Sunday, April 19, 2009

New York Times - Frank Rich Op-Ed

More on the National Organization for Marriage
(NOM), the Mormon Front Group.....

New York Times

The Bigots’ Last Hurrah


Published: April 18, 2009

WHAT would happen if you crossed that creepy 1960s horror classic “The Village of the Damned” with the Broadway staple “A Chorus Line”? You don’t need to use your imagination. It’s there waiting for you on YouTube under the title “Gathering Storm”: a 60-second ad presenting homosexuality as a national threat second only to terrorism.

The actors are supposedly Not Gay. They stand in choral formation before a backdrop of menacing clouds and cheesy lightning effects. “The winds are strong,” says a white man to the accompaniment of ominous music. “And I am afraid,” a young black woman chimes in. “Those advocates want to change the way I live,” says a white woman. But just when all seems lost, the sun breaks through and a smiling black man announces that “a rainbow coalition” is “coming together in love” to save America from the apocalypse of same-sex marriage. It’s the swiftest rescue of Western civilization since the heyday of the ambiguously gay duo Batman and Robin.

Far from terrifying anyone, “Gathering Storm” has become, unsurprisingly, an Internet camp classic. On YouTube the original video must compete with
countless homemade parodies it has inspired since first turning up some 10 days ago. None may top Stephen Colbert’s on Thursday night, in which lightning from “the homo storm” strikes an Arkansas teacher, turning him gay. A “New Jersey pastor” whose church has been “turned into an Abercrombie & Fitch” declares that he likes gay people, “but only as hilarious best friends in TV and movies.”

Yet easy to mock as “Gathering Storm” may be, it nonetheless bookmarks a historic turning point in the demise of America’s anti-gay movement.

What gives the ad its symbolic significance is not just that it’s idiotic but that its release was the only loud protest anywhere in America to the news that same-sex marriage had been legalized in Iowa and Vermont. If it advances any message, it’s mainly that homophobic activism is ever more depopulated and isolated as well as brain-dead.

“Gathering Storm” was produced and broadcast — for
a claimed $1.5 million — by an outfit called the National Organization for Marriage. This “national organization,” formed in 2007, is a fund-raising and propaganda-spewing Web site fronted by the right-wing Princeton University professor Robert George and the columnist Maggie Gallagher, who was famously caught receiving taxpayers’ money to promote Bush administration “marriage initiatives.” Until last month, half of the six board members (including George) had some past or present affiliation with Princeton’s James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions. (One of them, the son of one of the 12 apostles in the Mormon church hierarchy, recently stepped down.)
Even the anti-Obama “tea parties” flogged by Fox News last week had wider genuine grass-roots support than this so-called national organization. Beyond Princeton, most straight citizens merely shrugged as gay families
celebrated in Iowa and Vermont. There was no mass backlash. At ABC and CBS, the Vermont headlines didn’t even make the evening news.

On the right, the restrained response was striking. Fox barely mentioned the subject; its rising-star demagogue, Glenn Beck, while still dismissing same-sex marriage,
went so far as to “celebrate what happened in Vermont” because “instead of the courts making a decision, the people did.” Dr. Laura Schlessinger, the self-help media star once notorious for portraying homosexuality as “a biological error” and a gateway to pedophilia, told CNN’s Larry King that she now views committed gay relationships as “a beautiful thing and a healthy thing.” In The New York Post, the invariably witty and invariably conservative writer Kyle Smith demolished a Maggie Gallagher screed published in National Review and wondered whether her errant arguments against gay equality were “something else in disguise.”

More startling still was the abrupt about-face of the Rev. Rick Warren, the hugely popular megachurch leader whose
endorsement last year of Proposition 8, California’s same-sex marriage ban, had roiled his appearance at the Obama inaugural. Warren also dropped in on Larry King to declare that he had “never” been and “never will be” an “anti-gay-marriage activist.” This was an unmistakable slap at the National Organization for Marriage, which lavished far more money on Proposition 8 than even James Dobson’s Focus on the Family.

