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Supreme Court deals another blow to NOM

WASHINGTON – The anti-gay National Organization for Marriage (NOM) gets the snub this morning from the U.S. Supreme Court in its bid to overturn a lower court decision regarding its campaign against same-sex marriage in Maine in 2009.

NOM poured almost $2 million into its Maine effort that helped persuade voters to overturn marriage equality in that state. Ironically, the issue is back on the ballot in November and the latest polls show that Mainers are now in favor of marriage equality.

Today, the nation’s high court declined to hear the latest appeal, which means that the lower court ruling against NOM will stand. The lower court ruled that Maine’s campaign finance laws were constitutionally applied to NOM, which the anti-gay group had disputed.

The Human Rights Campaign on its NOM Exposed blog said today that the Supreme Court action will pave the way for Maine's state ethics officials to begin sanctions against NOM:

This morning, the Supreme Court again declined to review NOM’s challenge to Maine’s campaign finance laws, dealing yet another legal setback to an organization that has grown accustomed to them in its multi-year crusade to operate secretly and evade donor disclosure.
The case, NOM v. McKee, grew out of a complaint filed by Fred Karger in 2009 and an investigation launched by the Maine Ethics Commission in response to NOM’s failure to disclose donors to its Maine ballot measure efforts. NOM spent $1.9 million in 2009 to narrowly defeat Question 1 and rescind the marriage equality law that had been passed by the legislature and signed by the Governor. During that time NOM expressly solicited contributions to support the Maine campaign but refused to report these donors, as required by state law. As the Attorney General stated in its Supreme Court brief, “NOM is a sophisticated national political advocacy organization … seeking to prevent Maine citizens from learning who is trying to influence their vote on ballot questions.”

Campaign disclosure laws enjoy broad public support across the spectrum and are critical in a time when spending on elections has hit record levels. For all of the criticism of Citizens United, a less recognized part of the decision upheld disclosure requirements as vital to ensuring transparency. Even Justice Scalia, in responding to another NOM-affiliated case in 2010 (Doe v. Reed), wrote that “I do not look forward to a society which … campaigns anonymously and even exercises the direct democracy of initiative and referendum hidden from public scrutiny and protected from the accountability of criticism.”

The Court supported that view by rejecting once again NOM’s crusade for secrecy. As a result, Maine’s investigation will continue, and anti-LGBT organizations such as NOM will be required to play by the same election rules that others do.

This is the second time this year that the Supreme Court has rejected an appeal by NOM regarding the Maine decision.

NOM was badly wounded in late March when a court in Maine released documents that exposed NOM’s strategy to “drive a wedge between gays and blacks” over marriage.

The anti-gay group has been sued in a number of states where it is active against same-sex marriage, accused of not filing federal tax returns on time and violating state campaign finance laws.

In June, California’s ethics office said it would investigate a complaint filed by Fred Karger, who ran for the Republican presidential nomination this year, that NOM did not report more than $340,000 that it raised to help pass Proposition 8 in 2008.