How the Mormon Church Bought Prop. 8

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It’s one of the biggest “Take Out The Trash Day” stories we’ve ever run across. On Friday, the Church of Latter-Day Saints finally fessed up that its financial involvement in Prop. 8 was significantly larger than it previously maintained. The Mormon Church initially said that it had only donated $2,000 to the Yes on 8 campaign, but in a filing with the California Secretary of State, the LDS Church admitted to spending $190,000 on travel expenses for high-rankimg members of the Church, food, audiovisual services, permits and most damningly, on their own staff and offices.

LDS is facing an ongoing investigation by the state Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) triggered by requests from Californians Against Hate, a grassroots group that has been instrumental in post-Prop 8. boycotts. Roman Porter, executive director of the FPPC said on Friday that “cases like these hinge over what had to be reported and when it had to be reported” and it appears the LDS Church’s late filing broke at least some laws. Previously, the church maintained that donations came solely from church members and that the Church did not need to file. The church has refused to comment on the recent filing.

So, what did the Mormon Church spend it’s money on? We’ll show you.

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Let’s start with the most damning evidence. In the filing with the Secretary of State. the church admits that it spent nearly $100,000 paying its own staff to run the Yes on 8 campaign, quite literally, from the Church basement. It dropped another $20,000 on “use of facilities and equipment.” If you’re looking for a smoking gun, this is it. The exact details of how this money was spent are not mentioned in the report, however, the money trail overturns the notion that the Church simply encouraged its members to donate their own time and energy to winning the California ballot-initiative. Instead, it’s now clear that the Church had a well-funded and well-staffed operation running out of Salt Lake. And while this gives gay rights activists a wonderful “I told you so” moment, it’s the fact that the Church failed to fess up to its involvement sooner that is likely to cause it the biggest headache. These expenses are the sort that could not have been unknown to the Church, and campaign finance laws are fairly strict about expenses being filed quickly. The Church is most likely making the information public now as a result of the FPPC inquiry and as a way of preventing a full-scale inquisition into its finances, but it’s hard to see why the FPPC should start believing them now.

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In addition, the Church spent thousands on “audiovisual production services.”  California Mormons reported that their Church leaders would show video presentations on how they had to vote for Proposition 8.

So is this all the money was spent on? Is the $189,000 reported in the latest filing the full extant of the Church’s financial involvement in Prop. 8? Consider this: When the investigation against the Church was announced, it revealed it had spent $20,000 in legal fees. Now that the investigation has ramped up, they admit to nearly $200k more.

Fred Karger, of Californians Against Hate, thinks the rabbit hole goes deeper, saying “As I read this report, it seems to raise more questions than it answers.  I think there is still a lot of missing parts of the report because we know they’ve been active since June.”

We agree. Looking through the report, the expenditures are dated solely from the fall of ’08, however, we know the Church had been involved with the Yes on 8 campaign from the get-go. In fact, as we’ve reported earlier, the Mormon Church had developed an elaborate ‘war plan’ that included bringing in Catholic leaders and other religious groups into the fight, and that the Church had plans to get involved in a California marriage battle going back to the late ’90s.

What we have seen with the Church of Latter Day Saints is a pattern of denial and lying. At this point, it’s clear that the Church used its own resources to win Proposition 8 and that it did so in an organized, structured and well-funded way. It’s also clear that the Church will continue to deny responsibility for it actions, which, increasingly, look to be illegal. In releasing these latest numbers, the Church is hoping to avoid censure for failing to file, however, the damage is done. It’s clear that the Church actively worked to cover up its involvement, denying that it had spent significant money to defeat Prop. 8, while knowing full well it had.

So, is $200,000 the final total on Mormon involvement? Should the FPPC launch a full-scale investigation into the Mormon Church’s books? And if the Church cheated, don’t California gay and lesbians deserve a do-over?

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40 Comments

  • fern

    The French have a saying “who steals an egg can steal a cow”.
    I wonder where they’ve hidden the cow.

  • Andrew Bell

    I’m just shocked that a church would lie. That’s never happened before, has it? As Gandhi once said, “I like your Christ…but you Christians are nothing like your Christ.”

  • DanOLGB

    And to think that had the Yes on 8 succeeded in their Federal Lawsuit, this disclosure wouldn’t have seen the light of day. Who exactly were they trying to protect?

  • Justin Tyme

    So how soon will the Obama administration’s IRS yank the church’s tax exempt status?

