Calif. Group Files Complaint Against LDS Church over Prop. 8

The founder of Californians Against Hate, a non-profit group dedicated to fighting Proposition 8, has filed a complaint against the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints alleging that the church had not disclosed all of its non monetary contributions to ProtectMarriage.com, a campaign supporting the measure to re-ban gay marriage in the state. 

In a four-page sworn statement filed Nov. 13 with California’s Fair Political Practices Commission’s enforcement division, California Attorney General Edmund G. Brown, Jr. and Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff, Fred Karger accused the Utah-based church of being “highly secretive about its massive involvement in the campaign” to pass Proposition 8.

“[B]ut we managed to piece together evidence of some of their more visible activities done directly to communicate with California voters,” Karger wrote.

In his letter, Karger raised questions about a number of activities he said the church did not report. These included the operation costs of phone centers in Utah and Idaho and how many calls volunteers in each center made to non-LDS California voters; the use of Mormon volunteers to canvass the homes of nonmember voters; and the availability of church-produced satellite broadcasts and “very professionally produced” internet commercials to non-Mormons.

Additionally, Karger questioned the financing of buses that allegedly brought out of state Mormons to California to participate in rallies held on the three Saturdays before election day.

“There were reports that these demonstrators were mostly Mormons, and that many were bussed in from Utah and surrounding states,” Karger wrote. “We have heard that some of the busses had out of state license plates. Who paid for the buses, travel costs, meals and other expenses of all the Mormon participants? No contributions were reported.”

The key point of contention in all cases, Karger stressed, was the availability of church campaigns to the general public. While California Election Law does not require organizations like the LDS Church to report such non-monetary activities if they fall under the category of “member communication,” Karger said the church’s efforts were “instead specifically targeted at California’s 17 million voters” — a situation which he said violates the state’s Political Reform Act.

To further showcase what he considers the LDS Church’s wrongdoing, Karger compared the church’s non-disclosure of such activities with the reporting of two other groups involved in the Yes on 8 campaign: New Jersey’s National Organization for Marriage and Colorado-based Focus on the Family. NOM, he said, reported $210,634.75 in non monetary contributions while Focus on the Family reported $83,790.

In a letter dated Nov. 21 and posted to Californians Against Hate’s Web site (californiansagaisnthate.blogspot.com), FPPC Executive Director Roman G. Porter wrote that his organization would proceed with an investigation. He stressed, however, that the department’s agreement to investigate did not constitute “any determination about the validity” of Karger’s allegations.

In an interview with the Salt Lake Tribune, Porter later encouraged the public to “reserve judgment” about the investigation until such time as the FPPC could investigate the complaint fully. He added that the organization had not set a timeline on the investigation.

If, however, the FPPC determines that the LDS Church violated the law, Porter said that they could face a fine of up to $5,000 per violation and the possibility of facing a civil lawsuit that could end in the church having to pay “three times the amount of unreported or misreported contributions.”

Karger said that he was pleased the FPPC had decided to investigate, and that he hoped the LDS Church would “fully cooperate with the investigation.”

LDS spokesman Scott Trotter said that the church had received a copy of the complaint.

“We will be sending information to the FPPC and believe that any investigation will confirm the Church’s compliance with applicable law,” he said.

For the full text of Karger’s letter visit californiansagaisnthate.blogspot.com.

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