Another National Organization for Marriage Ill-Fated Bus Tour
Bill Berkowitz printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Mon Oct 04, 2010 at 01:36:18 PM EST
The anti-gay organization founded by Maggie Gallagher has been on a bus-tour across California this past week, stumping for the GOP's Senate Candidate, Carly Fiorina. Similar to its nationwide anti-same-sex marriage bus tour last summer, this one is also drawing tens of  people!

There is one thing you can say for certain about the National Organization for Marriage; it's always up to something ... and that something invariably has to do with The Gay.

If it isn't sponsoring state-wide initiatives banning same-sex marriage, it's intervening in electoral campaigns around the country. If it isn't briefs in support of California's Proposition 8, it's filing a suit against the state of Rhode Island so it won't have to reveal the names of its donors. If it isn't bringing other anti-gay organizations - including the San Marcos, California-based Ruth Institute -- under its wing, then it's joining a coalition called the Latino Partnership for Conservative Principles. If it isn't in the process of creating some very weird anti-gay television advertising spots, it's launching another cockamamie bus tour.

And sometimes it seems, given its apparent trunk full of treasure, NOM is doing all of the above at just about the same time.

'Vota Tus Valores' Bus Tour

Case in point: You may not be aware of it, but for the past week NOM, following on the heels of this past summer's totally unsuccessful anti-gay marriage  bus tour which drew tens of people at an assortment of stops across the country, has been in the middle of another underwhelming bus tour. This one is called the "Vota Tus Valores" ("Vote Your Values") tour and it is aimed at convincing California's Latino voters to vote for Republican Senate candidate Carly Fiorina on November 2.  

The Rhode Island case

One of the issues that NOM has been consistently involved in is the right not to comply with state finance regulations (read that: to not publicly reveal the names of its donors).  On September 27, NECN, a Comcast Network, reported that NOM filed a federal lawsuit against the state of Rhode Island's Board of Elections, "saying it wants to run ads in the governor's race and other contests but doesn't want to have to comply with state campaign finance laws." NESN pointed out NOM believes that "it should not be forced to report its expenditures or comply with spending limits or bans that are required for political action committees....[and that it] shouldn't be considered a PAC because it's not controlled by a political candidate and does not spend the majority of its money on Rhode Island's political races." It also argued that "the rules for PACs are burdensome and interfere with free speech," NESN reported.

"You have to negotiate the myriad regulations that apply, and for a lot of organizations, it's just not worth it," said Jeffrey Gallant, a lawyer with the James Madison Center for Free Speech, which is representing the group. "These laws are a deterrent for free and open speech in political matters."

On Friday, October 1, gltnewsnow.com reported that a federal court "dismissed" NOM's Rhode Island lawsuit. Judge Mary M. Lisi pointed out that "the factual allegations in the complaint are buried in... conclusory and argumentative passages" and that it "places an unjustified burden on the court and the [state] to respond to it because they are forced to ferret out the relevant material from a mass of verbiage." However, "The court gave NOM until next week to file an amended complaint that comports with the rules," according to gltnewsnow.com.

Over at the NOM website (http://tusvalores.com/en/bus-tour/bus-tour/142-tour-home.html), you'll find the list of California cities the organization has already visited, and the ones it plans to visit as the tour winds down. The tour started in Bakersfield on September 27 and is scheduled to end in Los Angeles on October 6 - "42 total stops, in 33 counties, 2,500+ miles." You can also link to the tour's ever-optimistic Twitter feed.

The bus tour already seems to be much ado about nothing - the number of people attending its stops has been underwhelming and the publicity it has garnered has been minimal. Nevertheless, NOM is pitching a serious political idea: organizing Latino voters for Fiorina.

Latino Partnership for Conservative Principles

Earlier this summer, NOM joined with two other right-wing organizations to found the "Latino Partnership for Conservative Principles" (http://www.latino-partnership.org/). According to its website, LPCP "promotes conservative values and ideals within the Latino community and works to integrate Latinos into fuller and more active participation and leadership in the conservative movement." The group's executive director is Alfonso Aguilar, who served in the Bush Administration as the first Chief of the Office of Citizenship within U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

From the LPCP press release:

"The Latino Partnership for Conservative Principles, an organization of conservative Hispanics, today announced the details of a $1 million campaign in support of California Senate candidate Carly Fiorina at a press conference in downtown Los Angeles on Tuesday, July 27. ...
The campaign is being coordinated by our Latino Partnership for Conservative Principles, in collaboration with the Susan B. Anthony List and the National Organization for Marriage."

The Tus Valores Campaign is an independent expenditure of American Principles in Action, a 501(c)(4) organization.  

