SUPPORTERS OF GAY RIGHTS LAW RAISE $420,000
By Tess NacelewiczSupporters of a new state law to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation have raised more than $420,000 so far to fight a referendum that would stop the law from taking effect.
©Copyright 1998 Guy Gannett Communications
Maine Won't Discriminate, the largest political action group opposing the referendum, has raised the majority of that money, approximately $416,500, from individuals and companies.
It raised about half of that amount - $214,000 - during the period of Jan. 6-29, according to political action committee finance reports filed Wednesday. The reports, the second financial filings of the referendum campaign, were due by 5 p.m. with the state Wednesday.
Maine Won't Discriminate, based in Portland, has spent about $144,000 so far on television advertisements. An ad featuring Gov. Angus King saying he is opposed to discrimination and plans to vote ''no'' in Tuesday's referendum has been running on television stations statewide since last weekend.
It's unclear how much those who favor a ''yes'' vote in the referendum have raised. The two major political groups that don't want the so-called gay-rights law to take effect failed to file their spending reports by the Wednesday deadline.
Paul Volle, a co-chairman of Yes for Equal Rights and the Ad Hoc Committee for Common Sense, said Wednesday evening that he missed the deadline because he was too busy with a mass mailing of get-out-to-vote cards to 100,000 friendly voters.
''The best-laid plans of mice and men go awry at times,'' Volle said.
Yes for Equal Rights and the Ad Hoc Committee for Common Sense are the political groups formed by the Christian Coalition of Maine and the Christian Civic League. After the Legislature passed the gay-rights law last spring and the governor signed it, those two conservative religious organizations prompted the referendum by gathering more than 58,000 signatures to get the law overturned.
Volle said the two groups planned to have the financial reports on file at the state Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices by this morning.
Groups that file late are subject on a first offense to a fine equaling 1 percent of either the total amount they spent during a filing period or the total amount of their contributions, whichever is greater.
Volle said he himself would make a contribution to the campaign to cover any fine. But he predicted it wouldn't amount to much.
He estimated Wednesday evening that the groups raised about $8,000 to $9,000 in cash during the filing period and another $30,000 in in-kind contributions. Expenditures have included about $18,000 in postage, Volle said.
Previously, during the first campaign reporting period, which ran from Oct. 1 to Jan. 5, groups supporting the referendum said they raised about $54,000.
Volle said the financial report he expects to be on file today won't include about $10,000 pledged to the referendum supporters to run a television advertisement that will begin Friday and run Saturday and Monday.
Supporters of the referendum previously have said they didn't plan to run television ads. But Michael Heath, the head of the Christian Civic League and the other campaign co-chairman, said Wednesday that the plan was always dependent on the amount of money raised. He also added that supporters felt ads were needed to counter those featuring King. He noted, however, that referendum supporters are spending far less on television than opponents.
Heath said that two donors have pledged the money for the television ads. Because the pledges came after the reporting period ended Jan. 29, they aren't yet required to be reported, Heath said.
But he revealed that one donor is Doug Sukeforth of China, whom Heath said was a businessman and longtime supporter of the Christian Civic League. Heath declined to say how much Sukeforth has pledged and declined to identify the other donor because he said he's less sure about that pledge.
But Joe Cooper, spokesman for Maine Won't Discriminate, said the fact that Yes for Equal Rights and the Ad Hoc Committee for Common Sense failed to file their finance reports makes their statements about their finances questionable. ''They're breaking the law (on campaign finance reporting),'' Cooper said.
A new group supporting the referendum, Citizens Against Regulatory Excess for Maine, formed by Rep. Adam Mack, R-Standish, and leaders of Maine's Libertarian Party, filed a financial report Wednesday saying it had raised $1,110 so far.
Four other PACs are campaigning against the referendum. They are: Midcoast Maine Won't Discriminate from Thomaston, which reported raising $3,370; The Religious Coalition Against Discrimination, which has raised $1,335; the Maine National Organization for Women PAC, which reported raising $671 during the filing period; and Mainers For Equal Rights, which has raised $1,113.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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