Archive for June, 2009

NOM’s Maggie Gallagher Probed

Monday, June 22nd, 2009

June 22, 2009


Keith Eddings keddings@lohud.com

A national organization headed by an Ossining woman that has pledged to spend more than $1 million to defeat a gay marriage bill in New York is defending itself in California against allegations that it was organized by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to defeat similar bills nationwide.

The National Organization for Marriage said last week that it would spend $500,000 to help mount primary challenges against Republican state senators in New York who vote for a gay marriage bill proposed by Gov. David Paterson. It has passed the Assembly but stalled in the Senate, as Democrats and Republicans fight for control of that chamber.

The spending would come atop $600,000 the group says it has spent on media campaigns and telephone calls to sway senators in 25 Senate districts, including those represented by Sens. Vincent Leibell, R-Patterson, and Thomas Morahan, R-New City.

NOM says it has spent $6 million to block gay marriage in several states since it was organized in 2007, including $1.8 million to place an amendment on the ballot in California that repealed gay marriage there last year.

The campaign to repeal same-sex marriage in California was fueled in large part by the Mormon church. Critics in that state say the church began the effort by recruiting Maggie Gallagher of Ossining – who has forged a career writing about marriage for conservative think tanks – to establish NOM.

The California Fair Political Practices Commission is investigating complaints that NOM operates as a front for the Mormon church and that the church failed to report millions of dollars in nonmonetary contributions to the campaign.

The complaint was lodged by Los Angeles gay rights activist Fred Karger, who formed Californians Against Hate to protect gay marriage in the state.

“The church is the marionette, the puppeteer, of Maggie and Brian,” Karger said, referring to Gallagher, who is NOM’s president, and Brian Brown, its executive director. “The evidence is clear that the Mormon church is 100 percent behind the National Organization for Marriage and its funding.”

Gallagher said there is no connection between NOM and the church except that a Mormon serves on NOM’s board. She said she started NOM and recruited Brown to run it because conservative ministries, think tanks and charities that oppose gay marriage are not positioned to fight it on the ballot and in state capitols.

“I would not shy away from telling you if a group of Catholics and a group of Mormons founded NOM,” Gallagher said. “It’s not true. I founded NOM. I’d be happy to work with Mormons, but NOM was not started at the suggestion of Salt Lake. But I’d be OK with it if it was true.”

Once before, Gallagher faced allegations of a cover-up about who funds her work for conservative causes. In 2005, she acknowledged receiving at least $21,500 from the Department of Health and Human Services to write brochures and other material promoting the Bush administration’s marriage initiatives.

Gallagher also advocated for the Bush initiatives in a syndicated column she writes for Universal Press, but did not disclose the HHS payments. She said she earned the payments legitimately but conceded that she should have disclosed them in her column.

Karger has no smoking-gun evidence tying NOM to the Mormon church, but said the relationship would be exposed if the California Fair Political Practices Commission responds to his complaint by issuing subpoenas for church records. He said he believes the relationship exists because the Mormon campaign against gay marriage in California mimicked what he called its undercover campaign to overturn a court ruling allowing gay marriage in Hawaii in the 1990s.
On his Web site,
www.californiansagainsthate.com, Karger posts documents revealing how Mormons created a group called Hawaii’s Future Today in 1995 and covered up the group’s roots in a church many Americans are uneasy about. The documents detail how the church recruited non-Mormons as figureheads for the effort, while installing a Mormon on the board, and dodged financial disclosure requirements about its spending.

“We have organized things so the Church contribution was used in an area of coalition activity that does not have to be reported,” church Elder Loren Dunn said in a June 5, 1996, memo to a church committee overseeing the effort. He added that a campaign leader was avoiding reporters who were asking about church spending on the Hawaii marriage bill.

Kim Farah, a spokeswoman for the church in Salt Lake City, responded to a question about the authenticity of the memos by e-mailing this statement: “Mr. Karger is entitled to his opinion but not to his own version of the facts.” She would not elaborate.

Farah said the church “did not establish the National Organization for Marriage.” She did not respond to a question about whether the Mormon church has been active in the campaigns to defeat gay marriage in New England and New York.

In April, as NOM was launching its $600,000 media and phone campaign in New York, Karger launched his own low-budget media campaign in the state and New England in ads on news organizations’ Web sites. The ads, called “The Mormons Are Coming!” and set to the tune of “The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere,” plays on New England’s historic unease with the Mormon church. Several news organizations, including the (Albany) Times Union, rejected it.