Report from the tour

Thanks to the website nomexposed.org, which has been providing stop-by-stop updates of the tour, we have learned that it thus far been a resounding failure. Arisha Michelle Hatch, one of several progressives tracking NOM's bus tour, provided this report:  

Stop #6: Sacramento

"It's only been one day and already the Vota Tus Valores organizers aren't big fans of Courage Campaign Institute's NOM Tour Trackers.  It's difficult to articulate but the atmosphere was much more tense this morning at the State Capitol building in Sacramento. Maybe they finally used `The Google' to figure out who we are? Who knows?  I would love to be a fly on the wall in that bus. Already progressive supporters are beginning to out-organize the tour.  The count in Sacramento was 9 to 4."

Stop #7: Placerville

"In Placerville, tour organizers didn't even bother to get off the bus at the Placerville Amtrak station. The advance team handed out fliers to two people waiting for transit, but by the time the bus arrived nobody was there."

Stop #8: Yuba City

The bus was a "no show."

(You can follow the tour's progress at http://prop8trialtracker.com.)

NOMexposed.org

On September 28, in response to the myriad activities of NOM, the Washington, D.C.-based Human Rights Campaign and the Courage Campaign, a California-based progressive alliance, launched a new website called NOM Exposed  (http://nomexposed.org/) which is "devoted solely to tracking the political activity and shadowy funding behind the National Organization for Marriage (NOM)... ," the Washington Inquirer's Jesse Zwick reported.

From the NOMexposed.org press release:

"As the National Organization for Marriage, or NOM, embarks on a fall election campaign to defeat candidates who support full marriage equality, the Human Rights Campaign, in collaboration with the Courage Campaign, unveiled `NOM Exposed,' a live, interactive website which reveals NOM's deep anti-gay affiliations, its long connections to the Mormon and Catholic churches and its quest to keep voters in the dark about its financing.

"At the same time, HRC announced the formation of the NOM Project to follow the ongoing political work and propaganda of NOM as it attempts to influence elections and legislative campaigns across the country. The project will be led by Kevin Nix, a longtime LGBT advocate and political and media consultant.... [and] A former communications director at both Servicemembers Legal Defense Network and the Family Equality Council..."

One of NOM's most impressive achievements has been its extraordinary fundraising success. According to nomexposed.org, in 2007 NOM began with a $500,000 budget: "Within two years, NOM raise[d] $8 million to target 11 states and Washington DC at various levels..." By 2009, the organization maintained that it "spent $8 million" and announced "plans to raise $10 million for 2010." Former NOM president and founder, Maggie Gallager, "bragged of raising $600,000 in just a few days to pay for ads and automated calls to prompt `grassroots activities.'"

NOMexposed reported that of the organization's "$2.5 million budget increase from 2007 to 2008, nearly $2.2 million came from 52 large donations of $5,000 or more. On average, these donations were valued at more than $40,000 apiece, with one source alone giving $450,000, according to NOM's tax filing." Executive director Brian Brown admitted, "NOM solicits and receives most of its funds as undesignated donations from major donors and national organizations."

NOMexposed.com track's organization's funding

NOM CLOSELY ALIGNED WITH MORMON CHURCH IN CALIFORNIA AND THROUGH BOARD MEMBERS

NOM's mission and organizational secrecy fits with a pattern of behavior by the Mormon Church, which has been trying to influence policy related to same-sex marriage since the mid-90s while keeping its name not only out of headlines, but entirely out of campaign finance reports. Additionally, one of NOM's founding board members has close ties to the Mormon Church's leadership and was replaced by well-known Mormon writer and anti-equality columnist Orson Scott Card. Maggie Gallagher also sits on the board of the Marriage Law Foundation, which is Mormon-founded and Utah-based. And one of the academic advisors to the Ruth Institute (now a NOM project) has been deeply involved with the Church's opposition strategy to same-sex marriage from its earliest days.

NOM'S LARGEST KNOWN DONATION IS FROM A CATHOLIC GROUP, AND HAS TIES TO POWERFUL AND SECRETIVE OPUS DEI

Another cornerstone of NOM's emergence is the Catholic Church. The three main founders of NOM - Brian Brown, Maggie Gallagher, and Robert George - are all Roman Catholic, and have been comparatively open about the fact that the group is backed by "well-off Catholic individuals." A September 2010 Washington Independent article identified the largest known donation to NOM as a $1.4 million bundle from the Catholic fraternal organizations Knights of Columbus in 2009. The prior year, the Knights gave $500,000 to NOM. Another board member, Luis Tellez, is a high-ranking official in the American branch of the ultra-conservative and secretive Catholic organization Opus Dei.

NOM RECEIVED FUNDING FROM RIGHT-WING EVANGELICAL GROUPS AND THE BRADLEY FOUNDATION

NOM has acknowledged that it has received funding from evangelical right-wing organizations Focus on the Family and the Family Research Council. NOM board chairman emeritus Robert George, who served on FRC's board, also has ties to groups like the Bradley Foundation. Moreover, NOM has connections to the Arlington Group, a collection of 75 religious right groups that poured $2 million into passing gay marriage bans in states during the 2004 presidential election.



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