Friday, July 21, 2006

Fudging the Numbers on the Marriage Ban Campaign

In the comments to my previous post, Todd points out that, according to a Wisconsin State Journal article today, the campaign finance reports filed yesterday in connection with campaigns on the marriage ban don't represent the work of another group called the Coalition for Traditional Marriage.

Yet this group recently sent out to churches around the state thousands of DVDs called "The Battle for Marriage in Wisconsin.”

The group's director, Julaine Appling (who, conveniently, also runs the pro-amendment groups Vote Yes for Marriage and the Family Research Institute of Wisconsin), asserts that the money spent on those DVDs doesn't need to be reported "because they were educational in nature" and, thus, not directly connected to the amendment referendum.

But is that true?

According to a review (scroll down to the second article) of the DVD that appeared in the Shepherd Express a few weeks ago, Julaine Appling makes an appearance in video. Here are a couple of comments she makes to viewers:

“Make no mistake. Our Constitution will be amended. The question is, by whom?”

“We urge you and your church to get involved in the battle for marriage in Wisconsin today.”

Now these are just two lines based upon what’s quoted by the Shepherd in its review, and it seems pretty clear from them (not to mention the DVD's title) that the video is linked to the amendment referendum.

The Capital Times offers more on the lack of disclosure here, but the paper doesn’t get into whether the video actually represents a solely educational endeavor.

Perhaps some reporter should.

--------------------

Side-Note: It's also curious that the WSJ article from today says the DVDs were created by the Coalition for Traditional Marriage, while the Shepherd Express review of the video says it was produced by the Family Research Institute of Wisconsin. Maybe there's something to that, maybe not.

11 Comments:

Blogger proletariat said...

Seth,

What's your point. That if we include the DVD sales that the Yes's will have raised more money than the no's?

To me this is as silly as the Neo Crybabies going after Doylie because some movie guy gave him some money.

This all seems like two crooks trying to convince me they are the one who is more trustworthy.

July 23, 2006  
Blogger Seth Zlotocha said...

The point is that there are laws set up to provide transparency on campaigns that are political in nature. If one of Appling's groups is directly advocating for one side of the referendum (and, more specifically earning and spending money through that advocacy), then it needs to register as a PAC with the State Elections Board and disclose its financial activities. Also, the purpose of a group impacts that group's tax status with the IRS.

Beyond the legal explanation, there's also a very practical side. Fair Wisconsin and other PACs spend tens of thousands of dollars on legal expenses to ensure they are in compliance with the law -- to have other groups blatantly ignore the law under the false guise of "educational endeavors" is plain wrong.

If there's something inherently wrong with the law, then it needs to be changed. But simply ignoring it is not the way to do that.

July 23, 2006  
Blogger proletariat said...

Seth,

You're right. Maybe Vote No should change their TV ad. They can run some ads on Vote Yes' adherence to PAC ethics. Vote Yes violating some IRS or PAC law is irrelevent. This is why I have little support for either the Democratic or Republican parties. They are both drowning in a sea of corruption, in the end it will simply be a race of whose the bigger crook.

July 23, 2006  
Blogger Seth Zlotocha said...

No, you're right, Nate -- campaign finance laws don't mean a thing.

I think this referendum will go down on the issues alone, but that doesn't mean its proponents should be allowed to ignore laws along the way.

You think things are corrupt now, just wait until you start allowing people and groups to openly disregard campaign finance laws.

July 23, 2006  
Blogger proletariat said...

Seth,

Come on they used a print shop coupon in their income tally. This is a group that gives away DVD's because those that support them are not willing to buy their propaganda. Your whole argument is they violated campaign finance laws because they gave away DVD's that were propaganda. I am sure there are bigger violaters out there. The Repubs attack on Doylie is stronger than that, and in turn you give that more weight.

I really don't think the Vote Yes side wants this to pass, do you? Think about it, what would a consitututional amendment do, give the decision making up to activist judges. This is all about controlling the message. This is an issue both the liberals and conservatives want around for awhile. It does its job, doesn't it, you haven't talked about healthcare for a while. BTW put a link in savings account comments on how the right is using HSA to boost their membership rolls in rightwing organizations.

July 24, 2006  
Anonymous Todd said...

Nate,

The story is noteworthy because it demonstrates profound hypocricy in one side of what is already a major statewide campaign and it demonstrates the ways in which that campaign is attempting to give itself an unfair advantage.

Your interpretation of the amendment's effects seems a bit strained to me. The only thing judges will be deciding, if this thing passes, is the exact extent of the second sentence.

I agree that there are some on the right who don't care about this issue except as a political tool. But those, Gard and others, would be embarassed if the amendment goes down. All along they've represented it as the overwhelming desire of "the people." And there are certainly true believers; Fitzgerald and Gundrum are feeling crusaders on this issue, not merely political players. Further, spend some time reading FRI's materials; they want this bad --- they're aching for it.

