October 3, 2012

Bill Nemitz: Group returns to spit on law, set Mainers straight

Predictions are always a tricky business, but here's one you can take to the bank:

Same-sex couples married right here in Maine will be celebrating their 10th wedding anniversaries before the National Organization for Marriage willingly comes clean on where it gets its money.

"You're probably right," chuckled Matt McTighe, campaign manager for the pro-same-sex marriage group Mainers United for Marriage. "We're certainly not expecting it any time before the election, that's for sure."

And therein, for the second time in three years, lies the problem for Maine voters as yet another same-sex marriage vote awaits our attention on Nov. 6: A nasty campaign against our gay and lesbian neighbors is coming soon to a TV screen near you -- and there's no way on God's green Earth to know who's bankrolling it.

On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court took a pass on the National Organization for Marriage's empty claim that Maine's financial disclosure laws are unconstitutional. In doing so, the court let stand lower rulings that Maine is within its rights to require identification of political donors -- a big step forward for those of us who prefer a healthy dash of transparency in our electoral diet.

Still, the high court's ruling by no means ends a fight that dates back to the NOM-orchestrated repeal of Maine's same-sex marriage statute in 2009.

Even as the organization loses once and for all in the federal courts, it still has its foot in the door of the Maine Supreme Judicial Court. There, it hopes to quash the subpoenas being used by the Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices to get behind the curtain separating the public from its 2009 donors.

(The National Organization for Marriage, unlike the average Maine voter, apparently has a problem with Superior Court Justice Michaela Murphy's June 27 ruling that in issuing such subpoenas, "government has a compelling interest in providing voters with accurate information about the source of campaign funds.")

But here's the truly appalling part: Even as it pulls every legal lever it can find to avoid accountability for flouting state law these past three years, the group is now rolling back into Maine and pulling the whole charade all over again.

As it noted on its website this week, "The (U.S. Supreme) Court's ruling has no bearing on NOM's participation in the 2012 campaign to defeat Question 1 since it relates to rulings from 2009."

Translation: We got away with playing hide-and-seek then, and we see no reason why we can't get away with it again now.

Its argument against full disclosure, just like its never-ending insult to the state of Maine, is getting a little old. Without anonymity, it insists, its donors would be subject to ridicule, harassment, maybe even violence from all those gay and lesbian militants out there who apparently don't have day jobs and are hell-bent on destroying civilization as we know it.

Put more simply, NOM's shadowy underwriters sound like a bunch of paranoid, well-heeled wimps who have no problem sticking their noses into other people's private lives -- yet have a huge problem with anyone attempting to at least attach a name to each of those noses.

Oh, the irony of it all. That closet once reserved for gays and lesbians in justifiable fear for their safety is now crammed with deep-pocketed donors who fear ... being identified as anti-gay and anti-lesbian?

"We're not looking to go to these people's houses and intimidate them or any of the other things that they say we want to do," said McTighe of Mainers United for Marriage, "Nobody cares about that stuff. We just want to know who it is so that we know who's influencing elections and trying to buy up all the (TV) time in Maine."

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