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Utahns, LDS Church spent more on Prop. 8 than previously known

Published February 9, 2009 7:51 pm

Reports » More than half the donations for and against poured in during the final three weeks, about $2.5M.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2009, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Utahns and the LDS Church spent significantly more than previously reported on last-minute efforts to push passage of California's ban of same-sex marriage, newly filed financial disclosures show.

Donations from as many as 1,025 individual and businesses in Utah to both sides of the Proposition 8 campaign totaled about $3.8 million, according to new filings with California's secretary of state, with more than 70 percent going to groups supporting the successful measure.

Only Californians donated more in the $83.1 million ballot campaign, which ranks among the most expensive state initiatives in U.S. history. More than half the Utah donations poured in during the final three weeks before the Nov. 4 election, totaling about $2.5 million.

Officials with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints also have filed new disclosures detailing at least $134,774 in previously unreported nonmonetary expenditures to help Prop. 8 proponents, much of it in staff time by church employees. Only $55,000 in LDS Church donations had been reported before, by California-based ProtectMarriage.com, the main pro-Prop. 8 group.

Between them, the filings add new dimensions to Utah's heavy involvement in California's same-sex-marriage ban, which carried 52 percent of the vote and now is being challenged in state courts. Encouraged by church leaders, Mormons across the country gave money to the campaign, along with members from a spectrum of other religious denominations, business representatives and tens of thousands of individuals.

The 11th-hour gush of money from Utah is inflated by a donation for $1 million by former WordPerfect executive Alan Ashton, of Lindon. The Ashton gift to ProtectMarriage.com came eight days before the election in apparent response to the $1 million donated by Ashton's ex-colleague, Bruce Bastian, in July to the anti-Prop. 8 group Human Rights Campaign.

Without the Ashton-Bastian donations, Utahns kicked in $1.7 million to back Prop 8 and nearly $87,000 to buck it.

The LDS Church's Jan. 30 financial disclosure lists $117,424 in compensated staff time and use of church facilities and equipment devoted to Prop. 8 passage. While the church's report lists the expenditure for Election Day, church spokesman Scott Trotter said the staff time included work between August and November.

The filings caught even the recipient of the church's help, ProtectMarriage.com, by surprise, according to Frank Schubert, the group's spokesman. The Sacramento-based group has since filed an amended campaign report to match what the church disclosed, Schubert said.

"We knew they were supporting our efforts, but we didn't know all the details," said Schubert. For example, he said, the church did not share information about how it was accounting for the time of its employees or its share of costs for a Utah-based phone bank.

The LDS reports also detail nearly $20,550 in Southwest Airlines tickets, car rentals, hotel expenses and other travel-related costs in the final months of the campaign, including $4,471 in travel reimbursements for L. Whitney Clayton, a member of the church's Presidency of the Seventy, and $2,273 for William S. Evans, the church's political lobbyist.

These costs were incurred, Trotter explained, as church leaders and employees traveled to and from California to attend Yes on 8 coalition meetings and to produce videos.

The report tallies $29,269 in audiovisual-production services and equipment costs for pro-Prop. 8 clips posted on the LDS.org Web site and elsewhere.

The LDS Church is under investigation by the California Fair Political Practices Commission because of a complaint about the church's campaign tactics filed by the anti-Prop. 8 group Californians Against Hate.

Roman Porter, executive director of the five-member bipartisan commission, said the inquiry remained "open and ongoing," but declined to provide details.

LDS officials reiterated the church's position that "it has fully complied with all relevant requirements of California law, including the Political Reform Act," which demands timely and full disclosure of campaign spending. They described the complaint as "replete with errors, misstatements and irrelevancies."

But Californians Against Hate spokesman Fred Karger said the latest spending report was evidence the church had violated California campaign-reporting laws by hiding the full extent of church activities and failing to report expenditures within state-mandated deadlines.

"The whole point is to find out who is giving money before the election, not up to three months afterward,'' Karger said. "Clearly there was a cover-up here.''

Church officials disclosed this latest round of expenditures a day after U.S. District Judge Morrison C. England Jr. rejected a federal lawsuit filed by Prop. 8 backers that sought to block requirements for disclosure of late campaign donations.

The lawsuit challenged the constitutionality of California rules requiring that campaign donor names be made public, claiming that disclosure violated the rights of Prop. 8 supporters by subjecting them to harassing e-mails and phone calls. Several Utah donors reported such harassment.

Despite the LDS Church's organizational role in Yes on 8, church officials said they "did not know about the filing of this complaint nor were we consulted on its filing."

The judge ruled Jan. 29 to uphold the reporting rules, saying the state was "not facilitating retaliation by compelling disclosure." Along with the LDS Church, at least six of the major California political committees formed in connection with Prop. 8 filed their lists of late-stage donors the next day.

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Call for boycott

Anti-Prop. 8 group Californians Against Hate anounced plans to launch a boycott of Salt Lake City-based Ken Garff Automotive Group in retaliation for $100,000 donated to pro-Prop 8 forces by the spouse of the car company's CEO.

Katharine Garff, wife of Robert Garff, made the donation to ProtectMarriage.com a week before the Nov. 4 election in which same-sex marriage was successfully banned, according to filings with the California secretary of state.

Californians Against Hate spokesman Fred Karger said the boycott is intended "to let people know who is fighting against their civil rights and that they might not want to spend their money with them."

But Robert Garff called the boycott "grossly unfair" because his wife's donation was a personal gesture unrelated to company policy.

"We do believe in the proposition of marriage as being between a man and a female,'' he said. "But we reserve the rights of others to believe and act as they wish. … We want our friends who are gay to know that we respect them.''

Californians Against Hate has launched three previous boycotts targeting donors to the same-sex marriage ban in California: Manchester Hotels and A-1 Self Storage, both based in San Diego, and food manufacturer Bolthouse Farms in Bakersfield.

Some funding findings

A computer analysis of newly filed Proposition 8 campaign-finance records shows the following:

* About 42 percent of Prop. 8-related donations out of Utah came in the last two weeks of the campaign; they totaled $2.3 million in support of passage and $38,215 opposed.

Utah ranked second to California for dollars its residents pumped into supporting Prop. 8, with Connecticut and Pennsylvania a distant third and fourth. Utahns ranked seventh for money donated in opposition, behind California, New York, Ohio, Illinois, the District of Columbia and Michigan.

* Minus the dueling $1 million donations each from ex-WordPerfect executives Bruce Bastian, of Orem, and Alan Ashton, of Lindon, the residents of Provo, Alpine, Salt Lake City, Bountiful and St. George gave the most in favor of Prop. 8. Utah cities whose residents gave the most in opposition were Salt Lake City, Provo, Orem, Perry, Taylorsville and Price.

* Nearly all the Utah donations in favor of Prop. 8 went to the California group ProtectMarriage.com, while the majority of opposing donations from the Beehive State went to the Human Rights Campaign California Marriage PAC and No on 8, Equality for All.

-- Tony Semerad