Californians Against Hate, an independent nonprofit organization committed to shining the spotlight on hefty donors to the Yes on Proposition 8 campaign, on Thursday upped the ante against the LDS Church.
The group filed a complaint with California's Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC), alleging The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints failed to report nonmonetary contributions that helped pass the measure, which defines marriage as between a man and a woman.
Fred Karger, the advocacy organization's founder, wrote in a letter to the FPPC and attorneys general Edmund G. Brown Jr. of California and Mark Shurtleff of Utah that the 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."
Karger said by phone from Los Angeles that he and others had been monitoring contributions to support this campaign since July 1. He alleges that their research shows 59,000 Mormon families ponied up more than $22 million to the cause, amounting to 77 percent of funds raised.
"I know what things cost," said Karger, a retired political consultant with nearly 30 years experience. "I'm convinced huge expenditures were made that, for whatever reason, went unreported - which is not in keeping with California law."
But LDS Church spokesman Scott Trotter issued a strong response, saying the church "fully complied with the reporting requirements of the California Political Reform Act," relied on advice from experienced California counsel and made no violations when it came to reporting expenditures.
In fact, he added in a written statement, the LDS Church "filed four reports with California authorities; these reports are a matter of public record. A further report will be filed on or before its due date, Jan. 30, 2009. . . . The so-called 'sworn complaint' filed by Fred Karger with California and Utah authorities has many errors and misstatements. Any investigation would confirm the Church's full compliance with applicable law."
The evidence Karger claims to have gathered points to unreported investments to organize phone banks in Utah and Idaho, send out direct mailers, provide transportation to California including travel by LDS Church leaders, mobilize a speakers bureau, develop Web sites, produce "at least 9 commercials and 4 other video broadcasts" and a couple of satellite simulcasts spanning five states. He said the church stepped over the line when communication stopped being just between members. At that point, he said, he believes reporting nonmonetary activity should have been required, which is why he turned the complaint over to FPPC, a group he described as the "political watchdog of California."
Roman Porter, executive director of FPPC, said from his Sacramento office that the commission had not yet seen the complaint but explained that upon its receipt, "We have 14 days to notify the person making the complaint of what our intended action is - whether we will investigate or not, or issue a warning letter."
Any actions by the commission will depend on whether it decides to pursue an investigation.
Karger said regardless of how the FPPC rules, he feels standing up for equal rights, including the ability to marry, is "for the best" and will help the LDS Church learn to "recognize and love everyone regardless of sexual orientation."
"We've turned a corner . . . We're fighting back," he continued. "They've awakened Godzilla."