The Obamas’ dog had longer legs on cable than the news from Iowa and Vermont. CNN’s weekly press critique, “Reliable Sources,” inquired why. The gay blogger John Aravosis
suggested that many Americans are more worried about their mortgages than their neighbors’ private lives. Besides, Aravosis said, there are “only so many news stories you can do showing guys in tuxes.”

As the polls attest, the majority of Americans who support civil unions for gay couples has been steadily growing. Younger voters are fine with marriage. Generational changeover will seal the deal.
Crunching all the numbers, the poll maven Nate Silver sees same-sex marriage achieving majority support “at some point in the 2010s.”

Iowa and Vermont were the tipping point because they struck down the right’s two major arguments against marriage equality. The
unanimous ruling of the seven-member Iowa Supreme Court proved that the issue is not merely a bicoastal fad. The decision, written by Mark Cady, a Republican appointee, was particularly articulate in explaining that a state’s legalization of same-sex marriage has no effect on marriage as practiced by religions. “The only difference,” the judge wrote, is that “civil marriage will now take on a new meaning that reflects a more complete understanding of equal protection of the law.”

Some opponents grumbled anyway, reviving their perennial complaint, dating back to Brown v. Board of Education, about activist judges. But the judiciary has long played a leading role in sticking up for the civil rights of minorities so they’re not held hostage to a majority vote. Even if the judiciary-overreach argument had merit, it was still moot in Vermont, where the State Legislature, not a court, voted to make same-sex marriage legal and then
voted to override the Republican governor’s veto.
As the case against equal rights for gay families gets harder and harder to argue on any nonreligious or legal grounds, no wonder so many conservatives are dropping the cause. And if Fox News and Rick Warren won’t lead the charge on same-sex marriage, who on the national stage will take their place? The only enthusiastic contenders seem to be Republicans contemplating presidential runs in 2012. As Rich Tafel, the former president of the gay Log Cabin Republicans, pointed out to me last week, what Iowa giveth to the Democrats, Iowa taketh away from his own party. As the first stop in the primary process, the Iowa caucuses provided a crucial boost to Barack Obama’s victorious and inclusive Democratic campaign in 2008. But on the G.O.P. side, the caucuses tilt toward the exclusionary hard right.

In 2008,
60 percent of Iowa’s Republican caucus voters were evangelical Christians. Mike Huckabee won. That’s the hurdle facing the party’s contenders in 2012, which is why Romney, Palin and Gingrich are now all more vehement anti-same-sex-marriage activists than Rick Warren. Palin even broke with John McCain on the issue during their campaign, supporting the federal marriage amendment that he rejects. This month, even as the father of Palin’s out-of-wedlock grandson challenged her own family values and veracity, she nominated as Alaskan attorney general a man who has called gay people “degenerates.” Such homophobia didn’t even play in Alaska — the State Legislature voted the nominee down — and will doom Republicans like Palin in national elections.

One G.O.P. politician who understands this is the McCain-Palin 2008 campaign strategist, Steve Schmidt, who on Friday
urged his party to join him in endorsing same-sex marriage. Another is Jon Huntsman Jr., the governor of Utah, who in February endorsed civil unions for gay couples, a position seemingly indistinguishable from Obama’s. Huntsman is not some left-coast Hollywood Republican. He’s a Mormon presiding over what Gallup ranks as the reddest state in the country.

“We must embrace all citizens as equals,” Huntsman told me in an interview last week. “I’ve always stood tall on this.” Has he been hurt by his position? Not remotely. “A lot of people gave the issue more scrutiny after it became the topic of the week,” he said, and started to see it “in human terms.” Letters, calls, polls and conversations with voters around the state all confirmed to him that opinion has “shifted quite substantially” toward his point of view. Huntsman’s approval rating
now stands at 84 percent.

He believes that social issues should not be a priority for Republicans in any case during an economic crisis. He also is an outspoken foe of the “nativist language” that has marked the G.O.P. of late. Huntsman doesn’t share “the view of some” that “the party was created in 1980.” He yearns for it to reclaim Lincoln’s faith in “individual dignity.”

