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Minnesota Family Council, NOM: Lobbying rules complaint was harassment

The Minnesota Family Council, the National Organization for Marriage and Common Cause Minnesota have all weighed in on a complaint that was dismissed by the Minnesota Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board last week. The Minnesota Family Council and NOM said they were victims of the complaint, which was filed by Common Cause Minnesota, and characterized it as harassment, intimidation and an “attack.” Common Cause said the complaint highlights a loophole in Minnesota’s lobbying laws.

Minnesota for Marriage, a partnership between NOM and the Minnesota Family Council, released a statement on Monday that “calls on opponents to abandon tactics of intimidation and harassment.”

“Sadly, complaints like these are too often used as bludgeons by political groups to silence, harass, intimidate and drain the resources of their opponents,” said Minnesota Family Council CEO John Helmberger. “We’re thankful the board dismissed the complaint and we call upon our opponents to abandon these types of tactics.”

Helmberger added, “We believe this was a frivolous complaint. It was obvious that MFC didn’t have any costs to disclose because the ad costs were covered by NOM.”

According to the findings by the board, it wasn’t until the Family Council’s lawyers provided invoices to the board that it was revealed that NOM paid for the $709,000 ad buy.

NOM also claimed to be the victim of an attack.

“This was not a close call. By making these legally absurd complaints, Common Cause Minnesota revealed that it has gone from being a non-partisan good-government group to, on this issue at least, becoming a partisan in a culture war, ” said NOM’s Brian Brown in an email to supporters. “We expect more of these sorts of attacks in coming weeks—because we are making a difference.”

The Minnesota Family Council has been making the case frequently that it and its supporters have become victims of harassment by the LGBT community. At a June meeting of the campaign finance board, Family Council president Tom Prichard warned that if the group is forced to disclose donors to its campaign to pass an amendment banning same-sex marriage, its staffers would suffer intimidation and violence.

And NOM has repeatedly called pushback against its agenda by supporters of marriage equality “harassment” and “intimidation,” and claimed that supporters of its message have encountered “hatred.”

Common Cause Minnesota said the dismissal of the complaint shows that there are loopholes in Minnesota lobbying disclosure laws.

“The ruling uncovers a giant loophole in Minnesota campaign finance and lobbyist disclosure rules that needs to be fixed before the next election,” the group said in a statement. “It is time to close the Sham Issue Ad Loophole by requiring that groups that engage in electioneering communications 90 days out from the general election and 60 days out from the primary election disclosure their funding sources. The Campaign Finance and Disclosure Board categorized the advertising that was the subject of the complaint as “electioneering communication” because the intention of the ads was to influence the outcome of the election. However, because the ads did not call for the election or defeat of a specific candidate, they were not deemed to violate the law as currently written.”

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