A New Kind Of Outing

Posted by Eve Conant on newsweek.com:

"The National Organization for Marriage will come under close scrutiny today with the launch of a new Web site that will detail supporters and backers of the organization, whose goal is to fight against same-sex marriage. (NOM, a nonprofit based in Washington, D.C., was founded in 2007 “in response to the growing need for an organized opposition to same-sex marriage in state legislatures,” as its Web site states.)

"The new Web site, NOMexposed.com, is the creation of the the Human Rights Campaign and the Courage Campaign, one of the country’s fastest growing, Web-activist organizations.

“'We want to out NOM for what it is—a secretive player in antigay politics, which is posing as an offshore company for antigay religious money,” says Michael Cole, a spokesperson for the Human Rights Campaign.

"After months of poring through public documents including court and tax records, the Web site, viewed in advance by NEWSWEEK, details NOM supporters like the Mormon and Catholic churches, as well as Opus Dei. It also posts items about organizations and individuals that have publicly expressed antigay rhetoric and activity and their relationship to NOM. The site includes a graph to show the phenomenal growth NOM has enjoyed over the last three years, going from a budget of $500,000 to $10 million in three years.

"The D.C.-based NOM, has been fighting hard to keep its donors and supporters private. This month it filed suit in New York and Rhode Island, its latest in a serious of legal challenges in various states to protect the identity of its donors and, according to NOM president Brian Brown, engage in independent expenditure activities and issue ads like many other nonprofits.

"The Courage Campaign’s Rick Jacobs expects NOM to fight NOMexposed.com, which has a convenient map that one can click on that chronicles NOM’s political activities in each state. “They [NOM] will take a page from their victim playbook and say they are under threat from us while they are accepting millions of dollars to take people’s rights away.”

... "The NOMexposed.com Project, Human Rights Campaign president Joe Solmonese says, “is a message to lawmakers saying that if you want NOM support, you are going to have to wear NOM support.” He says the site is designed to prevent further efforts by NOM to sideline election laws and fail to disclose donors as midterms and the next presidential election loom. “The days of openly bigoted rhetoric against gays, like what we saw with Rick Santorum are over; what you see now is the same sentiment, but the packaging is different.”

... "The Courage Campaign and the HRC say they will continue in the coming months and years to expose NOM and its donors so that religious communities will be aware that their fundraising may not necessarily be directed to poor and struggling families during the recession but to political campaigns to fight gay marriage. The site highlights a recent news report on how the Knights of Columbus has donated about $1.4 million to NOM, versus channeling that money to initiatives for the poor. The NOM Project also details specific legal challenges to NOM by state so that local activists can educate voters. For example, according to the site “NOM provided more than $1.8 million of the $3 million spent by opponents of marriage equality to pass Question 1 [Maine's 2009 anti-gay marriage referendum]—but it illegally failed to disclose where the money came from. Public disclosure laws create transparency by informing voters who is behind a campaign effort. Maine’s law does this by requiring that any funds raised to support or oppose a ballot question be made public.”

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