- Associated Press - Tuesday, August 4, 2015

AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) — Maine’s highest court Tuesday rejected a national traditional-values marriage group’s latest bid to shield the identities of the donors who contributed to its effort to defeat the state’s gay marriage law in 2009.

The Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices fined the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) $50,250 last year for violating the state’s campaign finance laws.

It also ordered NOM to file a report revealing the names of those who supported Stand For Marriage Maine, which successfully promoted a 2009 voter referendum to overturn a legislative-passed law legalizing gay marriage.

Maine voters in 2012 changed their minds and voted to legalize same-sex marriage.

NOM paid the ethic’s commission’s fine — which is thought to be the largest campaign finance penalty in state history — but asked the Maine Supreme Judicial Court to allow it to hold off on filing the report until the court considers its appeal of the commission’s decision.

The justices denied that request Tuesday, saying it’s unlikely that the Washington D.C.-based organization will be successful in its challenge of the commission’s ruling.

“The Maine Supreme Court is tipping its hand and indicating that it believed that the commission made the right decision with regards to NOM,” said Jonathan Wayne, executive director of the commission.

Maine’s ethics commission ruled last year that NOM broke the law by not registering as a ballot question committee and not filing campaign finance reports despite playing a central role in the 2009 referendum. The commission said the group gave nearly $2 million to Stand for Marriage Maine, the political action committee that led the repeal effort.

NOM has fought to keep the names of its donors private. It says it followed state law and argued that none of its donations were raised specifically for the purposes of defeating Maine’s same-sex marriage law.

NOM said revealing donor identities will expose them to harassment.

Brian Brown, president of the group, said Tuesday that he needs to discuss the decision with his lawyer to determine the group’s next steps. But he said he believes that NOM is being unfairly penalized by the commission and the court because of its views on marriage.

“These are all unjust, illegitimate decisions,” Mr. Brown said. “It does not bode well for the body politic when the judges and the ethics commission get to punish those they disagree with.”

The state supreme court acknowledged that forcing NOM to disclose their donor list will likely make the group’s appeal of the commission’s decision moot.

But the justices said that NOM hasn’t put forward any persuasive constitutional challenges to the commission’s decision or shown that the panel made any errors in reaching its conclusion, and therefore, hasn’t proven that it will has a good chance of succeeding in its appeal.


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