As marital equality haltingly but inexorably spreads state by state for gay Americans in the years to come, Utah will hardly be in the lead to follow Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa and Vermont. But the fact that it too is taking its first steps down that road is extraordinary. It is justice, not a storm, that is gathering. Only those who have spread the poisons of bigotry and fear have any reason to be afraid.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Californians Against Hate Kicks Off
Ad Campaign in 6 Northeast States

The Mormons are Coming, The Mormons are Coming!”

Designed to counter the commercial released last week by the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) “A Gathering Storm,” Californians Against Hate will launch its own advertising campaign beginning tomorrow in: New York, New Jersey, New Hampshire, Delaware, Rhode Island and Maine.

“We believe that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon Church) established the National Organization for Marriage as its front group in order to qualify Proposition 8 for ballot last year in California,” said Fred Karger, Founder of Californians Against Hate. “After spending several million dollars in California, NOM recently moved into 7 Northeast States considering marriage equality.

They lost in Vermont on April 7th, when the Legislature voted to override Governor Jim Douglas’ veto the very next day. Vermont became the 4th state in the nation to allow same-sex couples the right to marry.

NOM was very active in Vermont, paying for a massive advertising campaign, including radio, direct mail and robo-calling everyone in the state with a recorded message. Political experts think that their heavy--handed tactics backfired, and they lost because of it. Now NOM is charging into 6 more Northeast states.

So tomorrow, April 18th, on the 234th anniversary of Paul Revere’s famous midnight ride from Boston to Lexington, we will begin our online advertising campaign. Our ad harkens back to 1775 when a brave Paul Revere rode his horse to warn of the attack by the British. We wrote our own version of Longfellow’s famous poem “The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere,” entitled, “The Mormons are Coming, The Mormons are Coming!” It’s easy to find and enjoy.

“Our modern day Paul Revere is warning of TV commercials (using bad actors trying to play real people), radio ads, and robo--calls -- all full of deceit and lies,” said Fred Karger. “Their ads are fueled by millions of dollars, which we believe comes primarily from the Mormon Church and its members. They set up NOM as a front group in California in the summer of 2007 to qualify Proposition 8 for the ballot, after 2 previous attempts to put a Constitutional Amendment to ban same-sex marriage before the voters failed in 2006. We are very familiar with the National Organization for Marriage and its president, Maggie Gallagher. We sparred with them a lot in last year in California.”

“The ad that we are running is meant to be strong, but lighthearted, “added Karger. “We want all fair-minded people to know who is behind NOM’s effort to stop equal rights. We will continue to pound away at this front group until everyone knows exactly who is behind the creation of the National Organization for Marriage.”

The Mormon Church has been fighting same-sex marriage this way since 1995, when it set up Hawaii’s Future Today to fight gay marriage in that state. Mormon Church documents that we received recently show just how the Church operates. To see these documents go to our web site:

For the full text of the banner ads and accompanying poem, please visit our web site by

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Fred Karger & Maggie Gallagher Square Off

Prop. 8 rivals take their fight national
Malcolm Maclachlan 04/13/09 12:00 AM PST

Link to story: Capitol Weekly

A pair of rivals in the Proposition 8 fight have taken their battle national.

Each has a conspiracy theory about the other that they're trying to sell. In one corner is Fred Karger, a long-time successful Los Angeles-based political consultant who is also gay. He founded the group Californians Against Hate last June to fight Prop. 8, the successful initiative to ban gay marriage in California. During and after the election, his group has publicized the names of people who gave to the Prop. 8 campaign.

In his view, both the Prop. 8 campaign and the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) are "Mormon front groups" that have been trying to hide their connections to the LDS Church. He has filed a complaint with the California Fair Political Practices Commission alleging the LDS Church did not properly report all their donations to Prop. 8, and has launched a website seeking to tie NOM to the Church.

In the other corner is Maggie Gallagher, the founder and president of both NOM and Institute for Marriage and Public Policy. She claims Karger is engaged in a "campaign of intimidation" that is designed to force the LDS Church "out of the public square by making the cost of participation too high."

