Saturday, January 28, 2006

Activists raised more than $13 million for marriage amendment campaigns in 2004, with conservative groups slightly outpacing homosexual rights groups, a study said last week.

All 13 of the 2004 marriage amendments passed, often by a 2-to-1 ratio. The amendments define marriage in state constitutions as the union of one man and one woman and are intended to prevent the legalization of same-sex “marriage.”

Those who supported the amendments raised $6.8 million, while opponents raised $6.5 million, according to the Institute on Money in State Politics, a nonpartisan research group in Helena, Mont., that tracks campaign finances.

“Certainly, in terms of getting your message out, the more money you have, the more widely you can spread that message,” said Sue O’Connell, author of the study.

The amendment campaigns showed how “journeyman political organizers” can use hot-button issues to affect electoral debate, said Edwin Bender, the institute’s executive director.

Money often makes a difference in amendment campaigns. Last year, a Massachusetts petition drive succeeded partly because there were funds for professional signature gatherers, while in California, a lack of money helped doom a similar petition drive.

However, Florida’s ongoing signature drive appears to be in trouble, despite a recent infusion of $150,000 from the state Republican Party. Amendment supporters are scrambling to meet a Tuesday deadline to turn in about 611,000 signatures.

According to the institute’s report, the biggest players in the 2004 amendment battles were the Human Rights Campaign and National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, which spent about $1.9 million to defeat the amendments, and the Arlington Group, a coalition of traditional values groups, which gave nearly $2 million in support of the amendments.

Churches raised about $2 million, with 99 percent going to support the amendments. “Slightly less than $12,000” in church donations “went to committees that opposed the amendments,” the report said.

Other highlights:

• Oregon’s amendment battle was the most expensive, with $2.4 million raised for it and $2.9 million raised against it. It passed 57 percent to 43 percent.

• Amendment battles in six states — Georgia, Louisiana, Montana, Oklahoma, Mississippi and North Dakota — attracted less than $100,000 in contributions.

• Of the $13.3 million raised in amendment campaigns, $5.3 million was spent on broadcast ads. Most of this — $3.3 million — was spent on ads opposing the amendments.

• Five individuals donated at least $100,000 to amendment battles. Oregon real estate developer Neil Nedelisky supported an amendment while four others — WordPerfect software founder Bruce Bastian of Utah, Quark software co-founder Tim Gill of Colorado and philanthropists David Maltz of Ohio and Robert W. Wilson of New York — opposed the amendments.

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