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Watchdog Groups Claim NOM’s Education Fund Broke The Law by Advocating For Fiorina

The National Organization for Marriage (NOM) has been doing a lot of political work on behalf of GOP Senate candidate Carly Fiorina in California. They helped sponsor a bus tour through the state to draw Latino voters to conservative causes in general, and Fiorina’s race against Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) in particular. But now, with the involvement of its “Marriage Education Fund,” LGBT watchdog organizations are arguing the group crossed the line and violated federal law. From the press release:

The Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender civil rights organization, and the Courage Campaign today called on the National Organization for Marriage, or NOM, to explain why its tax-exempt charitable organization, the Ruth Institute – a project of NOM’s Marriage Education Fund – is violating federal laws by intervening on behalf of a candidate for elected office.

This past Monday, Ruth Institute President Jennifer Roback Morse spoke on behalf of her organization at a campaign stop of the “Vota Tus Valores” bus tour, a NOM-backed independent expenditure in support of California Republican U.S. Senate candidate Carly Fiorina in San Diego. At the campaign event Morse talked about the role of the Ruth Institute, held up the organization’s signage and closed her remarks by saying, “We’re very glad to be part of this electoral effort.” (Watch the Courage Campaign’s **** of Morse speaking at event.)

Morse’s campaign appearance followed a NOM-issued press release titled “National Organization for Marriage and Ruth Institute Join Bus Tour Supporting Carly Fiorina in California.” The release states that “Brian Brown, president of NOM, and Jennifer Roback Morse, president of The Ruth Institute, a project of NOM’s Marriage Education Fund, will both be supporting the bus tour as it makes its way around California.” In addition to supporting Fiorina, the NOM charitable group has also illegally participated in a campaign to elect California judges.

In other words, HRC is arguing that although NOM is a 501(c)4 and therefore allowed to do political advocacy (up to a degree), its Marriage Education Fund broke the law because it’s registered as a 501(c)3 — which can receive tax-exempt donations but cannot do any political work as a result.

It’s hard to say without further investigation to what extent Ruth Institute President Jennifer Roback Morse’s appearances and other activities on behalf of Fiorina constitute sufficient material support to justify a complaint. NOM’s 501(c)4, for its part, is already fighting numerous cases in Maine, Rhode Island, and other states for the right to keep its donor lists secret even when it chooses to advocate on behalf of candidates in state races.

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