NOM, the National Organization For Marriage, is accused of skirting campaign finance laws, money-laundering, and being funded by literally a handful of major donors, according to a new, extensive, and shocking exposÃ© by E.J. Graff at The Advocate. In “Dirty Money,” Graff points to NOM’s increasingly harsher rhetoric, greater willingness to attack homosexuality and LGBT people, totuting its ability to protect donors’ identities, and state-by-state lawsuits attempting to overturn financial disclosure laws.
“In internal documents (which came to light because of a lawsuit that NOM brought against campaign finance disclosure, NOM v. McKee), NOM wrote, ‘One key advantage we now have is the capacity to protect the identity of our donors,’â€ Graff reports.
“NOM puts its hundreds of thousands of dollars into state campaigns in ways that protect its donors from being identified,” Graff writes:
Its campaign finance philosophy is that the best defense is a good offense: With the help of James Bopp, the lawyer who brought the notorious Citizens United lawsuit to the Supreme Court, NOM has repeatedly launched lawsuits arguing that statesâ€™ campaign reporting laws are unconstitutional efforts to chill free speech, even though it has just as repeatedly lost.
Watching NOM closely is Fred Karger, a gay California Republican who believes that NOM is a secret cabal actively conspiring to undermine campaign finance laws. Karger writes to state election commissions to convince them of the same. At Kargerâ€™s prompting, California, Maine, and Minnesota are investigating NOMâ€™s campaign finance tactics.
Each year, according to NOMâ€™s tax filings, two or three donors give NOM between $1 million and $3.5 million apiece; another two or three give between $100,000 and $750,000; and 10 or so others give between $5,000 and $95,000. In 2009 the top five donors made up three fourths of NOMâ€™s budget; in 2010 the top two donors gave two thirds of the yearâ€™s total donations; and in 2011 the top two donors gave three fourths of NOMâ€™s total income. But those fundersâ€™ identities are a mystery. Their names are redacted on NOMâ€™s federal tax returns. Under federal campaign laws, none of those names have to be disclosed.
But if, as Karger alleges, those donors are actually using NOM as a way to contribute to state issue campaigns, that would be illegal. The states in which NOM runs campaigns (via locally registered groups) require donors to publicly disclose their names and addresses and sometimes their employers. The allegation is that NOM establishes state campaign organizations against marriage equality as pass-through groups, with local partners that do little. NOM solicits major donations from its large contributors for these campaigns and donates to the local fights so that NOM, not the individual, will be listed as the donor. If true, thatâ€™s fraud and â€œfinancial structuring,â€ the technical term for money laundering. (Calls to the four state organizations asking for comment were not returned.)
And then there’s the matter of just how unhinged and on-edge NOM president Brian Brown appears:
When asked why so many more people were willing to be listed as donors to the marriage equality campaigns than to the other side, Brown was impatient and exploded with anger at how LGBT extremists â€” condoned, in his view, by the marriage equality movement at large â€” attacked his side with â€œa campaign of intimidation, hatred, and attacking donors.â€ Gay extremists, he said, are attempting to â€œpunish peopleâ€¦for exercising their First Amendment rights to speak up and stand for what they believe in, to donate to what they believe inâ€¦. They want to hurt people. They want to hurt people! Put that in the article! They want to hurt people!â€
When questioned on this, Brown became ever more emphatic. â€œI donâ€™t think you understand the reality that donors on our side get death threats, I donâ€™t think you understand the reality that itâ€™s not a joke when a guy [Floyd Lee Corkins] comes into the Family Research Council with a gun, I donâ€™t think you understand that creating an environment in which itâ€™s OK to demean human beings because of their views is wrong. I can respect people and I support their constitutional right to give and to support their position to advance gay marriage. What we are asking for is the same respect. And at this point we are not getting it.â€
And then comes the truth that NOM is really not willing to publiclyÂ promote, but that sits at the heart of the anti-gay organization:
The head of NOMâ€™s nonprofit educational arm, the Ruth Institute, Jennifer Roback Morse, promotes her stance with a prominent article headlined â€œWhy Opposing the Gay Lobby Is Not Antigay.â€
However, since Maggie Gallagher ceased being NOMâ€™s board chair, the Ruth Institute has skated over the edge of being actively antigay. Last year Carlos Maza of Equality Matters attended the Ruth Instituteâ€™s annual training program for â€œemerging leadersâ€ in how to talk about marriage and LGBT issues. He writes, â€œWhat I saw at the conference â€” selling a book that labels gay people as pedophiles worthy of death, distributing Bible quotes to college students similarly calling for gays to be killed, hosting entire speeches devoted to condemning gays and lesbians as deviant sinners â€” represented a brand of antigay extremism that I assumed even NOM would have shied away from.â€ He listened to a lecture from antigay author Robert A.J. Gagnon announcing that homosexuality was â€œself-degrading,â€ inflicts â€œmeasurable harm,â€ is unhealthy, emotionally dangerous, unacceptable to God, and leads to depression, substance abuse, and disease. The weekend, Maza writes, taught â€œthat gays and lesbians â€” including me â€” are unstable, dangerous, and unworthy of raising their own families.â€ The reading list included materials saying that lesbians and gay men are in a â€œrebellion against God,â€ that our relationships are inherently â€œunstable, unhealthy, and promiscuous,â€ and relying on such discredited authors as George Gilder and Paul Cameron.
