Tuesday, August 11, 1998

Christian Coalition
spending criticized

The marriage debate sparks
complaints of violations to the
campaign spending panel

By Mike Yuen


The Christian Coalition's attorney insists that a campaign-spending complaint filed against the organization's national office and Hawaii affiliate has no merit and should be dismissed.

But the lawyer for two isle political action committees fighting a proposed constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage asserts that affidavits from the coalition's own officials reveal apparent violations of state law.

Moreover, said Dan Foley, the Hawaii Christian Coalition would have never registered with the state Campaign Spending Commission if it weren't for the complaints by Protect Our Constitution and Protect Our Constitution/Human Rights Campaign, an affiliated PAC formed by the Human Rights Campaign of Washington, D.C.

The arguments by Foley and Robert Matsumoto, who heads the Honolulu office of the American Center for Law and Justice, also established by coalition founder Pat Robertson, are a preview of what's likely to unfold before the Campaign Spending Commission this afternoon.

In a related case also on the commission's agenda, the two complaining PACs are insisting that the Hawaii Family Forum's radio spots are not "educational" but are advocating the passage of the amendment limiting marriage to opposite-gender couples. If the commission concurs, that would mean the forum must also register with the state and reveal its contributors.

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.

Matsumoto said the coalition's national office has not spent anything directly on the same-sex marriage ballot measure. The Hawaii affiliate's e-mail campaign to raise $1.5 million to fight same-sex marriage did not collect $1,000 -- the threshold amount for filing an initial organizational report -- until July 30, Matsumoto said. That's one day after the PACs filed their complaint.

Matsumoto added that the law allowed the coalition's Hawaii branch to wait until Thursday to file its organizational report, which it did.

Foley, who also represents three homosexual couples suing the state for the right to marry, said the affidavits of Daniel McGivern, president of the recently reorganized Hawaii affiliate, and Donald Paul Hodel, president of the national Christian Coalition, shows that a total of $8,500 was raised for the coalition's Hawaii branch, including at least $3,500 by mid-July.

Just because coalition officials claim that the funds were used for organizational purposes doesn't exempt them from the law, Foley said.

Matsumoto contends that the funds have to be used directly to influence the same-sex measure before voters Nov. 3.

Hodel said the national office will comply with state laws, but at the moment it doesn't need to file an organizational report with the state.

"From now on," McGivern said, "if some person or corporation makes slanderous or libelous statements about the Hawaii Christian Coalition, our organization in all likelihood will file a lawsuit against that entity."

But McGivern said he did not consider the complaints by the PACs to be slanderous.

Foley said the Hawaii Family Forum's radio spots misrepresent what the same-sex marriage ballot measure means because it is trying to influence the vote. The forum can say whatever it wants as long as it discloses its contributors, Foley said.

Kelly Rosati, the forum's executive director, said the complaint has hurt the Family Forum because backers are now reluctant to support the organization.

"Our concern is that we're facing a frivolous and baseless complaint that was filed in an attempt to silence our side," Rosati said.

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