Wednesday, January 30, 2013

California Prop 8 Same-Sex Marriage Opponents Running Out Of Cash

Andrew Pugno
By Brody Levesque | SAN FRANCISCO, Calif, -- The principal advocacy group backing California's Prop 8,, [Which banned same-sex marriages in the state in 2008] is suffering serious fundraising shortfalls according to their attorney, Andrew Pugno.
Federal tax records showed a $2 million deficit in its legal fund at the end of 2011 - the third year in a row that expenses exceeded donations, and according to Pugno, the group is still $700,000 short in fundraising for covering its U. S. Supreme Court costs as the High Court prepares to hear arguments at the end of March in its first thorough review of same-sex marriage cases. The group said late Tuesday that it has since covered the 2011 shortfall.
SCOTUS is set to hear arguments covering both the Proposition 8 case and a challenge to the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the federal law which defines marriage as between a man and a woman. A ruling is expected by the end of June.
In an interview published Tuesday with REUTERS, Pugno says that fundraising for has never been easy. However, he said he does not think changing attitudes are the problem.
"I don't detect a decrease in enthusiasm," he said. "What I detect is a certain degree of fatigue after having to essentially fight this issue non-stop since 2004, when the mayor in San Francisco started issuing marriage licenses."
Many legal analysts and Equality Rights activists think that the fund-raising fall-off is a result of donor fatigue, the dramatic rise in public support for same-sex marriage and the softening of some major gay marriage opponents, including the Mormon Church.
In an email to donors earlier this month the group said; "Unless the pace of donations starts to pick up right away, we could soon be forced over a financial cliff." 
Fred Karger, who ran for the GOP presidential nomination last year, and has been highly critical of the National Organisation for Marriage, (NOM) an early backer of and whose led a concerted effort to make the shadowy fundraising efforts of NOM and other groups of anti same-sex marriage opponents public since 2008, said that he thinks that both individuals and institutions opposed to gay marriage are fearful of being associated with the cause. Karger thinks this may cause them to reconsider their positions.
Karger had noticed early on that tremendous financial support for during the initial push for Prop 8 was coming from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. According to freelance journalist Stephanie Mencimer writing for Utah: 
Karger found Mormons everywhere in the Prop 8 campaign: as actors in the TV ads, as volunteers, organizers, and political consultants. Just as intriguing, he would discover eventually, the group that had done the lion's share of the work to get Prop 8 on the ballot to begin with, the National Organization for Marriage (NOM), also had deep ties to the Mormon Church—and the church itself had been engaged in a campaign to block gay marriage across the nation for more than a decade.
REUTERS reported that while the image-conscious Mormon church was one of the most visible Prop 8 supporters, one the church came under fire from LGBT advocacy groups and their allies, Mormon fundraising to oppose same-sex marriage plummeted.
Karger exposed donors and worked the press. He tipped off the Wall Street Journal about the Mormons' involvement, and in September 2008 the paper broke the story. And he kept finding new ways to hound his adversaries: In monitoring post-election campaign finance reports, he noticed that the Mormon church was only reporting $2,078 in non-monetary contributions to the Prop 8 effort.
Karger filed a formal complaint with the California Fair Political Practices Commission, a move that prompted a church spokesperson to claim that the church had spent "zero dollars" on Prop 8. Two months later the church filed a new report saying it had given $190,000 worth of non-monetary contributions in the few days before the election (after the filing deadline for the earlier report). California election officials are continuing to investigate. 
As he made a name for himself in the Prop 8 fight, Karger began getting anonymous tips about the church leadership. One of those tips led him to a treasure trove of internal church documents that laid out a remarkably organized campaign to fight gay marriage nationwide. The church, Karger realized, had been involved in this fight—quietly, but very effectively—for much longer than he'd thought. 
The possibility that the Supreme Court will strike down all same-sex marriage bans has created problems for donors who don't want to waste their money, Pugno told REUTERS. But donors would be energized, he said, if wins the case.
"I think our support would be strengthened by the assurance to donors that their vote would matter," Pugno said.