Graff notes an important point, one with which we agree: since Gallagher’s supposed resignation, NOM has become increasingly hate-filled and “religious” — and it seems clear Brian Brown is, if not the cause, at the very least the messenger.
Graff’s article in The Advocate is important and one that many need to read. For all those who think this is a simple case of differences of opinion in the culture wars, Graff proves it’s anything but.
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Far-Right Republicans Kill GOP Bill to Keep Government Running in ‘Embarrassing Failure’ for McCarthy: Report
With a shutdown less than 36 hours away, far-right Republicans in the House of Representatives Friday afternoon voted against their party’s own legislation to kept the federal government running. Democrats opposed the content of the bill and voted against it. Just 21 far-right members of the GOP conference were able to effectively force what appears to be an all but inevitable shutdown at midnight on Saturday.
“HARDLINE HOUSE RS take down stopgap funding bill. 21 GOP no votes. 232-198,” reported Punchbowl News’ Jake Sherman just before 2 PM Friday.
NBC News reported that a “band of conservative rebels on Friday revolted and blocked House Republicans’ short-term funding bill to keep the government open, delivering a political blow to Speaker Kevin McCarthy and likely cementing the chances of a painful government shutdown that is less than 48 hours away.”
“Twenty-one rebels, led by Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., a conservative bomb-thrower and a top Donald Trump ally, voted Friday afternoon to scuttle the 30-day funding bill, known as a continuing resolution or CR, leaving Republicans without a game plan to avert a shutdown. The vote failed,” NBC added. “The embarrassing failure of the GOP measure once again highlights the dilemma for McCarthy as his hard-liners strongly oppose a short-term bill even if it includes conservative priorities. It leaves Congress on a path to a shutdown, with no apparent offramp to avoiding it — or to quickly reopen the government.”
A bipartisan group of at least 75 U.S. Senators has passed two bills this week that would keep the government running. Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy has refused to allow it to come to the floor for a vote.
‘Wannabe Dictator’: Milley Appears to Slam Trump After Ex-President Suggested He Should Be Executed
General Mark Milley, the outgoing Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the top military advisor to the President, during his retirement speech Friday appeared to deliver strong criticism of former President Donald Trump, who appointed him to that post but since has waged war against him.
“Trump’s rhetoric is dangerous, not just because it is the exact sort that incites violence against public officials,” professor of global politics and political scientist Brian Klass wrote at The Atlantic after Trump’s most recent attack on the Chairman, “but also because it shows just how numb the country has grown toward threats more typical of broken, authoritarian regimes.”
Trump had written, “if the Fake News reporting is correct,” General Milley “was actually dealing with China to give them a heads up on the thinking of the President of the United States. This is an act so egregious that, in times gone by, the punishment would have been DEATH! A war between China and the United States could have been the result of this treasonous act.”
Milley was acting within his duties in a White House approved conversation, according to Klass.
On Friday, Milley appeared to blast Trump.
“We don’t take an oath to a tribe. We don’t take an oath to a religion. We don’t take an oath to a king, or queen, or a tyrant, or dictator. We don’t take an oath to a wannabe dictator,” Milley declared. “We don’t take an oath to an individual. We take an oath to the Constitution, and we take an oath to the idea that is America, and we’re willing to die to protect it.”
“Every soldier, sailor, airman, Marine, Guardian and Coast Guardsmen, each of us, emits our very life to protect and defend that document, regardless of personal price to a country.”
Vanity Fair on Thursday reported General Milley “said he has taken security precautions to protect himself and his family after Donald Trump all but called for his execution last week.”
Watch Milley’s remarks below or at this link.
🚨🚨🚨Wow, outgoing CJS Chair Milley hits Trump at retirement ceremony: “We don’t take an oath to a king, or queen, or a tyrant or a dictator. And we don’t take an oath to a wannabe dictator …we take an oath to the Constitution … and we’re willing to die to protect it”. pic.twitter.com/AH2eQObge4
— Andrew Feinberg (@AndrewFeinberg) September 29, 2023
Will McConnell and Senate Republicans Use Feinstein’s Passing to Grind Biden’s Judicial Confirmations to a Halt?
The passing of U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat who served the people of California since 1970 in numerous roles, first at the local level, then as a Senator and Chair of powerful Committees, raises many questions about the future, including: What will Republicans, and especially Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, do? Will Democrats be able to replace her on the Senate’s powerful Judiciary Committee and Rules Committee?
Senator Feinstein’s role on the Judiciary Committee for much of this year has been in the news, largely due to her ill health. Some have said the narrow Democratic majority in the Senate and on the Judiciary Committee prevented her from resigning.