As the marriage fight moves into states like Vermont and Iowa, she said, the ultimate goal of Karger and other gay marriage activists should become clear to people: giving "Obama a reason to overturn the Defense of Marriage Act" (DOMA).

"Getting rid of DOMA is key to the ultimate goal, which is to create a national constitutional right to gay marriage," Gallagher said. "I don't think that's any secret. We're gearing up for that battle."

The war of words between these familiar rivals -- Karger refers to Gallager as "Maggie," while Gallagher often jokingly calls Karger "my friend" -- is taking place against a backdrop of a marriage fight that is heating up in other states. The Iowa Supreme Court overturned a state ban on gay marriage on April 3. On April 7, the Vermont Legislature legalized gay marriage, narrowly overriding a veto threat by Republican Governor Jim Douglas. Leading up to the vote, NOM paid for a campaign of robo-calls to Vermont voters urging them to contact their legislators to oppose the bill.

The Northeast region has become a focal point in the marriage fight. Connecticut and Massachusetts already allow gay marriage. Lawmakers in Maine and New Hampshire are considering legalizing it. Meanwhile, New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine said in 2007 that he would sign a gay marriage bill if it landed on his desk. A state government-commissioned report added fuel to that fire in December when it found that New Jersey's current civil union law does not provide equal protection.

On Tuesday in Trenton, N.J., NOM held a press conference to announce "Two Million for Marriage" initiative. The goal over the next two years is to create a network of two million anti-gay marriage activists across the country. NOM also announced a $1.5 million media buy targeting states including Iowa, New Hampshire and New Jersey. An ad from the new campaign, "The Gathering Storm," can be seen on YouTube.

With so many potential big-money fights brewing, Karger is unapologetic in his effort to shut off some of the flow of money to the other side.

"I really have two goals there-one is to slow them down," Karger said. The other, he added, is to "make it unacceptable to contribute against equality."

He's also unapologetic in his efforts to use the discomfort many people have with the Mormon Church to further this cause. He cited polls showing them having the lowest "acceptability" rating of any major religious group-especially in "libertarian" leaning Vermont, which he said is among the "most secular" states in the nation.

In November, Karger filed a FPPC complaint charging that the Mormon Church hid millions in direct and indirect contributions to the Prop. 8 campaign. He's also filed federal form 990 request to get at the funding of NOM. He said the group has until April 23 to reply.

He's also put up a website, Mormongate, detailing the links he sees. Much of the evidence comes from a series of memos that were "dumped in my lap" last year showing leaders in the Mormon Church setting up an anti-gay rights front group in Hawaii in the 1990s.

"My jaw dropped when I started reading them and never came back into line," Karger said.

It shows a series of communications between Elder Neal Maxwell, lobbyist and other church leaders to create a group called Hawaii's Future Today. It was designed to have a Catholic public face, according to the memos, and focus on other issues such as gambling in order to seem like it was not just an anti-gay rights group. Karger said that no one has claimed that the memos are not real.

But Gallagher said "There is no evidence at all he offers about NOM."

As to the idea that NOM is a Mormon front group, she said: "I wish it were true. There is nothing wrong with the Mormon Church or the Catholic Church working to join with other to civic organizations." She added NOM's board consists of several Protestants and Catholics, as well as a single Mormon, whom she declined to name.

"If I can find an atheist who wants to get out in front on the marriage issue, I'll stick them on my board," Gallagher added.
She tells a very different story about her group's founding. After spending 15 years as the director of the marriage program at the Institute for American Values, she said, in 2003 she became aware that gay marriage was about to become a major political issue. She founded the Institute for Marriage and Public Policy as a think tank that would focus on the issue, using a $10,000 check from a Protestant group as seed money.

"I felt very strongly that the people who cared about marriage were not sufficiently involved in this debate," she said.

After an anti-gay marriage initiative went down in 2006 in Arizona, she said, she wanted to create a group that could be more directly involved politically. In the summer of 2007, she worked with Robbie George, a Princeton professor and current board member of NOM, to create the group. This time they started out with $100,000 from a Catholic group and $125,000 from a Protestant one.

