A California-based gay rights group has asked Maine officials to investigate the financial background of the coalition of groups behind an effort to repeal gay marriage in the state.

Californians Against Hate founder Fred Karger has contacted campaign ethics officials in Maine and asked for an investigation.

Karger alleges the group Stand for Marriage Maine of illegally shielding the names of individual donors.

“... I believe the four founders of Stand For Marriage Maine are merely conduits for those wishing to hide their contributions,” Karger says in an August 24 letter to Jonathan Wayne, executive director of the Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Elections Practices.

“These entities are laundering money to evade the disclosure of the actual contributors to Stand for Marriage Maine,” he adds.

Stand for Marriage Maine is the single-issue group formed to repeal the Maine Legislature's spring legalization of gay marriage. Maine allows for a “people's veto” of laws. National and local anti-gay groups are behind Stand for Marriage Maine, including the National Organization for Marriage (NOM), the Knights of Columbus and the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland.

The group's first financial disclosure report raised eyebrows when it listed total contributions from individual donors at a paltry $400 out of $343,689.50 reported.

“By way of comparison,” Karger says, “last year, the Protect Marriage, Yes on Proposition 8 campaign in California disclosed more than 60,000 individual contributors of $100 and above. Thousands more contributed under that amount to repeal same-sex marriage in that state.”

NOM is backing anti-gay marriage efforts throughout the United States, including Iowa, where the group is spending $90,000 to back the candidacy of conservative Stephen Burgmeier, and New York, where the group is threatening to fund the campaigns of opponents who vote for a gay marriage bill in the State Senate. The group also says it will defend the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the 1996 law that defines marriage as a heterosexual union for the federal government.

Soon after Californians approved Proposition 8, the anti-gay marriage initiative, Californians Against Hate filed a complaint with the California Fair Political Practices Commission that alleged NOM is an illegal political front group for the Mormon Church, whose members – at the behest of church leaders – donated enormous financial and organizing resources towards passage of Proposition 8.

“Over the last ten months the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) has been sticking its nose in every state where any same-sex marriage activity has been taking place,” Fred Karger, founder of Californians Against Hate, told On Top Magazine in an email. “They have an unlimited bank account, and have been spending millions upon millions of dollars around the country with absolutely no accountability. They refuse to abide by election laws and IRS reporting laws to reveal the source of their funding.”

Stand for Marriage Maine's apparent effort to shield individual donors – and possibly large donors – from disclosure underlines the heated emotions marriage equality can produce. In Massachusetts, and later in California, gay groups published the names of donors to anti-gay initiatives on the Internet. While the names are a matter of public record and available on government run websites, opponents have called the practice intimidation.

Karger asked for consideration on his request during the ethics commission's upcoming September 8 meeting, but the commission is likely to decide on the matter in October, its executive director Jonathan Wayne told the Associated Press.

Wayne has asked Stand for Marriage Maine to respond to Karger's allegations by September 16.