There are more Republicans in the Senate (49) than Democrats (48, until Feinstein’s passing), but the three independents who generally vote with Democrats gave them a 51 vote “majority,” with the Senate President, Vice President Kamala Harris, casting the tie-breaking vote 31 times, as of July. Her 31st tie-breaking vote is matched only by one other Vice President, who also cast a total of 31 tie-breaking votes.
What happens now?
Does President Biden’s historic pace of appointing judges – more than the last three presidents at this point in their tenure, end, at least until 2025? As of July, President Biden has nominated and had confirmed more Black women judges (13) than all other U.S. President combined, and placed on the federal bench 44 Black judges in total. Does than also grind to a halt? He has placed on the federal bench at least 27 Hispanic judges. Earlier this year President Biden nominated two more Hispanic women judges. UC Santa Barbara’s The American Presidency Project noted, “if both are confirmed, President Biden will have confirmed more Latina circuit judges than any President in history.” It also noted, Biden “has nominated 27 AA and NHPI individuals to federal judgeships and 20 have been confirmed. This includes six AA and NHPI circuit court judges.”
And what happens if a U.S. Supreme Court Justice dies or retires?
In April, PBS NewsHour reported, “Republicans blocked a Democratic request to temporarily replace California Sen. Dianne Feinstein on the Senate Judiciary Committee Tuesday, leaving Democrats with few options for moving some of President Joe Biden’s stalled judicial nominees.”
“South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, objected to a resolution offered by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer that would have allowed another senator to take Feinstein’s place on the panel while the Democrat recuperates from a case of shingles. Republicans have argued that Democrats only want a stand-in to push through the most partisan judges, noting that many of Biden’s nominees have bipartisan support and can move to the Senate floor for a vote.”
Minority Leader McConnell also made clear his objections at the time.
“’Let’s be clear,’ said McConnell in remarks on the Senate floor. ‘Senate Republicans will not take part in sidelining a temporarily absent colleague off a committee just so Democrats can force through their very worst nominees.'”
Given McConnell’s history, including refusing to even allow then-President Barack Obama’s nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court to get a confirmation hearing, much less an up-or-down vote, it might seem unlikely he will allow Senator Feinstein to be replaced on any Committee.
But, NewsHour’s April reporting may now give Democrats some hope.
“If Feinstein were to resign immediately, the process would be much easier for Democrats, since California Gov. Gavin Newsom would appoint a replacement. The Senate regularly approves committee assignments for new senators after their predecessors have resigned or died. But a temporary replacement due to illness is a rare, if not unprecedented, request.”
Sen. Feinstein also served on several powerful Committees, including Intelligence, Appropriations, and especially the Rules Committee.
Will Republicans allow Senator Feinstein’s replacement to serve on Judiciary, and the other Committees as well?
California’s Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom “must now appoint someone to the U.S. Senate ahead of next year’s election. He has long said he would appoint a Black woman if Feinstein did not finish her term, but he recently specified on ‘Meet the Press’ that he would do so as an ‘interim appointment,'” The San Francisco Chronicle reported Friday. “Only one of the top three candidates to replace Feinstein, Rep. Barbara Lee of Oakland, is a Black woman. Polls have shown Lee trailing two opponents, Reps. Katie Porter, D-Irvine, and Adam Schiff, D-Burbank.”
“Republicans have said they would block Democrats from replacing Feinstein on the committee, which must approve President Biden’s judicial nominees,” The Chronicle added. “Newsom has said that without her, Democrats — losing their committee majority — might not be able to get any more federal judges through Congress this term.”
“’I have to remind my friends and progressive colleagues,’ Newsom told reporters last month, ‘if she does resign and the governor, I guess me, appoints someone, we may not get another federal judge out of the Judiciary Committee.’”
Some experts disagree with “conventional wisdom.”
“The claim that Republicans can and will block DiFi’s [Senator Feinstein’s] replacement on the Senate Judiciary Committee was pulled out of thin air by Democrats seeking a pretext to defend her refusal to retire. It is almost certainly false, and it’s irresponsible to promote this claim as a certainty,” Slate’s Mark Joseph Stern, who writes about the courts and the law, said Friday.
“Democrats confirmed nearly 100 Biden judges with an evenly divided SJC [Senate Judiciary Committee],” Stern adds. “It just takes somewhat longer.”
Politico on Friday reported, “Democrats will need 60 votes to appoint a senator to fill Feinstein’s role on the Judiciary panel, meaning at least 10 Republicans would need to vote in favor of filling Democrats’ majority on the panel, assuming they move to do so before someone is appointed to the California Senate seat.”
“Senators are typically assigned to committees by unanimous consent, but such orders are subject to debate and can be filibustered. Republican senators could slow, or stop, Democrats from filling the Judiciary roster,” Politico added. “The panel, under Democratic control, has been advancing scores of judicial nominations that Republicans object to. Leaving the panel short one Democratic vote would hamper the majority’s steady confirmation of President Joe Biden’s nominees.”
Back in June, amid clamor from some progressives for Sen. Feinstein to step down, U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) warned, “The fact is simple: if Senator Feinstein resigns, Mitch McConnell gets to decide whether Democrats have a Senate Judiciary majority.”
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