In October of that year, she said, she got a call from a woman in San Diego representing a group of about 30 people who were upset that Mayor Jerry Sanders had come out in favor of an effort to overturn Prop. 22, a 2000 non-constitutional anti-gay marriage initiative passed by voters.

Gallagher said that she soon flew out to San Diego to meet with them, and the first state chapter of the Princeton, N.J., based group was formed. They soon collaborated with the California-based group ProtectMarriage, each raising $1 million to get Prop. 8 on last November's ballot. Not only did they win that fight, she said, but also a 2008 rematch in Arizona.

Friday, April 10, 2009

NOM Actor's Tryouts Reel Still Available

Date: Fri, 10 Apr 2009 09:46:34 -0400

From: Trevor Thomas


A note from Human Rights Campaign: Many of you have been reporting on our media release sent earlier this week titled 'Human Rights Campaign Exposes National Organization for Marriage's Fake Ad for Fake Problems' - link: .

It is our understanding the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) filed a copyright violation notice with YouTube last night. Therefore, the two audition videos posted under the user "EndMarriageLies" are no longer available. But, you still have options.

Feel free to check out the Rachel Maddow Show from last night who aired a reel of the audition footage:


Trevor R. Thomas
Deputy Communications Director
The Human Rights Campaign
Office: 202-216-1547

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

NOM's New Commercial BIG Lie -- All Actors

Right-wing group does not have truth on its side, so it hires actors to spew lies; Audition reel uncovered online


WASHINGTON –The Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender civil rights organization, released a statement and a factual rebuttal today on a television spot produced by the National Organization for Marriage and set to run on CNN, the Fox News Channel, and MSNBC in the coming days. In the ad, actors make disproven claims about marriage for lesbian and gay couples.

“What’s next for the National Organization for Marriage? Will they hire legendary infomercial pitchman Ron Popeil to hawk their phony agenda?” said Human Rights Campaign Spokesman Brad Luna. “This ad is full of outrageous falsehoods—and they don’t even come out of the mouths of real people.”

According to sources, the phony ad is set to run eight times per day in New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island and California. The ad can be viewed here:

The National Organization for Marriage hired actors to peddle their lies about marriage for lesbian and gay couples. The audition reels can be viewed at and

The National Organization for Marriage and Maggie Gallagher is featured on the interactive wall of, a new HRC action-based website launched to confront the lies and distortions repeatedly used to defeat LGBT equality measures. National Organization for Marriage was added to the wall after the group created an anti- marriage equality radio ad that played in Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine.

“Again and again, opponents of equality have claimed one shallow victory after another by telling lies about who we are as individuals, as loving couples and as families. These lies must be called out for what they are every time the right-wing seeks to derail our progress by spreading distortions and inciting fear mongering,” continued Luna.’s interactive wall features videos, audio, pictures, and quotes, calling out those who maliciously use lies and misinformation to interfere with the LGBT community’s path to equality. By clicking on the panels of the wall, users can access more information about those highlighted, watch videos, add comments on multimedia discussion boards, and learn how to take action to counteract their misdeeds.

Along with the National Organization for Marriage, the wall currently features the American Family Association (AFA), the elders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Oklahoma State Representative Sally Kern, and Utah State Senator Chris Buttars, Proposition 8 lawyer Ken Starr, right-wing media personality Rush Limbaugh, and GOP Chairman Michael Steele. Users can also nominate their own candidates for inclusion on the wall.
Background Ad Rebuttal

“The Real Truth Behind the Fake Ad”

The general argument of the ad is that the push for marriage equality isn’t just about rights for same-sex couples, it’s about imposing contrary values on people of faith. The examples they cite in the ad are:

(1) A California doctor who must choose between her faith and her job
(2) A member of New Jersey church group which is punished by the state because they can’t support same-sex marriage

(3) A Massachusetts parent who stands by helpless while the state teaches her son that gay marriage is okay

The facts indicate that (1) refers to the Benitez decision in California, determining that a doctor cannot violate California anti-discrimination law by refusing to treat a lesbian based on religious belief, (2) refers to the Ocean Grove, New Jersey Methodist pavilion that was open to the general public for events but refused access for civil union ceremonies (and was fined by the state for doing so) and (3) refers to the Parker decision in Massachusetts, where parents unsuccessfully sought to end public school discussions of family diversity, including of same-sex couples.

