It’s been a great week for marriage equality, which means it’s been a rotten week for the National Organization for Marriage. The court loss in Oregon was especially bitter, since NOM had fruitlessly tried to insert itself into the case (and questioned the integrity of the judge in the case, because he’s gay). The court decision in Pennsylvania in favor of marriage only added insult to that injury.
But it’s a lesser known incident in Maine that really threatens to hurt NOM even more. After years of trying to hide the sources of its money, NOM is now facing a record $50,000 in fines for violating state finance law.
At issue is the $2.4 million NOM spent in 2009 on a successful ballot measure to ban same-sex marriage in the state. (Fat lot of good it did; marriage equality was passed by voters just three years later.) NOM contributed about two-thirds of the campaign spending. But NOM refused to reveal the names of its donors, claiming that it was protecting their civil rights.
That did not sit well with the state of Maine, which sought the donors’ names. NOM went to court to keep the names anonymous, losing in a federal court in 2012. The U.S. Supreme Court subsequently refused to review that decision.
NOM continues to insist that it is a “social welfare” organization (although whose welfare is an open question), and as such is exempt from campaign finance disclosures. The Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices is unmoved by NOM’s argument and is recommending the record fine. A final vote by the Commission is scheduled next week.
For an organization dealing with dwindling finances, the fine is certainly unwelcome. More to the point, NOM has now been branded as an unethical organization engaging in illegal campaign finance practices. So much for having the moral high ground on its side.
NOM will undoubtedly keep limping along for a while, unwilling to admit defeat. But even NOM has its limits. A few more weeks like this, and the organization is essentially done. Those weeks can’t come soon enough.