Wednesday, November 10, 2010

NOM v FTM: Vids & IRS 990s,
From a Gay Perspective

Within days of last Tuesday's elections, the National Organization for Marriage and the Freedom to Marry group posted videos on the web, and both orgs declared their side won at the ballot box in different parts of the country. I'm not concerned with which group can best spin the election results, but instead want to look at some of the language in the videos and fiscal transparency matters.

First up, is Brian Brown from NOM:

This video opens with patriotic red, white and blue graphics, employs soft music and shows Brown in a muted color scheme touting NOM's advances. He's also asking for donations to continue their work.

Brown also uses the words gay and same-sex when describing the gay marriage related reasons behind the recall of three Iowa judges. Using those words, I believe, resonates with average voters because it is the language most folks use when considering gays getting married.

In terms of views and comments, it's been watched nearly 4,900 times and more than 200 comments have been shared.

Next up is the video FTM created featuring Evan Wolfson:

This bare-bones efforts has no music or opening patriotic symbols, and jumps right into Evan speaking. In the background, however, looms a large framed poster of Abraham Lincoln, and throughout the video, graphics and lists of positive developments flash on the screen, entertaining the eyes. But distracting the eyes is a terrible large white glare beaming behind Evan's head.

And what stands out most in his remarks is the omission of the words gay and same-sex. Instead, Evan substitutes equality and freedom. Such word-play is a disturbing continuation of the No on Prop 8 campaign mentality in which gay, er, equality leaders contort themselves to studiously avoid using the phrases gay marriage and same-sex marriage.

This sort of obfuscation by Evan and others sends a clear message that there is something very wrong with the words gay and same-sex, and prevent average voters from connecting to what is being said.

The video's been seen more than 2,400 times and received only one comment, which was spam and has been removed.

I wrote to Evan about my concerns and told him only one vid reached me, largely because of words used. I didn't say just messages that use the word gay are the only ones I connect with, but Evan, being the lawyer that he is, took my admission and twisted it. He also addressed issues related to fiscal transparency at NOM and FTM:

Sorry to hear you only respond to videos that say the word gay, Michael. There was no specific intention to omit the word -- which I say whenever it seems to fit and which is all over our website and, I seem to recall, in the email the forwarded the video. You may be reading too much into it; I was spending most of my energy during the video trying not to cough from the bad cold I was fighting.

And you are correct about the 990's. We are on the verge of reconstituting Freedom to Marry as an independent c3 and c4, pending IRS certification, at which point we will handle our own disclosure. One of the reasons for this move is precisely to have even more transparency and accountability, consistent with the greater public-facing role we have spent this year building for.

But any suggestion that NOM is in the least bit transparent is laughable, given their consistent effort to subvert disclosure laws, their phonying up of their reports, and their massive flood of money from hidden donors. Keep perspective.

FTM currently has no IRS 990 to share on its site, and is fiscally sponsored by another org, the Astraea Foundation, which is not disclosed by FTM. To their credit, Evan's org has four annual reports posted, and they contain info on their donors. Yes, I give FTM big points for those reports and the donor info, but they also receive demerits for failing to disclose the relationship with Astraea, and that a small bit of fiscal info on FTM, Evan's $178,158 salary, is contained in Astraea's latest IRS 990.

OTOH, the NOM site shares two IRS 990 filings for the anti-gay, er, anti-equality org. Gotta give them credit for such fiscal transparency. Their 2008 tax report shows Brown took home $130,208, and Maggie Gallagher earned $26,875.

However, NOM gets a big thumbs down for failing to reveal they also have a NOM Education Fund and that it files its own IRS 990. Plus, NOM does not post their affiliate's tax filing, there is only one so far, and that is available for public inspection here. They also get a demerit for not sharing info on their donors.

Keep perspective, Evan? I do and it's a proud gay perspective that also knows about IRS 990s and their importance. I look forward to the day when FTM files IRS 990s and makes them available to the public.


Davina Kotulski said...

This is the point I make in my newly released book Love Warriors: The Rise of the Marriage Equality Movement and Why It Will Prevail. Our side fails to use our own terminology and send a clear message about what we are advocating for.

Davina Kotulski

Anonymous said...

You didn't post your email to Evan, but from his response to you, it seems like you made the point that NOM is transparent when it comes to their 990s. Please note that they have not made available their most recent 990, which was completed months ago, as they are required to do by law.

I applaud you for going after HRC and Lambda for their 990s, but I don't understand why you seem to have no interest in the secret NOM 990 for 2009.

Finally, the 2008 990 now available on their site is no indicator of transparency. It was mysteriously amended 2 times, and the amended copy withheld for months, despite repeated requests from many parties, including the Washington Blade. It was finally produced after NOM's non-compliance became an issue at a hearing in Maine dealing with Fred Karger's complaint against NOM.

Unknown said...

hi anonymous,

here is the section of my email to evan about NOM IRS 990s and the lack of them for FTM:

"also, i wanna compare the irs 990s of NOM and FTM, and see at guidestar that NOM inc has filed three 990s:



"while it appears FTM is still being fiscally sponsored by astraea:


and no irs 990 is filed for FTM. do i have that right?"

please note that while i never said NOM is transparent, i just said they have 990s available for public inspection, evan says it's laughable to even suggest NOM is transparent.

well, yes, if an org has 990s on the web for all to see, that is transparency. evan can disagree with NOM's agenda all it wants, but he can't escape the fact that NOM files and makes 990s available for all to see. the same can't be said for FTM.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for clarifying your original statement on NOM. Just to clarify things further, NOM, Inc. has only 2 990s on Guidestar, one for 2007 and one for 2008. There is no 2009 990, even though that one was due in June of 2010, or August 2010 if NOM requested an extension.

NOM did not provide any 990s to Guidestar to comply with its obligation to make the form publicly available. Guidestar got them through its own requests and then posted them on its own. NOM's website today contains the 990s, but as recently as last year, their policy was that it would be made available upon specific written request.

If you want yet another example of HRC incompetence, despite its wasting money and human resources on its pointless "NOM Exposed" website, it has been totally silent on NOMs failure to comply with the tax law provisions concerning the 2009 990.

This is not an esoteric issue. It was a huge deal in 2009, when NOM for months offered excuse after excuse to delay release of its twice-amended 990. This became an issue in Maine and it was covered by the gay press and by the outstanding blog run by Chino Blanco. So it bizarre that HRC, the highly paid experts who promise to expose NOM to the world, is silent and clueless when the very same thing happens in 2010.