All three examples involve religious people who enter the public sphere, but don’t want to abide by the general non-discriminatory rules everyone else does. Both (1) and (2) are really about state laws against sexual orientation discrimination, rather than specifically about marriage. And (3) is about two pairs of religious parents trying to impose their beliefs on all children in public schools.
The real facts of each case are:

The California doctor entered a profession that promises to “first, do no harm” and the law requires her to treat a patient in need – gay or straight, Christian or Muslim – regardless of her religious beliefs. The law does not, and cannot, dictate her faith – it can only insist that she follow her oath as a medical professional.

The New Jersey church group runs, and profits from, a beachside pavilion that it rents out to the general public for all manner of occasions –concerts, debates and even Civil War reenactments— but balks at permitting couples to hold civil union ceremonies there. The law does not challenge the church organization’s beliefs about homosexuality – it merely requires that a pavilion that had been open to all for years comply with laws protecting everyone from discrimination, including gays and lesbians.

The Massachusetts parent disagrees with an aspect of her son’s public education, a discussion of the many different kinds of families he will likely encounter in life, including gay and lesbian couples. The law does not stop her from disagreeing, from teaching him consistently with her differing beliefs at home, or even educating her child in a setting that is more in line with her faith traditions. But it does not allow any one parent to dictate the curriculum for all students based on her family’s religious traditions.

Help Our Friends in Iowa

Protect the Freedom to Marry in Iowa from out of state $$!

Out of State organizations attacking the freedom to marry in Iowa!

The same right-wing organizations who spent millions to pass Prop. 8 in California are now spending their money in Iowa!

Sign this petition and send a strong message opposing out of state groups from using their money and influence to take away the rights of Iowans!

Go to this link at to help:

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Mormongate Coverage On a Popular East Coast Blog

The Vermont News Guy

Hold the Phone

Did you get robo-called this week?

If not, what’s wrong with you?

It seems that almost everybody who is anybody in Vermont got the calls, by opponents of the gay marriage bill, and some folks were plenty miffed about it. They complained to their local newspaper or the Secretary of State’s office, in some cases suspecting political dirty tricks .
In the blogosphere in and out of Vermont appeared allegations that the National Organization for Marriage, which organized the automated telephone calls, was a “front group” established by the Mormon Church.

But robo-calls, which are used by candidates and causes across the ideological spectrum, are legal, and the NOM seems to have followed the rules by identifying itself at the end of the calls. That’s being transparent, not sneaky.

As to “front groups,” they, too, are legal and used across the political spectrum. Whether this one was started by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is open to debate. If so, the Church appears to have violated no law.

None of which means that the calls do not portend some difficult days ahead here. Perhaps Vermonters should fasten their seat belts. The state could be in for a politically bumpy 18 months.

Not because there is anything necessarily wrong (though there is certainly something aggravating) with robo-calls. But because they are a sign that political big bucks from outside the state may be coming into it, increasing the likelihood that the discussion over this contentious issue will get more intense, and possibly much more divisive.

The likely impending defeat of the same-sex marriage bill (it passed the House, but with not enough votes to override Gov. Jim Douglas’s promised veto) means that the issue will stay front-and-center until Election Day, 2010. In fact, it might be only a slight exaggeration to suggest that the political campaigns - for governor and for the Legislature - began last night. Considering all the economic and budget battles, it’s too early to say that gay marriage will be the dominant issue. But it will be a big one.

