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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, January 23, 2015 - Volume 43 Issue 04
California to investigate NOM on ethics charges - Complaint filed by Gay Republican Fred Karger
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California to investigate NOM on ethics charges - Complaint filed by Gay Republican Fred Karger

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

The state of California will investigate NOM (the National Organization for Marriage) and seven of its major donors for violations of state campaign laws.

The California Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) - the state equivalent of the Federal Election Commission (FEC) - confirmed they will investigate the anti-Gay group in a statement to one-time Republican presidential contender Fred Karger.

Karger, who is openly Gay, filed a 35-page complaint against NOM on October 1 last year. He charged that NOM's campaign to repeal California's AB 1266 was marred by significant violations of state campaign financing laws.

AB 1266 allows Transgender students to use school facilities and participate in school programs on the basis of their self-identified gender. NOM created and financed the Privacy For All Students (PFAS) campaign to repeal the measure, but failed to qualify for the ballot.

Karger's complaint names NOM president Brian Brown, its political director Frank Schubert - familiar to SGN readers as the mastermind of the unsuccessful campaign to repeal marriage equality in this state - and seven NOM donors:

o Sean Fieler, a New Jersey hedge fund operator gave PFAS at least $200,000.

o Peterson Holding Company gave $10,000 to PFAS.

o Thomas Bengard, an investor from San Clemente, California also gave PFAS $10,000.

o Andrew & Rebecca Hagelin of Placida, Florida, gave $25,000 to PFAS.

o Calvary Chapel of Chino Hills California gave PFAS a total of $20,000 in two separate bundles.

o Pacific Justice Institute, a California-based anti-Gay legal group, gave $10,000.

o Larry Smith, president of MHI Real Estate gave $10,000 to PFAS on October 7, 2013.

Brown and Schubert were charged with concealing their funding sources and their campaign expenditures. The donors were charged with failing to file the required Major Donor Reports with state election officials.

Karger has also asked the California State Attorney General, the Sacramento County District Attorney and District Attorney-elect to consider criminal charges against NOM and PFAS if the FPPC went ahead with an investigation. They have not yet responded to his request.

Under California election law, if a campaign committee like PFAS violated state election law with 'intent,' it could be a criminal offense and NOM leaders could face even stiffer penalties.

This is not the first time Karger has filed complaints against NOM's ethics violations.

In 2009, he filed a similar complaint with the Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices that led to a 5-year investigation of the anti-Gay group. On May 19, 2014, by a unanimous vote, the Commission found NOM guilty of money laundering in the campaign it funded to overturn Maine's marriage equality law.

NOM was fined a record $50,500, but has thus far refused to pay the penalty.

Karger also launched a 2012 California action against NOM, and successful investigations of the group in Iowa and Hawaii.

Also on a complaint from Karger, the FEC began an investigation of NOM, Republican presidential hopeful Rick Santorum, and Republican operative Bob Vander Plaats for money laundering leading up to the 2012 Iowa Caucus. The FEC investigation is still pending.

A Karger complaint led to successful prosecution of the LDS (Mormon) Church on 13 counts of election fraud in California's 2008 Prop 8 campaign. The unprecedented guilty finding led to a fine against the church.

Since losing high profile votes in four states in the 2012 election - including Referendum 74 in Washington - NOM has been on the decline and is reportedly close to bankruptcy.

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