NOM and the GOP

The anti-marriage equality group increases spending on the presidential campaign, but where's the money coming from exactly?

Photo by Think Stock

A new investigative report shows that the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) – which is an oxymoron considering that the group is very much against same-sex nuptials – is donating big bucks to GOP candidates in the presidential election. According to the American Independent, NOM has already spent more than $131,000 on the 2012 race. Much of the money was spent on ads attacking Ron Paul for refusing to sign an anti-gay marriage pledge that Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich all signed – and one that seeks to amend the Constitution to ban gay marriage.

But while the money is coming in – it’s speculated from only a few donors – the question is whether NOM counts as many members as it says it does. And while election guidelines forbid the group from actually endorsing a candidate (they run all the attack ads they want), NOM’s President Brian Brown attended a high-end fundraiser for Newt Gingrich.

“It perhaps comes as a surprise that NOM – a $9 million organization that boasts of its electoral muscle and that relocated its headquarters to Washington two years ago – doesn’t have a federal PAC and has never had one,” says HRC’s Assistant General Counsel Darrin Hurrwitz. “Or that in four years NOM has never contributed one cent to a federal candidate. Indeed, it’s highly unusual for an advocacy organization of NOM’s size – especially one that prides itself on its electoral work – not to have a PAC. Why would an organization with an expressed interest in federal issues like the Defense of Marriage Act not support federal candidates?”

The support may not actually be there, but NOM is reaching out to social conservatives in hopes of drumming up more money anyway.

But because NOM hasn’t created a PAC, Hurrwitz believes that suggests that NOM doesn’t have enough membership support. “Advocacy organization PACs raise their funds from a broad base of supporters whose individual contributions are capped by law at $5,000 per years,” he says. “NOM doesn’t have enough members to raise funds for an effective PAC, and just as importantly, it doesn’t believe in the transparency that PACs must show.”

This isn’t that surprising. A Gallop poll from last year shows that more than half of Americans actually support marriage equality – and that number is growing.

Is there trouble at NOM?

Maggie Gallagher, a very outspoken gay marriage opponent, stepped down last year as NOM’s chair and has since endorsed Rick Santorum for president. “I cannot promise you that Rick Santorum can fight his way to victory for the GOP nomination,” she wrote on her blog. “I can promise you, he is the best chance social conservatives have to demonstrate that we – and our issues – matter.”

NOM’s main focus is blocking same-sex marriage rights and effectively banning it on a federal level. NOM’s own marriage pledge supports an amendment to the U.S. Constitution barring marriages between same-sex couples. The ACLU calls the pledge “discriminatory,” and says that such an amendment would be the second time in history that it sought to limit individual rights. The first was the Prohibition Amendment. And we all know how that turned out.

“What NOM seeks is a free hand to attack the legitimacy of gay and lesbian couples and their relationships through the spread of fear and disinformation while remaining free from public scrutiny, accountability, or even active, organized opposition,” says Ian Thompson on an ACLU blog. “While organizations like NOM would like to have people believe that their supporters face systematic harassment and intimidation because of their anti-gay views, the reality is quite different.”