AUGUSTA – The state ethics commission on Thursday rejected a request from the National Organization for Marriage to dismiss an investigation into the group’s finances.

The group, represented by the Indiana law firm Bopp, Coleson & Bostrom, had argued that a commission investigation ordered in October was “beyond the scope of power allowed or granted it by Maine law.” But the commission disagreed, voting 4-0 to proceed with the investigation.

“It seems to me if this was such a compelling issue for them, they would have brought it earlier,” said Commission Chairman Walter McKee.

Last week, National Organization for Marriage attorney Barry Bostrom said the group decided to petition for dismissal after a state hearing in May during which the commission’s powers were discussed.

Commission Executive Director Jonathan Wayne said state law gives his staff the power to “investigate any violations of the requirements for campaign reports and campaign financing.”

The commission ordered the investigation last year after Fred Karger of Californians Against Hate questioned whether the group raised more than $5,000 to help repeal the state’s same-sex marriage law.

If it did, it is required to file campaign finance reports with the state and reveal who donated the money.

The group has argued that although it donated nearly $2 million to Stand for Marriage Maine, it did not ask donors specifically for money to help in Maine.

In November, voters repealed the same-sex marriage law with 53 percent of the vote.

Neither Bostrom nor attorney Josiah Neeley, who has also handled portions of the case, could be reached for comment.

The state is seeking a list of donors so it can determine whether the group asked for money specifically to help repeal gay marriage in Maine.

The group has filed suit in state and federal court to try to stop the investigation, saying it fears disclosure would lead to harassment of donors.

Karger, who flew to Maine on Thursday for the meeting, disputed those claims.

“It’s not a question of harassment,” he said. “They are protecting their major donors.”

In comments to the commission, he urged the state to keep pushing for the information.

“You are the sole body in the country that is fighting them to get to the truth,” he said.McKee said, “I have no doubt this will be appealed to Superior Court.”

MaineToday Media Reporter Susan Cover can be contacted at 620-7015 or at:

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