A member of a Washington state organization seeking to overturn a recently passed law legalizing same-sex marriage has dismissed claims that his organization has violated state laws on campaign finance.
Christopher Plante, deputy campaign director for Preserve Marriage Washington, told The Christian Post that recent allegations about his organization involved in "bundling" are unfounded.
"To our knowledge and as of today, we have received no communication from the Public Disclosure Commission as to any proposed violation," said Plante. "There has been no action taken by the PDC nor have we engaged in any sort of bundling and we haven't even done any in pew collections at any church."
Plante attributed the allegations to being "a rampant rumor on the Internet run by The Associated Press. That is our take on it."
Last week, the Public Disclosure Commission, Washington State's campaign finance watchdog organization, announced that Preserve Marriage Washington could not take special collections from churches for its campaign to overturn Washington's recently passed law legalizing same-sex marriage.
Lori Anderson, spokeswoman for the PDC, told The Christian Post that according to a state law passed by referendum in 1992, only individuals can collect contributions and send them to political campaigns.
"Preserve Marriage Washington has instructions for churches on its website that tell them to pass out the campaign's contribution envelopes, collect the sealed envelopes that contain contributions, and then to send them en masse to Preserve Marriage Washington," said Anderson.
"We are telling Preserve Marriage Washington that their instructions are wrong. Churches can encourage the congregants to contribute and distribute the contribution envelopes. Contributors, however, must send their contributions directly to the campaign."
Anderson also told CP that while the PDC explained to Preserve Marriage Washington that the instructions are wrong, they were unaware of any violations.
"As of today, the Public Disclosure Commission staff is not aware of any churches that have acted as an intermediary. There is no investigation," said Anderson.
"An entity who is not an individual and who wants to collect money for a particular campaign must form a political committee. Washington State campaign finance law would allow a church to do that, but there may be other barriers to a church forming a political committee."
Andy Grow, press secretary of Washington United for Marriage, an organization that supports the new same-sex marriage law, contrasted to The Christian Post how his organization was doing things.
"While people of faith are on both sides of this issue, clearly collecting money during church services and bringing those envelopes to our opponents campaign doorstep is bundling and not allowed under our finance laws," said Grow.
"Our faith supporters are making their voices heard in traditional ways, whether that's preaching about love and commitment, joining a phone bank or talking to their family and friends."
Plante told CP that PMW's "procedures have been vetted by Washington State lawyers ... also national lawyers against the PDC rules and to our knowledge, our procedures are fully compliant."
In February, Governor Christine Gregoire signed a bill legalizing same-sex marriage in Washington. Originally, the legislation was going to take effect on June 7 provided that opponents could not put the newly passed legislation to referendum. Before June 7 came, same-sex marriage opponents were able to get approximately 242,000 signatures for a referendum on the new law. This was twice the necessary 120,000 signatures needed to have a referendum.
According to the Seattle Times, the pro-same sex marriage group Washington United for Marriage has raised $6.1 million, far more than Preserve Marriage Washington's $471,000. Regarding the strong disparity in fundraising, Plante told CP that this was not an indicator of how the referendum will turn out; rather, said Plante, "that's normal."
"If you look back at marriage initiatives or referenda across the country over the last several years those who would redefine marriage have always outspent and out-fundraised those trying to preserve traditional marriage," said Plante.
"We are not surprised. And we do not have to match them dollar for dollar; we simply have to raise enough money to get our message out. And we are confident we will do that."
In addition to Washington, voters in Maryland, Maine, and Minnesota will consider referenda on the issue of same-sex marriage this year.