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Fred Karger Headshot

Mormongate -- The Church's Cover-up of its Prop 8 Funding

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Late last Friday, January 30th, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints filled a Major Donor Report with the California Secretary of State listing $189,903.58 in non-momentary expenditures on behalf of Protectmarriage.com -- Yes on Prop 8. The Mormon Church finally admitted directly spending a huge sum of money as part of its monumental effort to end same-sex marriage in California.

The Church waited until 5:00 pm on Friday, one business day ahead of the required filing date of February 2nd, to turn in its first report detailing at least some of its involvement in the Prop 8 campaign. This was clearly timed by the Mormon Church and its attorneys to try and stay out of the media's eye. This is an age old political trick, dumping bad news late Friday afternoon, but one that has not gone undetected.

The Mormon Church has repeatedly lied about its involvement in California's Prop 8. Don Eaton, a Mormon Church spokesman, told KGO Television (ABC) in November, "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints put zero money in this [the passage of Prop. 8]."

Up until Election Day, November 4th, the Mormon Church had only filed one non-monetary contribution, and that was reported just 4 days before the election for a mere $2,078.97. As founder of Californians Against Hate , this prompted me to file a sworn complaint with the California Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC). Karger hoped that an investigation by the FPPC would determine exactly how much money was really spent by the Salt Lake City based Church on behalf of the Yes on 8 campaign.

Right after the complaint was filed on November 13, 2008 Church spokesman Scott Trotter said the allegations are "false" and the complaint has "many errors and misstatements."

They said that the Church worked closely with its California political attorneys to comply with the law, and that it did not need to file anything further.

Eight days later when the FPPC announced it was launching an investigation into the Church's expenditures, a Mormon spokesman said that they would send all necessary information to the FPPC for its investigation. Then days later, it switched its position once again, and said that it had complied by all election laws and it did not need to report any money spent, only its members did.

Then on December 1st ProtectMarriage.com -- the official Yes on 8 committee --
filed an amended campaign report showing $19,715.08 in legal expenditures made by the Mormon Church way back on June 23rd -- 5 months late! This was reported 10 days after the FPPC had announced its investigation.

No other expenditures were reported until last Friday when the Mormon Church filed a Major Donor Report with the Secretary of State for an additional $170,072.18. Most of this was spent during October with 3 small expenditures from September. This included lots of travel expenses with 26 tickets purchased on Southwest Airlines alone. They reported $96,849.31 spent on one day (November 4th) in "compensated staff time" that appears was just for Election Day activities.

In its latest campaign report filed over this past weekend for the period October 19th to December 31st, ProtectMarriage.com reported 4 non-monetary contributions from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City, Utah. The first was dated October 25th for the formerly reported travel expenses of $2078.97, then two on November 1st -- one for more travel expenses $2864.21, and $19,715.08 for legal expenses and a final entry for November 3rd for staff salaries of $30,354.83. This totals $55,031.11 and it's odd that ProtectMarriage.com coincidentally reported all the Church's contributions after the October 19th cutoff to try and avoid any fines or FPPC penalties for itself. However, the amounts and dates are not the same as those reported by the Mormon Church.

Last June, in his now famous letter read to every Mormon Church, President Monson announced plans for the Church to become extremely active in the Prop 8 campaign. Their fundraising took off soon after that. Mormon families were contributing over $300,000 per day by late July and over $500,000 per day by early August. This money kept pouring in though Election Day bringing the total Mormon money to Prop 8 to nearly $25 million.

Gary Lawrence, the Mormon Church's "Grass Roots Coordinator," started his activities well before he sent out his August 7, 2008 memo posted on his web site. It detailed the grassroots Mormon Campaign Plan.

Show us the money!

Where are the rest of your non-monetary expenditures Mormon Church? What about the phone banks, precinct walks, all the slick videos and commercials, direct mail, buses, legal bills from your California political law firm, etc.? They could not all have occurred until late September and October. It is clear that you began your work in June.

And why didn't ProtectMarriage.com report any earlier non-monetary contributions from the Mormon Church? Their report does not match up with yours.

The California Political Reform Act was passed by the voters 35 years ago and has been very effective in keeping our campaigns honest and fair. It certainly appears to us that the Mormon Church did everything possible to avoid complying with our election law, and only now, after an active investigation is underway by the FPPC (Case # 080735), did it decide to finally report some of its expenditures.

California's election law is designed to let the voters know exactly where the money is coming from to fund our initiative and candidate campaigns. If the voters of California were aware of the massive expenditures by the Mormon Church prior to voting on November 4th, the results of the close Prop 8 election might have been very different.