  • CPT_Doom

    This is not surprising in the least. There have long been reports and rumors about the amount of work the LDS church put into ensuring the defeat of the ERA back in the 70s – much of it sounding a lot like their anti-gay work. Of course back then there were not the same campaign finance laws nor the 24/7 news cycle nor the blogosphere to reveal the extent of their involvement. Even though this comes too late for CA, it might bode well for my own DC, where a marriage law (already supported by a super-majority of the council) was delayed out of concern that the Mormons would weild an even stronger campaign in the Nation’s Capital. If we can shame the Mormons enough to keep themselves out of that potential fight, we could actually have equal marriage in DC by year’s end.

    Oh, and as appropos as that quote may be, Andrew Bell, it is a bit of an insult even to fundies to equate them with Mormons. Even as a recovering Catholic and nearly-atheist, I have a problem with Mormons calling themselves Christian. The religion made up by Joseph Smith just under 2 centuries ago may have perverted the Christian religion for his own purposes, but its final form looks nothing like Christianity, either good or bad.

  • DanOLGB

    I don’t think we need to go as far as removing tax exempt status for Churches. What is appalling is they are the only tax exempt groups that don’t have to share their financial records with the public. This is the real problem. How can we tell if they made a true reporting if they are allowed to hide the supporting documentation? It just seems like it’s ripe for misuse and as a shield for illegal activity. (Can we say the shuffling around of pedophile priests for example?)

  • tallskin

    And as if to endorse those of us who argue that religion is utterly evil, here we have a story from Ethiopia, where all the filthy sky pixie religions have got together to call for a ban on gay sex!

    Fucking filthy bigoted sky pixy worshipping bastards. Ban the lot of them.

    http://www.pinknews.co.uk/news…..10986.html

    The leaders of the Roman Catholic, Ethiopian Orthodox and Protestant churches have called on the government of Ethiopia for a constitutional ban on homosexuality.

    At present the constitution makes no mention of homosexuality.
    Male homosexual behaviour is illegal and carries a penalty of up to five years imprisonment. Although there is no provision under Ethiopian law for lesbianism there is the presumption that the punishment would be the same.
    “For people to act in this manner they have to be dumb, stupid like animals,” an Orthodox leader told journalists after the meeting.

    “We strongly condemn this behaviour, they have to be disciplined and their acts discriminated, they have to be taught a lesson.”

    Christians make up around 63% of the country’s population with of them 43% Ethiopian Orthodox. Muslims make up almost 34%.

    According Sonic Casuist of ETHIOGLBTI, a gay rights group in Ethiopia, homosexuality is still perceived as taboo and nonexistent in that country and many homosexuals are still in the closet.

    “It is hidden, no one is out. The general population would like to claim that it does not exist,” she told mask.org.za.

    “For those of us who live here we make and build our communities. We get together and we have places to go in the evenings however nothing is out in the open, it’s a hidden community”

  • Flex

    These pious worms voted our right to marry away. Let’s rip them open, and destroy their warped cult!

  • Flex

    @Andrew Bell: I’m not shocked about their lies. They still continue to lie. There is more that they’re hiding!

  • Dominique

    The Mormons have so many Trusts buried in so many Corporations, buried in so many Trusts buried in so many Corporations, nobody can EVER know how much filthy lucre they spend on codifying their beliefs.

    I was reared in a large mormon family in Utah and mormons scare the hell out of me. They wield power with strong arm and behind-closed-door tactics that would make Atilla envious.

    To my Christian brothers and sisters: Jesus called. He’d like his religion back.

  • Tim in SF

    Off topic.

    @tallskin: I read your “sky pixie worshipping bigots” on a lot of Queerty posts and it’s pretty obvious you really want your phrase to catch hold.

    I’d suggest dropping “pixie” which is totally distracting and takes the punch out of your phrase. In today’s mythological parlance, pixies are in Peter Pan, not in Mormonism nor other forms of Christianity. These people worship imaginary beings called “gods” not imaginary beings called “pixies” and there is a big difference.

    I suggest you try “sky-god worshipping bigots” or simply “sky-god worshippers.”

  • tallskin

    Tim in SF

    Sky Pixie is not mine, sadly! I think it was made up one of our allies in the straight world, Christopher Hitchens or Richard Dawkins.

    I like the term because it reduces the psychological power of saying ‘god’ or ‘gods’ – the word ‘god’ carries the authority of centuries and millenium. And by using this term ‘god’ you thus play right into their hands, awarding them special language privileges that the religious have come to expect from the rest of us.

