Thursday, July 30, 1998

Gay-rights groups
accuse Christian Coalition
of illegal fund raising

They filed complaints with
the Campaign Spending Commision

By Mike Yuen



Two political action committees working to defeat a proposed constitutional amendment limiting marriages to opposite-sex couples have filed campaign-spending complaints against the Christian Coalition's national office and its Hawaii affiliate.

The allegation: The coalition's national and Hawaii offices are attempting to raise $1.5 million -- even from foreign donors -- for an advertising and grass-roots campaign urging "yes" votes for the ballot measure, but have not registered with the state Campaign Spending Commission.

The complaint was signed yesterday by Jackie Young, campaign manager for Protect Our Constitution.

Joining in the complaint was Protect Our Constitution/Human Rights Campaign, an affiliated PAC formed by the Human Rights Campaign of Washington, D.C., the nation's largest gay rights organization.

Officials in the Christian Coalition's national office at Virginia Beach, Va., could not be reached for comment.

Hawaii coalition President Daniel McGivern did not return phone calls.

So far, the coalition's isle chapter has had a low profile in the same-sex debate, and even Mike Gabbard, a leading gay partnership foe, has said that it hasn't been "a player."

But that may be changing. The two pro-gay PACs complain that the Hawaii Christian Coalition is on the Internet soliciting contributions by on-line credit card, telephone and mail, and even is saying, "Foreign checks also accepted."

State law requires registration even by noncandidate committees, disclosures of committee officers and the names, addresses, occupations and employers of every donor who has contributed more than $100.

"Groups like the Christian Coalition think they are above the law because they're on a crusade to impose their brand of morality on the people of this state," Young said. "I find that arrogant."

Young said there is no evidence of illegal campaign contributions.

The PACs filed a complaint today against the Hawaii Family Forum, a nonprofit, pro-family organization, contending that its 60-second radio spots, which began airing yesterday, advocate a "yes" vote on the referendum and are not "educational."

The forum's executive director, attorney Kelly Rosati, disputed Young's claims, saying she and other lawyers reviewed the radio spot's script. It is simply an "informational ad" -- not "expressed advocacy" -- on what yes, no and blank votes on the proposed constitutional amendment mean.

That's the sort of ad that the Campaign Spending Commission recently declared is outside its authority, she said.

But the commission also warned that the standard it was setting, based on federal appellate rulings, opened "a painfully large loophole in campaign spending regulation" in which membership and the source of contributions need not be disclosed.

The names of seven directors of the Hawaii Family Forum, however, are public. They include: President Francis Oda, the chairman of Group 70 International, an architectural planning firm; Vice President Austin Imamura, executive vice president of Central Pacific Bank; directors J.W.A. "Doc" Buyers, chairman of C. Brewer and Co.; and Bill Paty, former state Land Board chairman.

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