CHARLOTTE, N.C. — A new report from a national investigative, non-partisan organization is profiling the top funders in the five marriage-related ballot initiatives across the U.S. in 2012, including North Carolina’s Amendment 1, which passed in May 2012 with 61 percent of voters in favor.
The National Institute on Money in State Politics released their 2011-2012 State Ballot Measure Overview on Tuesday. They say opponents and proponents of the five marriage initiatives attracted a combined $73.3 million in contributions, with supporters of same-sex marriage raising $50.5 million and opponents raising just $22.8 million.
Minnesota’s ballot initiative, which would have added a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage in that state, attracted more funding than other campaigns. There, anti-LGBT proponents received $13.4 million and opponents received $16.4 million.
In addition to Minnesota’s measure and North Carolina’s Amendment, other ballot initiatives included successful efforts to repeal Maine’s same-sex marriage ban and Maryland’s Washington state’s referendums to legalize marriage.
N.C. opponents raised double
Opponents to North Carolina’s ultimately-successful Amendment 1 raised twice as much money than proponents of the discriminatory measure.
North Carolina’s two committees opposed to the amendment raised a combined $3.1 million. Top donors included the Human Rights Campaign ($428,000) and Greensboro-based Replacements, Ltd., which contributed $235,300. The company is owned by openly gay businessman and philanthropist Bob Page.
Other top donors to defeat the amendment included wealthy Florida gay businessman and philanthropist Jon Stryker ($200,000), Durham’s Center for Community Self-Help ($113,997), Blueprint North Carolina ($104,613) and Anne Davis Hummel and Todd Stiefel, who each gave $100,000.
Proponents of the constitutional marriage ban raised $1.6 million in favor of the measure.
The North Carolina Values Coalition’s NC 4 Marriage top donors included the National Organization for Marriage ($427,590), Christian Civic League of Maine ($344,276), Franklin, N.C., businessman Phil Drake ($250,000), the Roman Catholic Church ($101,750) and Raleigh, N.C., businesswoman Cindy Marelli ($100,000).
The Christian Civic League of Maine was also opposed to that state’s marriage ban repeal. Yet, it only spent $14,769 there.
Drake is the founder of Drake Enterprises, Ltd., whose Drake Software creates tax preparation software. The company, based in Franklin, N.C., also includes more than a dozen other businesses scattered across the state, including an internet service provider and other tech companies, as well as Drake Capital, a Matthews, N.C.-based real-estate acquisition company.
Other large donors bypassed North Carolina
Despite handily winning in the money game, those opposed to North Carolina’s amendment lost when voters took to the polls in May 2012.
The state garnered several large donations from out-of-state donors, including the Human Rights Campaign. But, other large donors active in other states bypassed North Carolina.
The national Freedom to Marry contributed more than $4 million to campaigns in Maine, Maryland, Minnesota and Washington. But, in March 2012, Freedom to Marry didn’t include North Carolina in its “Win More States Fund.”
Freedom to Marry had said they wanted to focus on states where an electoral victory was more possible.
“We are well aware that there are battles where others have taken the lead,” Freedom to Marry Executive Director Evan Wolfson told blogger Bil Browning at the time. “We have said nothing to disparage those efforts or any state; we want to win the freedom to marry in every state and finish the job. Freedom to Marry is not a foundation or a gazillionaire, so we have focused on where a relatively small but effective campaign like us can make a difference.”
Marc Solomon, Freedom to Marry’s national campaign director, told bloggers and journalists gathered for a conference in Houston that the lack of funding for North Carolina didn’t mean they thought North Carolina’s loss was a forgone conclusion.
“We’re a relatively small organization we can’t take on everything. If we do, we will dilute ourselves too much and won’t be as effective an organization as we want to be,” Solomon said in response to a question from this writer. “We want North Carolina to win badly. I would never rule out a win in North Carolina. Never. That doesn’t mean that it’s not okay for others to take the lead in other places.”
Freedom to Marry has since recently announced a new campaign to invest $1 million across the South. Their new Southerners for the Freedom to Marry initiative will pour money into media outreach and field organizing. North Carolina groups and leaders, including Equality North Carolina, the Campaign for Southern Equality and Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt, are involved.
Other top donors who skipped North Carolina included: former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and businessman Paul Singer, who each contributed $750,000 in the four other states; Service Employees International Union, which contributed more than $500,000 in Maryland, Minnesota and Washington; actor Brad Pitt, who contributed $400,000 to the four other states; and the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force, which contributed more than $300,000 in Maine and Minnesota.