The Maine Ethics Commission has voted
in favor of opening an investigation into whether an anti-gay
marriage group has violated campaign finance laws.
Commissioners voted Thursday 3-2 in
favor of looking into allegations of disclosure fraud by Californians
Against Hate founder Fred Karger. Karger says the anti-gay marriage
group Stand for Marriage Maine is illegally shielding its donors.
The group was formed in the spring
after Maine lawmakers approved a gay marriage law and has managed to
put the law up for a vote. Stand for Marriage Maine includes the
National Organization for Marriage (NOM), the nation's most
vociferous opponent of gay marriage, and the Catholic Diocese of
Portland. NOM has played a pivotal role in the gay marriage debates
in California, Iowa, New York and the New England region.
Karger has questioned the group's
initial financial disclosure that list contributions from individual
donors at $400 out of $343,689.50.
“They are trying to toss out all
reporting requirements … so the [Mormon] Church and its members can
continue to operate in secrecy,” Karger told On Top Magazine
in an email.
“I want to commend the Maine Ethics
Commission for standing up to the threats of the National
Organization for Marriage and doing the right thing,” Karger said.
“NOM has been running around all over the country thinking that
they are above the law. Well, Maine is joining California as the 2nd
state that will be investigating NOM's highly questionable finances.”
Anti-gay marriage leaders have
dismissed Karger's complaint in Maine and an on-going effort in
California, saying they are attempts at “intimidation.”
“It is yet another example of the
harassment that follows supporters of traditional marriage,” Stand
for Marriage Maine Chairman Marc Mutty said in a statement referring
to the commission's decision. “It is an abuse of power for the
commission to have allowed itself to be used as an instrument of
politics in this fashion.”
The state ethics commission did not
provide a deadline to report its findings. Mainers will vote on the
gay marriage law on November 3.