    Whereas ‘sky pixie’ shows just what it is – namely a mythical being like a “faerie” or a “wood-elf” or “father christmas”. And that is something to be mocked and laughed at, in the same way we laugh and mock an adult who believes in the Great Sphagetti Monster, Loki, or Isis or Father Christmas.

    But thanks for your comments!

  • John

    What a contorted story. There were no lies involved. They still haven’t spent “a substantial amount” of their total finances toward campaign or political purposes and have every right to have done what they did. Be grateful they didn’t spend more! They could have just bought the whole state of California, called it Zion and forced everyone out, with the amount of money it holds.

  • Raven

    CHA CHA CASTER????!!!???? Were they donating in their dogs name?

  • Tim in SF

    Off topic

    @tallskin: And by using this term ‘god’ you thus play right into their hands, awarding them special language privileges that the religious have come to expect from the rest of us.

    I disagree. There is a vast difference between a “sky god” and “God.” The former marks the worship as a primitive remnant from our Bronze-age period. Putting “sky” in front of “God” changes the meaning of the latter as much as putting “doll” in front of “house” changes the meaning of “house”.

    “Sky-god” is, I think, even more mocking (and accurate) than “pixie” because these people do, in fact, worship a sky god. They do not, in fact, worship a pixie.

    I understand using pixie in the context of a conversation about Dawkins. But, outside the context of a discussion of the God Delusion, please believe me that “pixie” does not add to your argument. It’s distracting and therefore it detracts. Even though it’s cute. Who doesn’t love pixies?

    :-)

  • HiveRadical

    You are all out in left field on this. What can you get in the way of staff time on a mere 100,000 over the course of about half a year? I can tell you that if they were low level staffers then that would have a mere six people on it for six months. Again that’s if they are all at the bottom of the pay scales. If there were anyone working on it with any amount of time then you’re not looking at any more than four staffers out of a Church Administration that employs thousands. To call that a ‘significant’ contribution politically is absurd on it’s face.

    The main thing missed is that the Church’s governing structure is done virtually entirely by an unpaid lay clergy. That means that the vast majority of ranking Church members coordinating this weren’t getting A DIME for what they did. If the Church wasn’t paying them for it then it wasn’t an expense. If you want to classify it as an expense then we can turn around against the No on 8 side and take and calculate the value of the hours of every unpaid volunteer that had any kind of association with the campaign and then I’m certain, with such a paradigm, your side would have as many ‘infringements’ as you claim ‘must be’ on our side.

    Dive into the rabbit hole! I assure you it will only render you frustration. The only way you can get the retributions you seek against us is to defy the very principles that you claim to be seeking to protect and uphold.

  • HiveRadical

    And I just wanted to clarify, for any who think that enumerating the unpaid clergies man hours in an attempt to reach the ‘significant’ threshold you’re wasting your time. Any comparisons of time spent on prop 8 relative to their other duties and the overall time given by the totality of our lay clergy to other, non-prop 8, church related issues in California is massive. What I’m saying is that while Church members put in a lot of hours on prop 8 relative to what they put into their other Church obligations it’s a very small portion indeed. When the average time given to Church activities by an active member is around 8 hours a week EVERY WEEK and then for a month or two out of the whole year they spend two hours a week working on prop 8 then your ration of time spent that year on political events in contrast to other Church related activities is a ratio around 1:26. If One to Twenty-six for one year is something considered ‘significant’ then I’d dare say there’s ne’er a non-profit that could weather that kind of scrutiny on political issues and come out with it’s tax exempt status intact.

  • Whup-Ass Master

    Not for nothing, but there’s a lovely site called whitepages.com which makes it very easy to look up the phone numbers and addresses of most people on that list. In case you want to, you know, send Cha Cha Caster a candygram or something.

  • Kevin

    It’s easy to rake religion over the coals when people use religion as an excuse to take people’s rights away and generally behave like douchebags.

    However, rarely do self-identified atheists go unhinged over religion when people’s religious beliefs influence their decisions to feed the poor, take care of the sick, sacrifice their lives to help the oppressed, build schools, or love people unconditionally.

    Atheist are often just another form of fundamentalist. Ugly. Smug. Chosen. And always right.

    Excuse me while I barf.

  • Perfida Limpin

    @Andrew Bell:

    But Mormons are not real Christians. At best, they’re quasi-Christians! And what can one expect from a “sect” (and I’m using this terminology rather loosely) that invents and changes dogma when their lies get too obvious!

