayne says the standoff escalated.
"We issued subpoenas to NOM and those subpoenas were challenged by NOM and then the constitutionality of our laws were challenged by NOM, so there was an awful lot of litigation for a period of three or four years," he says.
The commission was upheld in the federal courts, and earlier this month, the Maine Supreme Judicial Court denied a request by NOM for a stay in the release of its donor list until another legal complaint was resolved.
The high court's denial prompted NOM to announce that it would not appeal the commission's request for disclosure.
Wayne has now received the list of contributors to NOM's 2009 campaign.
"So I think the importance of the decision is that the state government of Maine will respond, will require this disclosure and that the judiciary supports these laws and finds that they're valuable in informing the electorate — so this could help in future cases," Wayne says.
The donor list includes the names of seven major donors to the NOM campaign, including hedge fund president Sean Fieler of New York City, who gave $1.25 million to the cause. Ann Luther, of Maine Citizens for Clean Elections, says Fieler's attempts to anonymously influence Maine's election underscore the need for greater transparency in campaign funding.
"There's an awful lot of money out there and people who believe fervently in their causes are willing to spend to win elections and that's true in candidate elections as it is in ballot questions," Luther says.
NOM ultimately paid more than $50,000 in fines to the state for failing to comply with state campaign funding laws.
The people's veto was successful, but Maine voters legalized same-sex marriage again, this time at the ballot box, three years ago.