I think of myself as a citizen activist. But that hasn't always been so.
I began my odyssey on July 18, 2008 when I called for a boycott against San Diego hotel owner Doug Manchester. Mr. Manchester gave $125,000 of very early money to qualify Proposition 8 for last November's California ballot. Why spend our money at his two hotels, The Manchester Grand Hyatt and the Grand del Mar, only to have it used against us?
I then led three other boycotts of mega-donors to the campaign to end same-sex marriage in California. Terry Caster, who owns A-1 Self Storage with 40 locations throughout California, is our other ongoing boycott. Mr. Caster gave a whopping $693,000 to ban same-sex marriage in California. When he was asked why by a reporter from the San Diego Union-Tribune he replied, "those kinds of marriages would create a 'sick society.'"
Two other boycotts were settled after meeting with their CEOs. The founder of Bolthouse Farms gave $100,000 to Prop 8, and the Garff family of Salt Lake City's Garff Automotive Group also gave $100,000 to Yes on 8. Both companies are now very active and generous supporters of the LGBT community.
And then there is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon Church). They raised and spent an inordinate amount of money, $30 million of the $40 million Yes on 8 raised, yet the church only reported $2,200 in non-monetary contributions.
So, I filed a complaint with the California Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC). Although the FPPC investigates fewer than 5% of the complaints it receives, it continues to investigate my charges of numerous campaign reporting violations by the Mormon Church. That ongoing investigation (FPPC Case #08/735) is in its tenth month.
I have also been focusing much attention on the National Organization for Marriage (NOM). It has so many similarities to numerous other Mormon Church created front groups, that I filed a supplemental complaint with the FPPC and asked them to investigate.
Apparently, NOM feels it is above the law. It decided to hide its federally required tax forms for 2007 and 2008. They don't want anybody to see how they spend their millions and millions of dollars. I have filed numerous complaints with the IRS, and have called for a Congressional investigation of this two year old National Organization for Marriage.
Finally, I filed a complaint in Maine dealing with the campaign there to ban same-sex marriage. 99.999% of all the money raised to hire the professional signature gathering firm to qualify Question 1 for the November 3, 2009 ballot came from only four religious organizations. Those were: NOM ($160,000), the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland ($100,000), the Knights of Columbus of Washington DC -- a two person office -- ($50,000) and Focus on the Family ($31,000). Money laundering charges will be heard by the State of Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices on October 1st against the campaign committee, Stand for Marriage Maine and the National Organization for Marriage. The five member commission will hold its hearing in Augusta to decide if they, too are going to investigate NOM.
It appears that I have angered some pretty powerful people.
On Saturday morning, September 5, 2009 I was served a subpoena in a federal lawsuit where the old Prop 8 campaign committee, ProtectMarriage.com has filed suit against every major California election official from the Attorney General, Secretary of State, all five commissioners of the FPPC (who are in the middle of the investigation of the Mormon Church) to the big county registrars of voters. The lawsuit attempts to end reporting of contributor names in California. California was the first state in the nation to implement this type of law when the voters passed the Political Reform Act of 1974. It has worked well over the past 35 years, but NOM and its allies obviously do not believe in transparency.
By subpoenaing me, they are forcing me to spend lots of money on attorneys to represent me throughout the proceedings.
The subpoena calls for me to produce all emails, correspondence, faxes and all stored information that deal with my activities with Californians Against Hate from January 18, 2008 to the present. They demand to see all correspondence pertaining to three of my four web sites: www.CaliforniansAgainstHate.com , www.BoycottManchesterHotels.com, and www.BoycottA1SelfStorrage.com. They left one out. It is our second most visited web site: www.Mormongate.com. Must have been an oversight.
They have also demanded to know how I received all of our research information and how it was disseminated. They also want to see "any and all" financial records. How ironic, I have been trying to view the required financial information from NOM for over 6 months. NOM refuses to release any of its finances, even to the IRS, as required by federal law. The Mormon Church will also not reveal any of its expenditures. So what better way to persecute me, than to drag me through the legal system.
Unlike all these mega-organizations, it is just my laptop and me. I really am a citizen activist.
It has been a real rollercoaster of emotions over the past 14 days. Last Tuesday, the state's top legal newspaper, the Daily Journal ran a front page story about my plight. It is a great article by reporter Matthew Pordum.
Well, that triggered an outpouring of calls, emails, Facebook messages, tweets, you name it. The first call that I got was from Cleve Jones, Harvey Milk's former aide, and one of the leading LGBT activists in the country. "What can I do to help?" he asked.
Wow, then it really hit me, I am not in this alone. It has been pretty much non-stop all day, every day. Lots of lawyers calling and offering assistance -- some I knew, many I didn't. I received so many offers of help, including some of the most moving notes of support that I could ever imagine. This has been quite the emotional experience.
In my 59 1/2 years, I have never been subpoenaed, but there is a first time for everything.
So to everyone who reached out to me, and to those who back my efforts, a big thank you for believing in me. I feel we must stand up to those whose goal is to destroy the LGBT community.
Our opponents want to send a message to all of us that we are second class citizens, who are not entitled to the same rights as our mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, aunts, uncles, co-workers, neighbors and our friends who happen to be straight.
This will not deter me. I will continue to bring attention to those companies and individuals who spend millions and millions of dollars to stop us from attaining full and equal civil rights.
Follow Fred Karger on Twitter: www.twitter.com/fredkarger