  • Tim

    What the article failed to say, was that they didn’t donate 1 dollar to the campaign. They used their staff, buildings, etc., but didn’t give any money. What about the churches that donated to the No on 8 campaign, or provided services? The church didn’t lie. I don’t remember them ever coming out and saying this is all we spent. Lists of expenditures take time to recover. This is a red herring. And Obama’s not taking away tax exempt status, he doesn’t even like gay marriage. And with the economy like this, no one is going to care about the LGBT community. Be honest with yourselves.

  • petted

    @Tim: It may take time to compile a full list of expenditures but when your provide services that cost your organization money to a political campaign and you claim to have not provided any significant financial services that is dishonest. You might say that they didn’t give Yes on 8 any money but don’t kid yourself they provided substantial financial resources to the Yes campaign cause if they hadn’t paid for those plane tickets, hotel rooms, food, provided server support, housing support, and only Smith knows what else the Yes campaign would have spent substantially more securing those resources. It’d be one thing if they came out in the aftermath, about 2 months ago now, saying that they needed time to tabulate the financial value of their support of the Yes campaign but that is not what they did, in point of fact all they said was that they make any cash donations but only a fool would think that this church didn’t spend a substantial sum of money in making these resources available.

  • Pragmatist

    @Kevin:

    Thanks! Exactly what I wanted to say. No matter how tempting, we should not meet intolerance and bigotry with even MORE intolerance and bigotry.

  • Jaroslaw

    I don’t know how anyone can read these stories and say the church didn’t lie. Anything less than being totally upfront with how you spend money, use your staff and buildings and resources is lying.

    Hiding, shading, misleading – those are all lies when compared with what these organizations say how their members are supposed to live their lives.

    And no, TIM, we should not be grateful “they didn’t spend more.” They are free to advocate issues and encourage their members to get involved, but the official church and/or hierarchy CANNOT get directly involved in political campaigns or tell people how to vote. NO NO NO NO.

    If they do this, the ARE supposed to lose their tax exempt status.

  • Charles J. Mueller

    @tallskin:

    Tim, I went to the link you kindly provided and this is what I got:

    Not Found, Error 404

    The page you are looking for no longer exists. Perhaps you can find what you are looking for by searching the site archives by page, month, or category:

    I have, however, read about the Draconian laws banning gay sex in Ethiopia that you commented about in your post. Just when was it decided, in so many countries, including the US, that the power of the church would supercede that of the government?

    With every passing day, it is beginning to sound, more and more, like the planet is returning to the middle ages.

  • Charles J. Mueller

    @Kevin:

    Umm…Kevin, you seem to be ignoring just who were the douchebags to begin with? They started with us. We didn’t start with them.

    “However, rarely do self-identified atheists go unhinged over religion when people’s religious beliefs influence their decisions to feed the poor, take care of the sick, sacrifice their lives to help the oppressed, build schools, or love people unconditionally.”

    Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. We’ve heard this song and dance…a million times over. Like pious religious people are the only ones doing good deeds on the planet? Gimme a fucking break.

    Whatever little good these hypocrites are doing, is more than overshadowed by the centuries of evil deeds, physical physical and mental abuse and destruction they have wrought on mankind since they started praying to their icons, wax figures and invisible friends in the sky. And as a lot, Athists are no better or no worse than the religious freaks you seem to defend.

    You really need to avail yourself of a few history books and the Internet and read the history of all religions, not as they see themselves and like to report it, but as they really are and how it actually came down.

    The last three words in that aggrandizement of religious pricks, “Love people unconditionally”, however, is the piéce de resistance.

    You mean like voting away my right to marry the person I love? Work where I please? Live where I please? Protect my physical well being from Jesus freaks and God thugs who think the only good faggot is a dead faggot? Deny my worshiping at a church or condemnining me to an eternity of hellfire and brimstone, just because I am gay? Is that the kind of “unconditional love” you are alluding to, Kevin?

    Now, excuse me while I barf!

  • Charles J. Mueller

    @Pragmatist:

    “No matter how tempting, we should not meet intolerance and bigotry with even MORE intolerance and bigotry.”

    And pray tell, why not, Pragmatist? Have you not read your bible?

    From the Code of Hammurabi. Hammurabi was King of Babylon, 1792-1750BC. The code survives today in the Akkadian language. Used in the Bible, Matthew 5:38 (King James Version):

    “Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.”

    Or, is my quoting from the very same bible that the religious right uses to condemn me as a gay man, meeting intolerance and bigotry with even more intolerance and bigotry?

  • Brad Grady

    @Andrew Bell: Christianity has never been its TRUE self sinse Jesus was done in. I recommend reading a book called CROSSOVERS THE ORIGIN OF HOMOSEXUALITY BY… SIDNEY SCHWARTZ WITH REV. CARL HEWITT. It will be a challenge and blessing to read and find out what I mean from what I learned.