So far this year, outside operatives and outside money have played a relatively minor role in the marriage debate, a smaller role than during the civil unions debate of 2000.
That may not last. Pro gay-marriage forces from California and elsewhere are planning activities throughout the Northeast in coming months

Whether or not the National Organization of Marriage is a creature of the Mormon Church, it is allied with it, and with its prodigious fund-raising powers. The robo-calls of this week were cheap. NOM has the capacity to do much more. In last year’s contentious Proposition 8 campaign in California, which overturned a state Supreme Court decision authorizing gay marriage, NOM spent more than $1 million.

Whatever the specific impact of this week’s robo-calls, their presence indicates that NOM is likely to continue to be active here. In raw numbers, the dollars spent here will not approach California levels. But they could be more than enough to change the way politics is conducted in Vermont, perhaps just for this election cycle, perhaps for longer.

Nor are the proponents of gay marriage likely to be outspent. This is a battle in which both armies have roughly equal access to money and equal passionate commitment to their cause.
No one expects Beth Robinson and her Vermont Freedom to Marry allies to stop fighting. They got a huge majority in the Senate and a substantial one in the House. Only one office-holder stands between them and victory. They will go after him. So far this year, their side has dominated the debate inside the state’s borders. It’s the opponents who need more outside help. These robo-calls could be the first sign that they are going to get it.

Robo-calls are legal, Constitutionally protected political activity. They are also probably a waste of time and money.

Yale University Professor Donald Green, the co-author of a book on the subject (Get out the Vote: How To Increase Voter Turnout Brookings Institute, 2008), said studies show that robo-calls do nothing to increase voter turnout, and you “don’t see that much effect on persuasion, either.”

Robo-calls are inexpensive, he said, and politicians who use them are “hoping to get a small effect by paying small amount of money.” But the effect is so small, he said, that even in close races it was not clear that robo-calling was decisive. According to an article in Newsweek last October, half the people who get robo-calls hang up in the first ten seconds.

It’s hard to see how the calls could have been decisive for last night’s vote in the Vermont House of Representatives. The final count was pretty much what had been predicted before the calls began. House members had already been deluged by letters, emails and personal visits from their constituents. It’s hard to believe that any of them didn’t know what the voters wanted.
Robo-calls can be and have been used for political dirty tricks. Often they provide false information about an opposing candidate, or are used as part of a “push poll,” in which respondents are asked questions such as, “would you vote for John Jones if you knew he approved of terrorism.”

But that’s not what the NOM robo-calls did. They urged people who answered the phones to call their legislators (providing the name and phone number of the representative) urging them to “support Governor Jim Douglas” in opposing the same-sex marriage bill.
Then, to comply with federal law, the message identified the calling organization and provided a telephone number, 804-934-1092, in Richmond, Virginia.

NOM does not seem to have violated any Vermont regulation, either. As of yesterday, it had not yet registered as a lobbyist, which it would have to do if it spent more than $500 (not on the calls, but on staff time arranging for the Vermont robo-call operation), according to Kathy DeWolfe, head of the Secretary of State’s Election Division.

As to the NOM-Mormon connection, Maggie Gallagher, NOM’s president, says there is none.
“We’re an inter-faith, secular, organization,” she said. We have Protestants, Mormons, Catholics, Jews, and if you know any atheists who are against same-sex marriage I’d love to talk to them.”
Besides, she said, “there’s no reason why people involved in churches can’t help found secular organizations. There would be nothing underhanded in any church helping to found secular or interfaith organizations.”

The claim that the Mormon Church did start NOM comes from Fred Karger of Californians Against Hate, which opposed the California proposition that outlawed gay marriage. On the organization’s web site, Karger wrote, ” the Mormon church appears to have created the National Organization for Marriage… as a Mormon front group, exactly as they did with a very similar organization called Hawaii’s Future Today (HFT) in that state in 1995.”
Karger has obtained copies of letters from high-ranking Church officials which seem to demonstrate that the Church was instrumental in setting up the Hawaii group. But his most recent letter is from 1998. Gallagher said NOM was founded only two years ago. There are prominent Mormons in its hierarchy, but its chairman of the board is Robert P. George , the McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence at Princeton University, and a well-known conservative Catholic intellectual. NOM is based in Princeton.

