Ref. 71 opponents get $200,000 campaign boost
Opponents of the state's domestic partnership law, who until now had depended largely on small donations from retirees and housewives across the state, got a $200,000 boost from the local affiliate of a national conservative Evangelical organization. But they are still financially outgunned by gay-rights supporters.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Opponents of the state's domestic-partnership law, who until now had depended largely on small donations from retirees and housewives across the state, got a $200,000 boost this week from the local affiliate of a national conservative evangelical organization.
It is the single largest contribution on either side of Referendum 71 — doubling the $100,000 donated by Microsoft to supporters of gay rights — and raising the stakes in the battle over the state's domestic-partnership law.
The amount arrived just in advance of Tuesday's deadline for large campaign donations. From now through Election Day, when voters will approve or reject the latest expansion of the state's domestic-partnership law, donations from companies and individuals will be limited to $5,000 each.
But even with the $200,000 boost, opponents of the law still have far less money than the law's supporters. As of late Tuesday, two campaigns registered to support Ref. 71 were reporting just under $1.3 million, compared with $260,000 for their opponents.
Vote Reject on 71, a newly formed political-action committee, will spend the $200,000 on a statewide radio campaign aimed at defeating Ref. 71, campaign manager David Mortenson said.
The donation is from the Family Policy Institute of Washington, the local affiliate of Colorado Springs-based Focus on the Family, which was founded by conservative James Dobson.
Joseph Backholm, the Institute's executive director, said "most of the money is local; some of it national."
"We think this is an important debate and we need to get our voice out there to help the public understand that there are conveniences and benefits — but there are also real costs," he said.
Josh Friedes, campaign manager for Washington Families Standing Together, said the other side is lying to people about what's really at stake, "and the more money they have, the easier it is for them to mislead the public."
In an off-election year, funds for both candidates and campaigns are tight everywhere. Around gay-rights issues, a gay-marriage question on the ballot in Maine is taking up much of the funding nationally.
Mortenson said he hopes "the money gives us a chance to have some real influence." It's a departure of sorts for a political strategist who in the past has been involved in political races — not issues.
He was campaign manager of the Citizens for Judicial Integrity, a committee formed in 2006 to publicize Washington State Supreme Court Justice Tom Chambers' vote in support of same-sex marriage. The campaign was asking voters to support Chambers' opponent Jeanette Barrage, who was defeated.
"This has been a battle going on for a while," Mortenson said of gay rights."I think marriage is something between a man and a woman and having kids. It's something I feel strongly about. I'm comfortable with the position and the side I'm on."
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