Pro-gay marriage group spent big in Vermont
MONTPELIER, Vt.-The leading proponent of Vermont’s gay marriage bill spent about $294,000 on lobbying and advertising in advance of the Legislature’s vote -- more than seven times as much as opponents did, according to disclosure forms filed Monday.
Through its task force and an action committee, Vermont Freedom to Marry spent $65,866 of that in the week before the April 7 vote by the Democrat-controlled Vermont house, which passed the bill in a 100-49 vote to override the veto of Republican Gov. Jim Douglas.
Under the state Constitution, the override vote needed a two-thirds majority, or at least 100 votes.
Meanwhile, same-sex marriage opponents spent only $41,769 on their campaign, according to final disclosure forms filed Monday.
Vermont’s vote, the first gay marriage approval by a Legislature anywhere in the United States, was followed by similar moves in New Hampshire and Maine. Connecticut, Iowa and pioneer Massachusetts also allow gay marriage.
Beth Robinson, an attorney who chairs the Vermont Freedom to Marry Action Committee, said Monday there’s no telling whether all the money spent tipped the scales in favor of the same-sex marriage bill.
"We were determined to do everything we could, from writing every letter we could write to knocking on every door we could knock on to raising every dollar we could raise," Robinson said. "You never know, in the end, which pieces mattered how much."
Craig Bensen, president of Take It To The People, which opposed the bill and wanted voters to decide if same-sex marriage should be allowed, said the money was key.
"They should be embarrassed they had to spend all that money to achieve that success, and that it was as close as it was," he said.
According to the disclosure forms:
--Vermont Freedom to Marry spent about $294,286 on its campaign, including $49,025 on advertising in the week before the vote. It also spent $14,105 on lobbyists.
--Focus on The Family, another opponent, spent about $11,514 on the campaign.
--Take It To The People spent $10,066, but nothing in the final week, according to its filing. Bensen said Monday that wasn’t accurate; the group listed all of its expenditures -- including some that came after April 1 -- in its first report, he said.
--Vermont Renewal, another group opposed to gay marriage, spent $12,489 on the campaign, including $2,274 in the April 1 to June 30 period, according to Executive Director Dwight MacPherson. According to the state, no filing was received from the group by Monday’s deadline, but McPherson said it was delivered by registered mail.
--The National Organization for Marriage, in Princeton, N.J., spent $200 on a lobbyist and $7,500 on telemarketing and advertising.
--The Human Rights Campaign, a gay rights group based in Washington, D.C., reported spending $3,413, $1,336 of it after April 1.