“To attack, harass and intimidate any one religious faith and say they don’t have a right to participate in the process I think is profoundly anti-American,” said Brown, NOM’s executive director. “A lot of what Fred is trying to do is to intimidate Mormons – especially – out of supporting marriage, and it’s wrong.”

“I’ve never questioned the right of the Mormon religion or any religion to be involved in the political process,” Karger said. “All I’ve said is, if they are going to participate, they need to abide by the election laws. I believe there’s a lot more there. I don’t believe Brian or Maggie are telling the truth.”

Two Words of Advice on How to Win Back Same-Sex Marriage — Voter Registration!

Wednesday, June 17th, 2009

I spent three decades as a public affairs and political consultant. I spent a couple of hours at Los Angeles Gay Pride last Sunday.

Being heavily involved right now in our LGBT civil rights movement, it is important to observe what is going on out there. Several hundred thousand people attended the Sunday morning parade and the annual weekend festival. June is Gay Pride month, and there are literally dozens of cities in California that hold Pride weekends throughout June and all summer long.

Last year’s Pride was particularity interesting, because much to our surprise, gay marriage had been made legal just weeks earlier, and it was going to take affect days later. What an exciting and historic time that was. What a difference a year makes.

I remember last year that there was no one registering voters the entire weekend of L A Pride. Odd I thought, since one year ago we knew in advance that Proposition 8 was very likely going to be on the November 4th ballot.

Voter registration is an essential element in all major political campaigns. Practically every campaign and every political party has conducted voter registration drives almost going back as far as George Washington. It’s basic, nothing really new or innovative. The idea is, to register new voters who will vote with you in order to help your side get more votes than your opponents. Like I said, pretty basic.

This year I went into the Pride Festival to do a little test. I wanted to see what all was going on with voter registration.

I had assumed that our wonderful LGBT organizations (and they are incredible organizations) would have hundreds of people out registering LGBT voters and all our friends at LA Pride this year. I figured that they would be taking advantage of this mostly younger crowd, and get everyone at Gay Pride registered to vote. After all we very likely will be back on the ballot to repeal Prop 8 in less than 17 months.

As I went to my first LGBT political booth, I asked gently if there was a way to register to vote? A young bewildered volunteer said, “not really sure.” I visited the over 20 more LGBT political booths, out of over several hundred at the festival. Sadly, I could not find one voter registration card! Not even one!!!

During my wanderings, I finally met a very nice girl who had heard that the Stonewall Democrats booth had some voter registration forms. She marched me right over there, and I was thinking bingo, but alas, after some searching around they first said “we ran out,” then said, “sorry, we don’t have any.” Then the cute volunteer added, “good idea though.”

200,000 to 300,000 LGBT individuals and so many of our friends were in one place, who all agree that marriage equality should return to California. You do the math. Talk about a missed opportunity!!!

I’m pretty certain that at least half of the mostly younger crowd at Pride is not registered to vote yet. Once they do register, they will be voting for let’s say 70 more years on many more LGBT issues and for candidates who support us. That’s a lot of Novembers and Junes. In California, all new voters have the option of checking a box to have an absentee ballot mailed to their home forever. Vote at home = very high turnout.

It’s simple. Elections are won by who gets the most votes. We narrowly lost last year. Let’s put on the biggest, most successful most fun voter registration program in California history. Let’s give it a catchy name like “Milk the Vote” or “Register for Equality.” Then brand it, use our massive volunteer force that has been and continues to be organized, and let’s go get 600,000 new LGBT voters and our friends registered now. This new army should be everywhere the next 17 months where there is a gay event, rally, march, college campus and any place that there are more than 25 gay people assembled.

It’s a lot of work, but if all our organizations and volunteers get behind “Milk the Vote,” or whatever the name is, we can make up the 599,602 votes that we lost by and win next year’s election to repeal Prop 8. Let’s make sure that California once again leads the way on equality.

I appeal to all our very effective LGBT organizations to work together and make voter registration the number one activity between now and next October 18th (last day to register for the November 2, 2010 election).

Hell, people can even register on line: http://www.sos.ca.gov/nvrc/fedform/ and then just print out the form and mail it in.

