We previously posted about a complaint filed by Californians Against Hate about the amount of money and non-monetary contributions reported to the State of California for Prop 8. The state has officially opened an investigation, and now some outside opinion is chiming in with support. Yesterday, the New York York Times editorial board said, “Based on the facts that have come out so far, the state is right to look into whether the church broke state laws by failing to report campaign-related expenditures.”
Of course, the Mormon church likes to remind people that it was Mormon church members — not the church itself — who contributed what amounted to a majority of the money used for Prop 8. They point to the few thousand dollars that it reported in filings as evidence of this. Readers may recall that I find this misdirection to be disgusting and dishonest, especially as someone who heard many sermons and lessons about honesty growing up in the church.
The question raised by this investigation, however, is if they adequately reported about direct monetary and non-monetary contributions. This seems highly questionable given that two other smaller players in Prop 8 reported much larger non-monetary contributions while it would seem that their efforts were much less than the massive backing efforts from the Mormons, which included elaborate website development, a multi-state satellite television broadcast and distribution of Prop 8 campaign materials.
The complaint letter states in part: “Two other organizations that were also involved in the Yes on Prop 8 campaign, reported substantial non monetary contributions. The National Organization for Marriage of Princeton, New Jersey reported 49 separate non monetary contributions between 02/01/08 and 4/16/08 totaling $210,634,75. James Dobson’s Focus on the Family of Colorado Springs, Colorado reported non monetary contributions between 12/7/07 and 10/15/08 of $83,790.00.”
Mormons on blogs and forums continue their efforts to cloud the discussion by stating that these other organizations are not churches. That argument has nothing to do with the sufficiency of contribution reporting. This is not an investigation to see if the church should lose tax exempt status. As far as I can tell, the Mormons have a duty to report the same kinds of expenditures as any other lobbying organization, especially non-profits, for the same kinds of activities.
The Mormon church tax exempt status is a separate and distinct discussion from this investigation. What is being asked now is if they followed the reporting rules, and the numbers as reported to date look highly suspicious. As the New York Times states, “Still, when they enter the political fray, they have the same obligation to follow the rules that nonreligious groups do.”
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