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."

The burning issue here isn't whether the truth behind the National Organization for Marriage's coast-to-coast campaigns against same-sex marriage will someday be revealed.

Sooner or later, its claim that its donors (wink, wink) in no way knew where their money was going (nod, nod) will be exposed for the cynical circumvention of the democratic process that it has been since Day One.

No, what matters right now is what happens beginning this Friday. That's when the latest quarterly reports for all so-called "ballot question committees" will be made public by the ethics commission.

It's also when the anti-Question 1 group Protect Marriage Maine, the local puppet in NOM's national political theater, undoubtedly will report its first (but hardly its last) whopper of a lump-sum contribution from the National Organization for Marriage.

Some of the money will go to pay 2009 puppet master Frank Schubert (newly cast as NOM's political director) as he singlehandedly and simultaneously battles same-sex marriage ballot measures in Maine, Minnesota, Washington and Maryland.

But the bulk of the cash -- an estimated $600,000 and counting so far -- will go toward an avalanche of velvety-yet-still-homophobic TV ads conceived, produced and paid for by people who want very much to influence Maine's future without actually having to live here.

The 30-second spots will tell us that a) Maine's gays and lesbians already have all the rights they need (which they don't), b) legitimate research proves the irreplaceable value of heterosexual parents (which it doesn't) and c) the consequences of same-sex marriages will be catastrophic (cue, for old time's sake, the worried-looking teacher in the not-really-a-public-school classroom).

But as you listen to this drivel or, your choice, hit the mute button, remember one thing.

What the National Organization for Marriage isn't telling us, once again, is who's putting their money where all that misinformation is.

And what, pray tell, put them above Maine law.

 

Columnist Bill Nemitz can be contacted at 791-6323 or at:

bnemitz@mainetoday.com

 

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