The Minnesota Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board rejected the National Organization for Marriage’s bid to keep corporate donors anonymous in the state’s gay marriage fight, which it argued was to protect the donors from “harassment, property damage, a chilling effect.”
And regardless of that decision, lobbying records examined by the Minnesota Independent show some of the biggest individual donors behind the effort for a ballot initiative that would ban gay marriage. Among them, the owner of a DVD company who is a big contributor to Republicans, the meat mogul Rodney Huisken, and staffers for the Minnesota Family Council.Tom Prichard, president of the Minnesota Family Council, argued that if donors are disclosed it “would have a significant chilling effect on free speech. Even in Minnesota already it’s gotten heated in some respects.”
“The concern is harassment, property damage, a chilling effect. If I know I have to disclose my name, I’m not going to get involved with the Minnesota Family Council,” Prichard told the board.
The campaign board disagreed, and in a 5-1 vote ruled Thursday that corporations that give over $5,000 to a campaign for or against a ballot measure must disclose the names of their donors who have given over $1000.
Donald McFarland of Minnesotans United for All Families, one of the groups opposing the amendments, said they didn’t testify before the board because their donors didn’t care about having their names disclosed. “We’re just glad that there’s clarity,” he told Minnesota Public Radio. “We can now move forward, we know what the rules are and we’re simply prepared to go from there.”
Andy Birkey of the Independent reports on some of the biggest donors to anti-marriage equality groups that have already been disclosed, and whose money helped get the measure on the ballot in the first place. One is Robert Cummins, founder of a DVD duplicating company, who’s given millions to Republican causes over the last 10 years. In the gay marriage fight alone, he’s given over $120,000 to Minnesotans 4 Marriage, and another $280,000 Minnesota Citizens in Defense of Marriage.
There’s also Rodney Huisken of Huisken Meats, who died last year, but who, with Cummins, had funded anti-gay marriage attack ads against the then-Senate Majority Leader. He gave over $100,000 to MCDM.
Read the full report here.