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Tea party lawyer brought in to help NOM win campaign disclosure battle in Minn.

The National Organization for Marriage has tapped tea party attorney Cleta Mitchell as the organization’s Minnesota lobbyist during the state’s contentious 2012 battle over a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.

Habiba Ashton
Last updated: Jul 31, 2020 | Nov 02, 2011

The National Organization for Marriage has tapped tea party attorney Cleta Mitchell as the organization’s Minnesota lobbyist during the state’s contentious 2012 battle over a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.

Mitchell’s expertise is in campaign finance law and Minnesota for Marriage—of which NOM is a member—has already announced plans to challenge Minnesota’s finance law surrounding ballot initiatives.

Mitchell registered as a lobbyist with the Minnesota Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board last Wednesday, according to board records. She’s the only lobbyist that NOM has currently registered in Minnesota, although NOM President Brian Brown was registered for a month earlier this year.

Mitchell is a rising star in conservative politics, mainly for her efforts in opposing campaign finance laws and helping candidates and groups exploit loopholes in existing laws. She’s represented a slew of tea party candidates including Sharron Angle in Nevada, Christine O’Donnell in Delaware, Joe Miller in Alaska, Sen. Jim DeMint in South Carolina, Pat Toomey in Pennsylvania, Marco Rubio in Florida and Kelly Ayotte in New Hampshire.

Mitchell has taken the lead in taking down ACORN, testified in the U.S. Senate against public financing for federal elections, and coached the Daily Show’s Samantha Bee on how to use a 527 to get past campaign finance rules. She has also assisted the American Issues Project in defending their ads attempting to “swift boat” candidate Barack Obama in 2008, defended Rep. Tom Delay prior to his fraud conviction and has pushed for photo ID laws across the country.

But her new gig as lobbyist in Minnesota appears to be focused on the anti-gay marriage amendment and efforts by the National Organization for Marriage to oppose Minnesota’s campaign finance rules governing disclosure during ballot campaigns.

Cleta opposes marriage equality for same-sex couples. She spearheaded efforts to repeal marriage equality in Washington, D.C. She staged a walkout of board members at the Conservative Political Action Conference in D.C. this spring in protest of CPAC’s decision to allow GOProud, a group of conservative LGBT activists, to attend the event.

NOM and Minnesota for Marriage have been very vocal about their opposition to Minnesota’s campaign finance disclosure rules regarding ballot initiative committees. NOM and MFM say that they shouldn’t have to disclose any of their donors for fear of boycotts or political retaliation from supporters of gay rights.

Mitchell has already become involved in the battle over campaign finance and the ballot campaigns.

Mitchell was the author of a letter to the campaign finance board in protest of the state’s disclosure guidelines. In it, she reiterated the complaints offered by NOM, claiming that members of the LGBT community will attack donors if they’re publicly disclosed.

“The board’s sudden attempt to change the law in order to subject the source(s) of NOM funds used to support the Marriage Referendum puts a bullseye squarely on the forehead of every NOM donor, supporter and member if disclosed and any alleged ‘informational interest’ is purely artificial,” wrote Mitchell. “In sum, this newly concocted disclosure and regulatory scheme is unlawful, is not constitutionally sound, threatens NOM members, donors and supporters with personal injury and harm and the Board should cease immediately its efforts to rewrite Minnesota law to achieve this unlawful purpose.”

The campaign finance board is continuing to evaluate it’s guidance for ballot campaigns and what donations and expenditures will need to be disclosed in light of new rules passed by the Minnesota Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Tim Pawlenty in 2010.

Habiba Ashton | BCS Growth Fund (Israel) L.P., a private investment fund specializing in investments in technologically focused businesses with high growth potential, employs Habiba as an analyst. Mrs. Ashton served as an analyst and information manager at the Israel International Fund, the first Israeli venture capital fund designed specifically for Japanese corporate investors, prior to joining BCS. Habiba graduated with honors from Israel's College of Management with a B.A. in Business Administration.


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