July 24, 2006  
Blogger Seth Zlotocha said...

Just to add a bit to Todd's comment, I absolutely think the Vote Yes side wants this amendment to pass. Something like 17 states have already passed similar amendments -- I can't imagine that was on accident. This campaign in Wisconsin is very much tied into the national battle over marriage. If this referendum loses in Wisconsin, it would be a major setback for Vote Yes forces across the country.

And the DVDs are just part of what the Vote Yes side has done, thus far. The fact is they're waging a large part of their campaign under the radar and, as Todd notes, that provides them with an unfair advantage.

Also, just for the record, I wrote about health care last Monday. I can't cover health care every day (I don't have that much to share on the issue), and one post on Vote Yes side-stepping campaign finance laws hardly amounts to a distraction from other issues (as it happens, I've already spent more time responding to comments on this post than actually writing it).

And I saw that article you left in the comments of the HSA post. Pretty deceitful stuff -- to me, it's along the same lines as what Vote Yes is doing by averting campaign finance laws. While the Post article you cite doesn't say anything negative about medical savings accounts, the tactics used when enrolling people in them is unethical and wrong. Similarly, while the Vote Yes avoidance of campaign finance laws doesn't inherently say anything negative about the amendment itself, it does shine a light on the unethical and unfair tactics the group is using in their campaign.

July 24, 2006  
Blogger proletariat said...

Todd,

To me it says the Vote Yes crew is in complete shambles. They have no organization and cannot even sell their DVD's to churches and other organizations.

I think this is a stupidest thing to come down the pipe in a long time. If it passes, it won't, it will be in the courts for years. The latter part not only will be a field day for 'activist judges' but as Drefus pointed out there are consitutional problems.

I have not met one conservatives except the whack jobs from the Milwaukee area that support the amendment (maybe I'm sheltered). I find the whole topic a complete waste of political bandwith.

And for the record, I was called recently and was 'strongly definately no' on the death penalty and any wording of the marriage referendum. I do have to say the last question, if your organization had any thing to do with it, was very poorly worded and confusing. I do understand the need to weed out the differing impacts of the referendum, but the wording was very poor indeed.

My frustration had more to do with two corrupt political parties turning any and every issue into campaign finance ethics. To me it shows Vote No is back to being a Democratic front group rather than a campaign concerned with civil rights. Early in the campaign, you refused to mention Green Party members by name even though its members were a large % of your vollunteers. Your choice, but you lost my support as an organization.

July 24, 2006  
Anonymous Todd said...

Nate,

I'm but a lowly off-and-on volunteer for Fair Wisconsin and since summer started I've even been neglecting that -- so I'm confused by the "you" in your post.

Your read of the courts shows that you haven't paid attention to recent court decisions upholding similar bans in Georgia, Nebraska, and other states.

Fair Wisconsin's public outreach to Republicans, Libertarians, and even Greens is visible enough for me to have noticed it and would seem to belie your claim about its being a Dem front.

The issue of legal protections and responsibilities for gay couples is perhaps the political issue of greatest immediate importance for me personally. It's sad to me when you and others on the left are so often quick to dismiss its significance.

July 24, 2006  
Anonymous Todd said...

I should say "some others on the left."

July 24, 2006  
Blogger proletariat said...

Todd,

I'll point you to this one post,

http://babblemur.com/blog/?p=495

This is a long time Democratic strategy. For example, the State Journal absolutely refuses to mention the Green Party by name. Even elected officials are referred to as members of Progressive Dane. Since Babblemur's post, FAIR Wisconsin has begun referring to the Green Party by name.

I certainly hope you do not take my reference to 'political bandwidth' as somehow dismissing the importance of legal protections and responsibilities. I am not sure what you mean by the left - to me its dictinct category from liberal. As a rule most liberals are much more comfortable with a cultural politics as compared to a class politics, so I don't know who 'on the left' you're referring to.

Since you say 'legal protections and responsibilities for gay couples' are important to you, when was the last piece of legislation passed to increase or equalize those protections. You can not tell me that legislation on hospital visits, living wills, insurance etc could not get broad based support. The Progressive had a wonderful piece on specific ways gay and other couples are discriminated against, but I have heard no legislation offered that addresses those ills. Too often wasted time is spent on polarizing issues like marriage which while mobilizing to liberals and conservatives alike solves little. I am strongly against the referendum and support any legislation that strengthens famlies irregardless of marital status or sexual idenity. What I stand firmly against is limiting those rights and responsibilities to the religious insitution of marriage. I think if the Dems were serious about this issue more than for election year stunts, we would not be talking about legal protections and rights right now.

July 24, 2006  

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