Federal judge denies Reject 71 campaign’s last minute attempt to gut state’s campaign finance disclosure law

For Immediate Release — Oct. 27, 2009

Federal judge denies Reject 71 campaign’s last minute attempt to gut state’s campaign finance disclosure law

SEATTLE – The Approve 71 campaign today won an important victory in federal court when Federal District Court Judge Ronald Leighton turned down an effort by the Reject 71 campaign to eviscerate Washington’s voter-approved campaign finance laws.

The Family Policy Institute of Washington created a new political action committee and filed an emergency motion for a temporary restraining order in an effort to have their affiliated national anti-gay organizations dump large amounts of money in the campaign at the last minute.

The emergency suit was an 11th hour assault on the state’s limit on contributions within the final three weeks of a campaign, as well as the requirement that campaigns disclose the identities of contributors. The organization filed its suit days before the November 3rd general election, and after many voters had already turned in their ballots.

In denying the Reject 71 campaign’s motion, the judge said “The State has a real and vital interest in showing the money trail…I do not believe it is in the public interest for the court to intervene and change the rules of the game at the last minute.”

Judge Leighton, who was appointed by former president George W. Bush, added, “I do not believe there is a real emergency. The constraints imposed upon the plaintiff are self-inflicted.”

“The Reject 71 campaign was trying to shield from public view the identities of donors, and to overturn the rules governing large contributions in the final days of the election,” said Anne Levinson, Approve 71 Campaign Chair. “The people of Washington adopted the Public Disclosure Law to ensure that financing of the political process is transparent, and that the government and political campaigns remain accountable.

“Voters have a right to know who is behind this attempt to repeal the domestic partnership law, trying to take away legal protections from gay and lesbian families. If Approve 71 had not intervened—if our opponents had their way—it would have gutted much of our state’s 35-year-old campaign disclosure law and all of the current elections could have seen an influx of anonymous, last minute contributions,” Levinson added.

The emergency suit was filed by Family PAC, a new political action committee formed to challenge the law and accept money from out of state special interests. It has the same board of directors and address as the Family Policy Institute of Washington, and its only contributor is the National Organization for Marriage (NOM). On the same day Family PAC filed its motion in Washington, NOM filed a nearly identical lawsuit in Maine, challenging the constitutionality of that state’s financial reporting requirements. NOM is also the single largest contributor to a pending ballot initiative in Maine, where they are trying to overturn Maine’s civil marriage equality law.

Washington state’s domestic partnership law provides critical legal protections for gay and lesbian families and seniors, especially in times of crisis. The Family Policy Institute of Washington, Protect Marriage Washington and a host of other socially conservative groups are trying to get voters to reject Referendum 71. Rejecting 71 would take away legal protections such as unpaid family sick leave as well as death benefits for a partner and children when a parent dies.

The Approve 71 campaign has received more than 5,600 contributions from contributors in 19 different counties. More than 4,500 contributions have been $100 or less.

“Our contributors have openly donated money and publicly endorsed the Approve 71 campaign. They have put their money and their names behind our campaign,” said Josh Friedes, Approve 71 campaign manager. “The public has a right to expect that both sides will play by the rules.”

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Contact:
Sue Evans
253.592.1590

media@approve71.org

Josh Friedes
206.679.8546

media@approve71.org