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R-71 opponents must follow state law, judge says
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R-71 opponents must follow state law, judge says

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Federal Judge Ronald D. Leighton ruled on Tuesday, October 27, that anti-Gay opponents of Referendum 71 can not set aside the state's campaign finance regulations.

The Family Policy Institute of Washington (FPIW) and their newly created Family PAC had filed an emergency motion to be allowed to dump large amounts of money into the Reject 71 campaign and to conceal the sources of the funds.

FPIW's motion challenged the constitutionality of the state Public Disclosure Law, originally passed as an initiative in 1972 with a 72% Yes vote.

Specifically, FPIW asked to be allowed to receive contributions in excess of $5,000, which are illegal within three weeks of a general election.

They also asked to conceal the names, addresses, and occupations of donors. State law requires disclosure of names and addresses of donors of more than $25, and the occupation and employers of donors of more than $100.

In denying the FPIW motion, Judge Leighton said, "The State has a real and vital interest in showing the money trail. & I do not believe it is in the public interest for the court to intervene and change the rules of the game at the last minute."

Leighton, a Bush appointee, added, "I do not believe there is a real emergency. The constraints imposed upon the plaintiff are self-inflicted."

FPIW's Family PAC was named as the plaintiff in the suit before Judge Leighton. Secretary of State Sam Reed and Attorney General Rob McKenna were named as defendants along with the members of the State Public Disclosure Commission and the Snohomish County Auditor.

Washington Families Standing Together (WAFST) and its chair Anne Levinson were allowed to intervene in the suit, and filed a brief in opposition.

"The effort to invite the Court to intervene into a hotly contested political campaign at the last minute to overturn a statutory scheme that has been in place, and well settled, for years is as unsubstantiated as it is unwarranted," the WAFST brief said. "Plaintiff has utterly failed to present the Court with an evidentiary record to even begin to establish the claims it so insistently asserts must be adjudicated immediately."

WAFST and Levinson went on to argue that FPIW had not shown the court that they or their supporters would suffer irreparable harm from the state's Public Disclosure Law.

"Plaintiff baldly asserts, without any evidentiary support whatsoever, that individuals contributing 'as little as $25 have been subjected to deplorable acts&'" WAFST says.

"While plaintiff is unable to point to a single actual 'deplorable act,' WAFST most certainly can," their brief says. "WAFST has received numerous threatening and offensive letters for its efforts in working to retain the domestic partnership law."

"Our contributors have openly donated money and publicly endorsed the Approve 71 Campaign. They have put their money and their names behind our campaign," said Approve 71 Campaign Manager Josh Friedes, in a statement issued after Judge Leighton's ruling. "The public has a right to expect that both sides will play by the rules."

"Voters have a right to know who is behind this attempt to repeal the domestic partnership law, trying to take away legal protections from Gay and Lesbian families," Levinson said. "If Approve 71 had not intervened - if our opponents had their way - it would have gutted much of our state's 35-year-old campaign disclosure law and all of the current elections could have seen an influx of anonymous, last minute contributions."

Family PAC is a new political action committee formed specifically to challenge the state Public Disclosure Law and accept money from out of state donors. It has the same board of directors and business address as FPIW, and its only contributor is the National Organization for Marriage (NOM).

NOM is also the single largest contributor to a pending ballot initiative in Maine, where they are trying to overturn Maine's civil marriage equality law.

On the same day Family PAC filed its motion in Washington, NOM filed a nearly identical lawsuit in Maine, challenging the constitutionality of that state's financial reporting requirements.

On Wednesday, October 28, a US District Court Judge in Maine denied the NOM motion, ruling in language very similar to Leighton's that "Maine has a very strong interest in providing its voters with information about the source of the money that funds the campaign on either side of a ballot issue."

FPIW was organized in 2007 in anticipation of new domestic partnership legislation, and is affiliated with James Dobson's Focus on the Family. Larry Stickney was FPIW executive director until resigning to head the Washington Values Alliance - the organization that originally filed R-71.

Without the last-minute contributions they had sought to dump into the Reject 71 campaign, anti-71 forces are lagging far behind in fundraising.

Protect Marriage Washington, the main anti-71 organization, has raised a little more than $236,000. Vote Reject on R-71, the organization funded mainly by FPIW, has raised an additional $205,000.

In contrast, WAFST has raised nearly $2 million to Approve R-71.

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