Complaint filed against Mormon Church Prop 8 activities

Political expression is fine. But it has to be legal.

November 13, 2008

Chairman Ross Johnson
Fair Political Practices Commission
428 J Street, Suite 800
Sacramento, CA 95814

Attorney General Edmund G. Brown, Jr.
California Department of Justice
P.O. Box 944255
Sacramento, CA 94244-2550

Attorney General Mark Shurtleff
Office of the Attorney General
Utah State Capitol Complex
350 North State Street Suite 230
SLC UT 84114-2320

Dear Chairman Johnson, Generals Brown & Shurtleff:

Today we filed a formal complaint with the California Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) against the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) aka the Mormon Church of Salt Lake City, Utah for not reporting various non monetary contributions to ProtectMarriage.com – Yes on 8, A Project of California Renewal I.D. # 1302592. The Mormon Church has been highly secretive about its massive involvement in the campaign, but we managed to piece together evidence of some of their more visible activities done directly to communicate with California voters, including:

Church organized phone banks from Utah and Idaho
Sending direct mail to voters
Transported people to California over several weekends
Used the LDS Press Office to send out multiple News Releases to promote their activities to nonmembers
Walked precincts
Ran a speakers bureau
Distributed thousands of lawn signs and other campaign material
Organized a “surge to election day”
Church leaders travel to California
Set up of very elaborate web sites
Produced at least 9 commercials and 4 other video broadcasts all in support of Prop 8
Conducted at least 2 satellite simulcasts over 5 Western states.

All of these unreported contributions by the Mormon Church were on top of its massive fund-raising effort; the largest ever undertaken on a social issue ballot initiative.

Under California Election Law organizations such as the Mormon Church are not required to report activities if they strictly constitute “member communication.” We will explain why we feel that the activities of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints went far beyond “member communication,” and were instead specifically targeted at California’s 17 million voters. By not reporting any of these non monetary contributions, the Mormon Church violated the Political Reform Act.

The only mention of compliance was a news story stating that the Mormon Church reported a single non monetary contribution of $2078.00 for Church Elder L. Whitney Clayton’s travel expenses for one trip to California. Was there only one trip? Were no other Church officials traveling to California for such an important campaign?

The Mormon Church made the Yes on Prop 8 campaign a national priority beginning on June 20, 2008 when Church President David S. Monson sent his now famous letter to be read in every church building, where he said, “We ask that you do all you can to support the proposed constitutional amendment (Prop 8) by donating of your means and time to assure that marriage in California is legally defined as being between a man and a woman.” http://newsroom.lds.org/ldsnewsroom/eng/commentary/california-and-same-sex-marriage This was their call to action, and was undoubtedly designed to get members to begin the outreach to nonmembers.

Two other organizations that were also involved in the Yes on Prop 8 campaign, reported substantial non monetary contributions. The National Organization for Marriage of Princeton, New Jersey reported 49 separate non monetary contributions between 02/01/08 and 4/16/08 totaling $210,634,75. James Dobson’s Focus on the Family of Colorado Springs, Colorado reported non monetary contributions between 12/7/07 and 10/15/08 of $83,790.00.

Phone Banks

On October 8, 2008 the Associated Press reported that “Mormons Recruit Out-of-State for Gay Marriage Ban. Mormons living outside California have been asked to volunteer for a telephone campaign to help pass a ballot initiative banning same-sex marriage in the state.”

The Mormon Church announced one week before the November 4, 2008 election that it was canceling its phone centers in Utah established to call California voters. Were these in operation before they were canceled? What were the costs of these phone centers? How many calls were made to California voters from these massive call centers?

News reports said that students at BYU – Idaho in Rexford, Idaho were using a call center in that town every Thursday evening to call voters in California. This type of interstate phone network requires a lot of setup, supervision, voter sheets, scripts, training and the price of the calls. Call centers are used to communicate with nonmembers. Phone centers in place to contact nonmembers would constitute a contribution. No contribution was reported.