But the similarity between the Hawaii outfit and NOM, while not conclusive proof that the Church set up NOM, at least suggests a connection. Top officials of the LDS Church have been working against gay marriage for more than a decade, and not just as individuals; the Church as an institution has been part of the effort. There seems to be little doubt that the Church and NOM worked together in California, where the Church took a leading role in campaigning for Proposition 8.

Because political robo-calls do not try to sell anything or raise money, they are not subject to the national “Do Not Call” system coordinated by the Federal Communications Commission. But there is a voluntary National Political Do Not Contact Registry with which people can register.
Elsewhere, the Swedish Parliament approved same-sex marriage in that country by a vote of 261 to 22

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Salt Lake Tribune - Rebecca Walsh Column

Walsh: LDS elders showed seasoned political savvy on California's Prop. 8
Rebecca Walsh
Tribune Columnist
Posted: 03/25/2009 07:23:01 PM MDT

At post-election rallies in California, protestors passed out IRS complaint forms.
The paperwork for reporting a tax violation by a nonprofit was already filled out -- with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' name and address. People simply had to sign the bottom.

The Internal Revenue Service ultimately will decide whether the Mormon church crossed a line in U.S. tax law when it funneled at least $190,000 of its own resources and directed individual members to give and give often in the $83 million campaign to ban gay marriage in California.
I doubt it. South Temple and their attorneys are too careful for that.

Documents leaked to Californians Against Hate show in fascinating detail the calculated way Mormon spiritual leaders spearheaded Hawaii's gay marriage fight 10 years ago. The handful of memos from then-Elder Loren C. Dunn to various members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles reveal a political machine within a patriarchy of faith:

Richard Wirthlin, not yet a general authority, polled the relative popularity of Mormons versus Catholics. When results showed Catholics had a better image in Hawaii, Mormon leaders decided to stay in the background. They hired a Hawaiian advertising firm, McNeil Wilson, on a $250,000 retainer. They tacked on gambling and legalized prostitution to give the anti-marriage front group "room to maneuver in the legislature" and "broaden our base and appeal," Dunn wrote. They searched for an "articulate middle-age mother" who was neither Mormon nor Catholic to be the face of the campaign.

The documents are old -- mostly updates and memos dated between 1995 and 1998. And the church won't say they're real or acknowledge they were leaked.

"We are unconcerned about these documents," says spokesman Scott Trotter. "The Church's position on the importance of traditional marriage has been consistent over the years."
There's no reason to think the internal political organization built by Dunn and Wirthlin and others has been dismantled. If anything, the political fight to amend California's constitution shows LDS elders have learned from their mistakes and honed their campaign strategy. Rather than financing the crusade themselves as they did in Hawaii, giving $400,000 in church funds, leadership decided to call on members nationwide for financing.

Californians Against Hate Director Fred Karger is trying to make the case that the Mormon church violated California's Political Reform Act by obscuring the institutional money spent on advertising, phone banks and sending elders to the state to supervise and rally the faithful.
"They started this in 1988, putting together this plan to bring the church into a major role in opposing same-sex marriage," he says. "You kind of have a boilerplate."

Aside from financial disclosure discrepancies, the IRS is another matter. U.S. tax code prohibits churches and other nonprofits from spending "substantial" amounts of money on lobbying. Ultimately, IRS investigators will decide whether the Mormon role in Yes on 8 qualifies as substantial.

Watching from a distance, Salt Lake City tax attorney Bill Orton doesn't think so.
"I can't imagine that [church attorneys] Kirton & McConkie would miss something in tax law," says the faithful Mormon and former congressman. "I would not have injected the church into [the Proposition 8 fight] to the extent that they did. But I don't see that they've done anything unlawful. I don't think the church is in any trouble whatsoever."

Legal or not, the handful of documents Karger has posted at reveal the dual roles played by Mormon leaders. For faithful church members who still see the apostles as simple grandfatherly gurus of the spiritual, this is an awakening.
They're also canny political hands.