A general rule of democracy is that transparency and accountability are good, and secrecy and cowardice are bad. On Monday, transparency won: The heavily indebted National Organization for Marriage finally turned over the names of the donors who bankrolled its successful 2009 effort to ban same-sex marriage in Maine. NOM fought in court to keep its donors anonymous for more than five years. In 2014, it received a record $50,250 fine from the Maine Ethics Commission for violating state laws during its Maine campaign. Earlier in August, the Maine Supreme Judicial Court denied the group’s request to keep the names hidden. Now the information is out there—and the results are in no way surprising.
Although NOM always claimed to have grassroots support, the bulk of its Maine money came from just six donors. The most notable donor is John Templeton Jr., the former president of the Templeton Foundation, who died in May. Templeton—who, along with his wife, contributed $1 million to the Proposition 8 campaign—gave $300,000 to NOM’s Maine effort. The Knights of Columbus also gave $140,000, while Sean Fieler of the anti-gay Chiaroscuro Foundation gave $1.25 million.
Maine’s decision to force NOM to release these names is a victory for Fred Karger, the former Republican strategist and GOP presidential candidate who first sued the group to disclose its donors. But it’s also a triumph for self-governance. NOM’s defenders allege that its donors might face harassment if their names are revealed. But as Justice Antonin Scalia once explained:
There are laws against threats and intimidation; and harsh criticism, short of unlawful action, is a price our people have traditionally been willing to pay for self-governance. Requiring people to stand up in public for their political acts fosters civic courage, without which democracy is doomed.
NOM’s donors chose to fund an anti-gay campaign—which ultimately helped to strip gay Mainers of their liberty to marry. Then NOM demanded a right to shield its donors from public criticism and accountability. That pusillanimous tommyrot gives you a good idea of why NOM, and the anti-gay movement, is collapsing before our eyes. The bankrollers of the anti-gay cause don’t even have the integrity to answer for their own animus.