  • Chaz

    This is a bit stupid. The total spent on one side (as I recall was something on the order of 75 million. And this is less than 200k.

    There may be some reasons for you to be upset with the Mormon Church, but the spending of money doesn’t look like a big deal here.

  • Chaz

    From what I can tell, it appears that folks are under the delusion that a Church (or any non-profit for that matter) might lose its tax exempt status for donating to a political campaign.

    That belief is WRONG. Churches are allows the right of free speech under the constitution with regard to political positions. They may OFFICIALLY and repeatedly endorse a political position on any number of moral issues and they may make Church people and facilities available for that purpose. What they are NOT allowed to do is attack or support a political CANDIDATE. That is a serious violation.

    But they CAN support or attack a PROPOSITION — and they can do so all day long without losing tax exempt status.

    And again, this is a tiny, trivial amount of money.

  • strumpetwindsock

    @Perfida Limpin: @CPT_Doom: …and the other posters trying to split hairs about who is a Christian and who is not.

    I agree with you about taking the Mormon Church to the boards for their dastardly behaviour, but come on… What makes Martin Luther any more of a “real Christian” than Joseph Smith…. or Constantine or Paul for that matter? All those boys got it second-hand.

    Are you trying to say that you think the Roman Catholic Church really is God’s one true church? That’s the kind of baseless logic Pope Benedict uses to discredit other faiths. This bigotry has nothing to do with the issue at hand.

  • strumpetwindsock

    @Charles J. Mueller: Speaking as an agnostic, I think perhaps you should include the complete quotation, which means exactly the opposite of the snippet you used:

    ‘You have heard that it was said, “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile. Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you.
    ‘You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy.” But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven.

    Sorry to force scripture on you all, and it feels a bit odd being a Christian apologist, but I don’t think any of us would like to be mis-represented with an inaccurate quote.

  • Matt (the other one)

    Tallskin: “Fucking filthy bigoted sky pixy worshipping bastards. Ban the lot of them.”

    That sounds really intolerant and prejudiced. Do you really think that everyone who believes in a God is a bigot?

  • Charles J. Mueller

    @strumpetwindsock:

    Thank you. My hat’s off to you, Sir. You’re a man who does not let anything slip past him, I see. You obviously do not follow the crowd and I respect that.

    By pointing out my error, you have just illustrated for us precisely what the church has been doing for so long…quoting out of context to substantiate their bigoted and hateful comments and feelings about the LGBT community and justify their discrimination of us.

    I fully agree with you when you say that you don’t thin any of us would like to be mis-represented with an inaccurate quote.

    Are you listening Mormons and the Religious right who used lies and misquotes to trump our American Constitutions promise of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for all Americans?

    Wayne Bessen said it best in his full-page ad in the Salt Lake City Times.

    “Liar, liar, pants on fire.”

  • Theresa

    With the economy the way it? I think that allowing gay marriage would only booste the economy. If the average (Straight)American couple spends 20,000 dollars on a wedding…. just think how much money would be spent if all the gays and lesbians were able to marry!

  • Theresa

    My previous comment was meant for Tim.

  • Hooka

    Bottom line here is a higher percentage and number of minorities voted for this measure than Mormons so why are you attacking the Mormons. Because your all to weak to face the hard reality that minorities oppose gay marriage more than Mormons. I guess that wouldn’t fit into your PC world so its easier to ignore the real facts. The mormon church is an easy target but they never claimed to believe anything else so what did you expect. Why is noone attacking all the Babtist, Catholic, Evangelical, Muslim, and Jewish synagoges,mosques, and churches that backed this measure? 2% of California is Mormon so how does 2% get the majority of the vote? If no Mormons vote it still passes. Better go back back to the drawing board and factor in that most of the voters weren’t Mormon and just maybye the majority of Californians agree with the Mormons on this issue. BTW if you show up at my door you better bring more than candy.

  • John

    Anyone that investigates mormons for any amont of time will tell you that whether its stealing kids in fraud adoptions, or prop 8, they don’t do anything unless they stand to make money on it. The real question everyone should be asking is not what did they spend, but what did they make on prop 8. I’m sure if it is fully investigated it will be revealed that they made a lot of money on prop 8.When that’s known the rabbit hole will be revealed.

  • TracyDom

    Is this the most annoying church ever? Here in Europe you can’t even have a quiet afternoon in the park without being pestered by their dorky missionaries on bicycles.

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