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Mormons admit Larger role in California's Prop. 8 campaign

The Mormon church has revealed in a campaign filing that the church spent nearly $190,000 to help pass Proposition 8, the November ballot measure that banned gay marriage in California.

The disclosure comes amid an investigation by the state's campaign watchdog agency into whether the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints violated state laws by not fully disclosing its involvement during the campaign.

While many church members had donated directly to the Yes on 8 campaign – some estimates of Mormon giving range as high as $20 million – the church itself had previously reported little direct campaign activity.

But in the filing made Friday, the Mormon church reported thousands in travel expenses, such as airline tickets, hotel rooms and car rentals for the campaign. The church also reported $96,849.31 worth of compensated staff time hours that church employees spent working to pass the same-sex marriage ban.

As I read this report, it seems to raise more questions than it answers," said Fred Karger, who filed the initial complaint against the church with the Fair Political Practices Commission in November.

Karger, the founder of Californians Against Hate, a group that opposed the measure, said he believes the church was involved financially long before the first expenditure it listed in September.

I think there is still a lot of missing parts of the report because we know they've been active since June, Karger said.

Mormon church officials could not be reached Saturday for comment.

Roman Porter, executive director of the FPPC, confirmed that the agency was investigating the complaint against the church but declined comment on specifics.

The Yes on 8 campaign filed its own expenditure reports over the weekend revealing that the main arm of the campaign spent more than $39.2 million. Total spending among the various proponents topped $41 million.

Opponents of the measure had not filed their disclosure statement as of Saturday. The deadline for year-end statements is midnight Monday.

The Mormon church's involvement in Proposition 8 touched off controversy both during and after the campaign.

Many gay marriage advocates saw the church and its membership's efforts as crucial to the passage of Proposition 8. The measure won with 52 percent of the vote, a margin of 600,000 votes.

Following the election, church leaders in the Sacramento region hired extra security to guard a Mormon temple in Folsom. Ten local church buildings were vandalized in the two weeks following the Nov. 4 vote.

Some individual Mormons were targeted for their support of Proposition 8, as well. Scott Eckern, an LDS member, resigned as artistic director of the California Musical Theatre in Sacramento in November after a $1,000 donation he made to the Yes on 8 campaign was made public. There were similar cases elsewhere in the state.

The Yes on 8 campaign petitioned a federal court to withhold disclosure of late donors, citing such harassment. But the judge ruled last week the donors must be disclosed.

The court finds the state is not facilitating retaliation by compelling disclosure, U.S. District Judge Morrison England Jr. said in his decision Thursday.

Jeff Flint, a strategist for the Yes on 8 campaign, downplayed the latest financial filing that details the Mormon church's efforts to ban gay marriage.

I don't think anybody beyond rabid opponents of Proposition 8 will consider it newsworthy to find out that leaders of the Mormon church spent time on the campaign, Flint said.


He noted that the church was both public and vocal about its support for the same-sex marriage ban.

Flint said the Mormon church's reported direct spending amounted to half of 1 percent of all campaign expenditures.

All told, Proposition 8 was the most expensive ballot fight last November. It is considered the most expensive campaign over a social issue in history.

And it could all be repeated as early as next year, as some gay marriage advocates are pressing efforts to legalize same-sex
marriage in a 2010 ballot campaign if court efforts to overturn Proposition 8 are unsuccessful.



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Tags: california, marriage equality, mormons
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