In yet another stunning legal defeat for the National Organization For Marriage, a federal district court judge has issued a scathing ruling against NOM in their case suing the IRS over the accidental and inadvertent disclosure of a tax form that exposed the names and dollar amounts of NOM’s donors.
United States District Court Judge James C. Cacheris in his Tuesday ruling against NOM used terms like, “NOM has failed to produce a shred of proof,” NOM’s argument “misses the mark,” is “unconvincing,” “is unpersuasive,” and “[t]o find that NOM could prevail from this scintilla of evidence … is not appropriate.”
In 2012 the Huffington Post published a copy of NOM’s 2008 form 990 and Schedule B (PDF), which it had received from the Human Rights Campaign. The court determined HRC had received the documents from an employee of Bain & Co., a prestigious management consulting firm that has historical ties to Mitt Romney. (Ironically, the disclosed form revealed a political action committee tied to Romney had donated $10,000 to NOM.)
After the publication of the documents, NOM went into full victim mode, launching a paranoid and far-reaching public campaign lambasting the IRS, which had been under fire around that time for incorrect claims by the right that it had targeted Tea Party and conservative groups. The National Organization For Marriage called the IRS’s accidental disclosure “part of a deliberate attempt to chill the First Amendment activity of NOM, its donors, and others who associate with NOM.”
NOM President Brian Brown went into full hysterical attack mode in April of 2012. “We demand that federal authorities immediately launch an investigation into this crime…This is reminiscent of Watergate.”
The campaign continued into the following year:
“There is little question that one or more employees at the IRS stole our confidential tax return and leaked it to our political enemies, in violation of federal law,” Brown also wrongly claimed. “The only questions are who did it, and whether there was any knowledge or coordination between people in the White House, the Obama reelection campaign and the Human Rights Campaign. We and the American people deserve answers.”
Of course, NOM turned it into a fundraising opportunity:
But in his ruling against NOM, Judge James C. Cacheris dispelled any truth to NOM’s histrionics. Cacheris wrote that NOM “cannot demonstrate that the disclosure of its 2008 Schedule B was the result of gross negligence” or ‘willfulness’ as required to recover punitive damages.”
“NOM, as the party with the burden of proof as to this issue, was required to produce sufficient evidence from which the fact finder could conclude that the disclosure was willful or grossly negligent,” Judge Cacheris found. “NOM has not carried this burden. NOM has proffered no evidence that its unredacted tax information was willfully disclosed.”
“The record is equally deficient concerning NOM’s assertion of gross negligence,” the judge also ruled, adding, “NOM insists that IRS procedures were so inherently deficient during the relevant time period that the disclosure must be the result of gross negligence. The Court finds this argument unconvincing.”
NOM will likely be awarded legal expenses, including work associated with investigating the incident, which NOM claims to be about $58,000.
This ruling adds to NOM’s increasing court losses. Yesterday the U.S. Supreme Court denied NOM’s request to place an “emergency” stay on further Oregon same-sex marriages. Last month, a federal judge ruled against NOM, which had requested to be given standing to defend Oregon’s marriage ban. That judge previously had denied NOM’s request to delay the trial just for them.
Also last month, the 9th Circuit federal Court of Appeals ruled against NOM in a campaign-contribution reporting case going back to its actions during Prop 8, and an ethics committee found NOM broke Maine’s campaign finance law, and imposed a record fine.
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