Gary Lawrence – State LDS Grassroots Director

Veteran political operative Gary Lawrence http://www.zoominfo.com/Search/CompanyDetail.aspx?CompanyID=55969576&cs;=QHDVgcoxQ was based in Orange County, California. His title was State LDS Grassroots Director. Lawrence’s mission was to direct all Mormon activities in California (attached). He had a web site set up expressly for this purpose: http://yesonprop8.blogspot.com/2008/08/gary-lawrence-grass-roots-coordinator.html

Gary Lawrence’s operation had a timeline beginning on August 16, 2008 though election day of 12 Saturday precinct walks. All walkers were to be Mormons leading up to the election day surge of 100,000 Mormon volunteers and they went door-to-door to canvass nonmember voters. Was the Church actively involved in this massive recruitment? Here is a copy of the Mormon Organizational memo: http://wikileaks.org/leak/lds-proposition8-notes-2008.pdf

This directive from Church Elders Ballard, Christopheron & Clayton detail Church plans for yard signs, schedule, volunteers, out of state calling teams, speakers bureau and voter registration. More internet communications are available on this site: http://www.p8california.com/Job.html Did the Church participate financially in this massive voter outreach? If so, all of these voter communication activities to nonmembers constitute a contribution. No contribution was reported.

Saturday Rallies

These took place throughout California on the 3 Saturdays prior to the election. Thousands of yellow T-shirt clad Yes on 8 supporters were lined up for miles with signs in targeted areas of the state yelling, chanting and screaming at passing motorists. There were reports that these demonstrators were mostly Mormons, and that many were bussed in from Utah and surrounding states. 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.

Satellite Broadcasts

It appears that the first satellite simulcast was on October 8, 2008 and was beamed to 5 Western states. Apostle Robert D. Hales led this broadcast on various aspects of the campaign, including how to deal with the issues and how to conduct yourself. http://www.meridianmagazine.com/churchupdate/081010prop8.html
Another satellite broadcast took place at a later date, and was led by Church Elders M. Russell Ballard, Quentin L. Cook and L. Whitney Clayton. It addressed the Church’s doctrine of marriage and participation in the Protect Marriage Coalition. Then the Newsroom of the Mormon Church issued a Press Release (attached) about this broadcast making it available to California voters and anyone with internet access. This video was not password protected and was promoted by the Church and available to nonmembers. Here is the press release about it as well as other Mormon activities: http://newsroom.lds.org/ldsnewsroom/eng/commentary/same-sex
-marriage-and-proposition-8 Satellite broadcasts to hundreds of locations are very expensive, and by making it available to nonmembers, it is a contribution. No contribution was reported.

Multimedia Program

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints appeared to have done a tremendous amount of work in this area. A very slick web site (attached) http://www.preservingmarriage.org/ was developed specifically for the Yes on Prop 8 campaign. The title is “Preserving the Divine Institution of Marriage.” This web site states that it is “An Official Web site of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints” c 2008 Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved.

PreservingMarriage.com is primarily a showcase for 9 separate Yes on Prop 8 commercials that are very professionally produced. They feature mostly young people talking about why same-sex marriage is wrong. There is an email update request box, and another to send feedback. The viewer is encouraged to share this site and “spread the word.” Site visits are not limited to just Mormons, and everyone is “invited to share these videos with others.” There is even a very prominent “Vote Yes on Prop 8, Support Traditional Marriage” banner on the home page. Certainly this web site was put in place to reach California voters. It is on the internet, and therefore available to all.

This web page on PreservingMarriage.com has 13 very professionally made commercials and videos: http://www.preservingmarriage.org/videos.html .

All of these commercials as well as their web site were clearly designed to communicate with the public. No contribution was reported.

Church Denial

On November 9, 2008 Don Eaton a spokesman for the Mormon Church was quoted on ABC – KGO Television stating, “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints put zero money in this (election).” When I personally spoke with him Monday, November 10, 2008 and asked him if the PreservingMarriage.com web site was sponsored by the Church, he quickly said that it was not, but was “a part of the campaign.”

In 1998, the Mormon Church directly contributed $1.1 million to ban same-sex marriages in Alaska and Hawaii, and received widespread criticism for that. So this year in California it appears that the Mormon Church was trying to avoid any direct contributions to Yes on Prop 8, and instead raised millions from its member families. That is legal, but all the money spent to communicate with nonmembers must be reported if it exceed $100. Clearly the Mormon Church has vastly exceeded that threshold.

We ask that the Fair Political Practices Commission and the Attorneys General of California and Utah immediately begin a full and thorough investigation of all campaign related activities undertaken by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City, Utah to determine if there were any reporting violations.

Thank you very much for your prompt attention to this very important matter.

Sincerely,

Fred Karger
Founder / Campaign Manager
Californians Against Hate
http://californiansagainsthate.com/
619-592-2008


Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Google+. John Aravosis is the editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown (1989); and worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, and as a stringer for the Economist. Frequent TV pundit: O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline & Reliable Sources. Bio, .

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