National Organization for Marriage continues fighting ‘war on marriage’ with hefty cash arsenal
Sunday’s inaugural same-sex marriages in New York were met by thousands of protesters blasting the New York Legislature’s passage of the Marriage Equality Act last month. Alongside the profanity-laden chants coming from the Westboro Baptist Church (WBC) camp, the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) — which condemned the WBC, for its brand of protest, according to the Huffington Post — organized four rallies in the state, employing as its theme “Let the People Vote!,” which is also the name of NOM’s brand-new New York-centric website.
The NOM rallies — in Manhattan, Albany, Rochester and Buffalo — were held simultaneously and live-streamed on NOM’s new website, which offers many different opportunities to donate money. Rather than consider defeat in what they have dubbed a “war on marriage,” NOM has instead pledged to overturn the state’s decision by attempting to pass a ballot measure amending the state constitution to restrict marriage to straight couples.
What happened on Sunday, and will continue to happen as more same-sex couples receive marriage licenses, has given marriage-equality advocates all over the country confidence that — if NOM is right and the marriage issue is a war -– they are on the winning side.
But NOM is pushing forward with its “let the people vote” plan, which should prove to be a lengthy endeavor given the earliest date such a proposal could go on the ballot is four years from now. Human Rights Campaign spokesperson Kevin Nix recently told The American Independent that NOM’s four-year plan will likely be difficult to pull off.
“Time is NOM’s enemy,” Nix said in an email. “A bipartisan supermajority of New Yorkers support marriage equality today. Four years from now … this supermajority will only be stronger and more bipartisan. New Yorkers – and all Americans – move in one direction on this issue – toward equality, not away from it. The ship has sailed.”
Even so, NOM has said it would commit $2 million in New York, specifically to defeat the four Republican and three Democratic state senators who voted to legalize same-sex marriage in June after voting to ban it in 2009. On July 19, NOM announced it is spending $150,000 on mailers to send to the districts of those New York senators who “betrayed voters on marriage.” And this weekend the organization rolled out a newfundraising campaign made possible by one “generous donor.” Actually, it’s a challenge: Every time someone Facebook “Likes,” Twitter “Follows” or sends a text message about something on NOM’s website between now and Sept. 1, NOM will earn $1, up to $100,000, from this anonymous donor.
For its other anti-gay-marriage efforts in state legislatures and nationally, the Associated Press recently reported that NOM has pledged to spend $20 million by the end of the year.
In an email, NOM chairman of the board Maggie Gallagher told TAI that her organization is on target to raise at least $15 million by the end of fiscal year 2011, and possibly $20 million. She said NOM raised and spent $13 million in 2010.
“Our fundraising target evolve as our needs evolve, which is partly a result of our goals, and partly what we need to respond to pro-SSM [same-sex marriage] goals,” Gallagher said.
NOM’s massive growth
If NOM meets its $20 million target, that means in four years, the organization, whose stated goal is to ban gay marriage in every state where the issue comes up, will have grown by 3,900 percent. From a single donor in 2007, NOM has since acquired more than 50,000 donors, Gallagher told TAI.
“It’s been fairly rapid growth,” she said.
NOM’s first fiscal year began June 1, 2007, and ended Dec. 31, 2007, with $518,667 in total revenue and $472,840 in total expenses, according to the group’s exempt organization business income tax return from 2007 (PDF), provided on NOM’swebsite. Gallagher told TAI that they began the year with only one donor.
NOM began with eight officers, only two of whom were paid: then-Executive Director/now-President Brian Brown ($57,292) and then-President/now-Chairman of the Board Maggie Gallagher ($8,333).
In fiscal year 2008, NOM reported $2.97 million in revenue, a 529 percent increase, according to the group’s 2008 tax return (PDF). The officers remained the same, but this time, secretary treasurer Neil Corkery made it to the payroll, earning $24,000, and the two highest-ranking officials got pay bumps –- Brown earned $130,208; Gallagher $26,875.
In fiscal year 2009, NOM’s revenue rose to $7.4 million, according to its 2009 tax return, the most recent that is available to the public. NOM’s expenses were reported to be $7.5 million. All paid officers got a raise: Corkery made double, $48,000; Gallagher earned $92,500, more than three times her salary in 2008. Brown earned $154,167.
To supporters who subscribed to NOM’s email list throughout 2008 and 2009, Brown -– and sometimes Gallagher –- regularly emailed solicitation for donations, asking for small amounts of money (“Can you give $50, $500, or even $5,000 to support marriage? Can you afford to pledge even $1 a month to support marriage?”) and emphasizing the importance of grassroots fundraising.
“NOM is a grassroots organization that depends on the contributions of thousands of ordinary Americans to make our voices and values heard,” Brown wrote in an email dated Aug. 7, 2009, adding that at that time, the group’s donors had grown from 8,000 to 30,000.
However, as The American Independent has reported in the past, the NOM has historically received most of its funding from a few large donors. And the amount of individual high-dollar donations has increased from year to year.
From 2007 (PDF) to 2008 (PDF), NOM reported receiving $471,549 and $2,967,495, respectively, in “gifts, grants, contributions, and membership fees.”
According to the list of donations at or above $5,000 provided in the 2007 tax return, NOM reported receiving $492,500 from 15 people. The average donation was approximately $32,800. The median donation was $20,000.
In 2008, NOM reported receiving $2,161,000 from 52 donors. The average donation was $40,000. One single donation was $450,000. These large donations represent approximately 73 percent of NOM’s “gifts, grants, contributions, and membership fees” in 2008.
In 2009, even larger contributions came from even fewer sources. NOM reported receiving approximately $7.1 million in donations that year. Only 14 individuals donated amounts at or above $5,000 for a total of approximately $5.5 million, representing about 78 percent of the total donations. The average of these donations was nearly $40,000. Approximately 68 percent of all the donations from NOM’s supposed 30,000 donors in 2009 came from just three individual groups, in the amounts of $1.1 million, $1.2 million, and $2.5 million.
“AT NOM we are 500,000 people who believe in standing up straight and tall together for God’s truth about marriage in Maine and all across this great country,” wrote Brown in an email to subscribers dated Aug. 26, 2009.
Due to recent rulings that NOM must disclose its big-name sources, in recent campaign emails, Brown has not promised donors anonymity but has pushed the group’s self-appointed grassroots identity. In an email dated July 14, 2011, Brown solicited donations to reverse New York’s recent same-sex marriage legalization:
“I am asking you today to fight back against those who want to decriminalize polygamy, penalize conscience, normalize infidelity, and reward lying,” he wrote. “Please be one of the 100 who contribute $10, the ten who contribute $100—or give more for marriage today!