We lost by only 4% of the vote last year — 599,602 votes out of the over 13.4 million cast on Prop 8. What a change from just 8 years earlier when we lost by 23%!

Please, make this the last Pride in California, or anywhere in the country for that matter, where we are not registering voters.

It is the smartest thing that we can be doing now and for our future.

Meet your anti-gay adversaries

Monday, June 15th, 2009

Meet your anti-gay adversaries
On the anniversary of Stonewall, remember we must still fight

By
DANIELLE TRUSZKOVSKYJUN. 18, 2009

Although we are in another wonderful month of gay pride celebrations, it is important to remember that our community is in the midst of an active battle for equal civil rights. The National Organization for Marriage (NOM)—the group behind the nation-wide anti-gay movement—has recently expanded its efforts and ad campaigns to ensure that millions of gay Americans are denied the same basic rights as every other US citizen. Since we are fighting for our rights and the rights of our families, it makes sense that we should know as much as possible about our primary adversary.

On their website, NOM states they have a 501(c)(4) nonprofit status, which means that the group is a “Social Welfare Organization” without restrictions on lobbying expenditures. When I searched for the organization using Guidestar (the leading nonprofit research database), however, no such 501(c)(4) shows up. Instead the National Organization for MarriageInc shows up with a 501(c)(12) status which is for “Local Benevolent Life Insurance Associations, Mutual Irrigation and Telephone Companies, and Like Co.” It seems this organization is intentionally misrepresenting itself.

It is also suspicious that this group, which has a seemingly limitless supply of cash, is operating out of tiny one-room office (located at 20 Nassau Street, suite 242, in Princeton, NJ). I visited this office numerous times, but never found a single person working there.

Also strange is that this office was previously inhabited by a right-wing organization called the Witherspoon Institute, which according to the Opus Dei Awareness Network (ODAN) is an “Opus Dei-affiliated foundation.” Opus Dei is the secretive sect within the Catholic Church, with direct ties to the Vatican, that reportedly has billions of dollars in assets. They were made famous by the villain in “The Da Vinci Code,” who was a devout member of Opus Dei, albeit an uncharacteristically murderous one. It’s not surprising, however, that an Opus Dei “Numerary” is one of the founding members of NOM. ODAN states, “Numerary members pledge to remain celibate and generally live in Opus Dei houses. They commit their entire salaries to Opus Dei, submit incoming and outgoing mail to their directors, and practice various forms of corporal mortification, including use of the cilice, a spiked chain worn around the thigh, and use of the discipline, a knotted rope for whipping.”

NOM has more than one tie to a controversial religious sect. Another founding member of the group was Matthew Holland, who is a professor at Brigham Young University. His father is a member of the Quorum of 12 Apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. This “Quorum” represents the governing body of the LDS church. The Mormon and Opus Dei connection comes together beautifully in NOM’s “Gathering Storm” ad campaign, and it appears that at least 3 of the “actors” in the commercial are Mormons and at least 1 is a member of Opus Dei. Although NOM portrays itself as a group of average Americans, the reality is quite different. (Most Americans do not whip themselves with knotted ropes or stab their own legs with spiked chains.)  And since the Board of NOM has such close ties to religious organizations with billions of dollars in assets, it is only logical to question where NOM’s funding is coming from and if it being reported accurately.

On March 25, 2009 Californians Against Hate requested copies of NOM’s IRS 990 tax return forms. Federal law requires non-profits release this information within 30 days. It is nearly 90 days after the initial request and still NOM has failed to release their tax forms and are currently accruing IRS fines of $20 per day until their financials are released to the public. What are they trying to hide?Although NOM is continuing to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on ad campaigns across the country, no one knows where this money is coming from. They are the only national organization working to deny gay Americans equal rights and their operating practices are suspect.

Considering the Board’s obvious ties to the Mormon Church and Opus Dei—is it possible that the only nationalized effort against gay civil rights is merely a front group for controversial religious organizations in an attempt to force their religious ideology on the American public?This June let’s remember that although we may have many differences within our own community, we are all fighting for a common goal: equal rights.

If members of the Mormon Church and Opus Dei can come together in a “marriage” of sorts in a collaborative effort to deny gay Americans equal rights, then certainly we as a community can work together to ensure that we win this fight for equality.

Opus Dei can come together in a “marriage” of sorts in a collaborative effort to deny gay Americans equal rights, then certainly we as a community can work together to ensure that we win this fight for equality.