Thursday, March 6, 2014
By SUSAN M. COVER Staff Writer
AUGUSTA - The group leading the push to pass a ballot measure to allow gay couples to marry in Maine has raised nearly eight times more money than opponents, according to campaign finance reports filed with just over four weeks to go until Election Day on Nov. 6.
THE FIRST QUESTION on the Maine ballot on Nov. 6 will read: "Do you want to allow the State of Maine to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples?"
Mainers United for Marriage, which supports the ballot measure, has raised $3.35 million this year, while the main opposition group, Protect Marriage Maine, has raised $429,794.
Those totals don't include other groups that are raising and spending money to influence the election. Some of those groups donate money to the lead organizations, and others spend it independently in hopes of swaying the vote.
The reports also show a very different approach to the battle over Question 1, which asks voters if they want to allow the state to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
The 230-page report filed by supporters shows a massive campaign operation with thousands of donors, dozens of staffers and several affiliated organizations that donate time, money, food and other items. Among the expenditures is $1.4 million on television ads.
The 22-page report filed by opponents shows a small operation with fewer than 125 individual donors, a paid staff of four and a television ad buy of $153,000. Also, the campaign is $48,500 in debt.
However, it's important to note that the reports span the period between July 18 and Sept. 30, and more money has been raised and spent since then. And in 2009, when Maine voters rejected same-sex marriage by a 53 percent to 47 percent vote, those opposed to gay marriage spent $3.8 million, while those in support spent $5.8 million.
Carroll Conley of Protect Marriage Maine said his side hoped to have more money by this point in the campaign, with the ultimate goal of raising $1.2 million.
"I think we're still going to meet our mark," he said.
The campaign's first ads are due to begin airing Monday statewide, while groups in support have been airing ads since July.
Matt McTighe, campaign manager for the pro-gay marriage Mainers United, said donations to his group have meant they could run a campaign that puts a heavy emphasis on individual conversations with voters. When the campaign began, McTighe said they expected to raise about $5 million, and it appears to be on pace to meet the goal.
"Thousands of Mainers have contributed to our campaign to allow same-sex couples to receive a marriage license from the state," he said in a statement. "We see that people are changing their minds, but we know the hardest part of the campaign is yet to come."
OPPONENTS STILL CONFIDENT
Recent polling shows between 52 percent and 57 percent of Mainers support same-sex marriage, but opponents say that once they start airing television ads, those numbers will drop.
Brian Brown, executive director of the National Organization for Marriage, called some of the early polling "silly" and said he's confident of a win on Election Day.
"I'm very confident that when the people of Maine vote, they will reject same-sex marriage and all the polling will be exposed for what it is," he said.
Campaign finance reports filed by midnight Friday show well-heeled donors giving money to support gay marriage. Among the major individual donors is hedge fund manager S. Donald Sussman, who gave $100,000. Sussman, who is married to U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-1st District, is 75 percent owner of MaineToday Media, which includes the Maine Sunday Telegram, Portland Press Herald, Kennebec Journal and Morning Sentinel.
Esmond Harmsworth of Boston, a literary agent, gave $75,000 and former Maine gubernatorial candidate Eliot Cutler of Cape Elizabeth donated $15,000 in cash, and catering valued at $2,100, the reports show.
(Continued on page 2)