Gay marriage foes accused of violating disclosure laws

A Seattle law firm is accusing Preserve Marriage Washington and the National Organization of Marriage of violating state law by not disclosing the source of their money and how it is spent in their campaign to repeal the state’s same-sex marriage law.

Davis Wright Tremaine filed a 188-page complaint with the state Public Disclosure Commission Wednesday on behalf of Sandra Turner Fukumoto.

In it, they claim the National Organization of Marriage should register as an out-of-state political committee and reveal where it is getting money it’s using to oppose Referendum 74 on the November ballot. It also alleges the group is violating campaign spending rules by not listing expenses for the services of several people, including high-priced strategist Frank Schubert.

Preserve Marriage Washington, the complaint alleges, has flouted state law by not reporting expenditures for key campaign staff such as manager Joseph Backholm, who also is executive director of the Family Policy Institute of Washington, headquartered in Lynnwood. At the least, the group needs to record the value of their services as a debt or an in-in-kind expenditure, the complaint alleges.

“Washington State has one of the strongest histories of openness and transparency in politics of any state in the country. I urge the PDC to hold Preserve Marriage Washington accountable for flouting that tradition and failing to be honest with the citizenry,” the complaint concludes.

I’ve reached out to Backholm for a reaction.

Washington United for Marriage, the group pushing to legalize same-sex marriage, denied involvement with the complaint.

“We had nothing to do with this, but it’s not surprising,” spokesman Andy Grow said in an email. “NOM has a history of ignoring state finance reporting laws and is still tied up in litigation challenging Maine’s disclosure requirements going back to that 2009 marriage battle. At a minimum, it would certainly serve all voters if the Public Disclosure Commission makes sure everyone is playing by the rules, including NOM and Preserve Marriage Washington.”

Preserve Marriage Washington reported $381,944 in contributions, $168,732 in expenditures and $90,570 in debts, according to online reports with the PDC.

The report includes roughly $13,000 in-kind contributions from NOM.

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