San Diego Businessman Gave $300K to Defeat Maine Gay Marriage Law: Report

A San Diego businessman was one of the largest donors to the National Organization for Marriage's efforts to defeat Maine's gay marriage law in 2009, according to a campaign disclosure report.

San Diego business leader Terry Caster donated $300,000 according to the report dated Friday. 

The group went to court three different times to shield its list of donors who contributed more than $2 million combined, all of which was funneled to Stand for Marriage Maine, the political action committee that led the repeal effort.

It submitted the detailed disclosure report after the Maine supreme court rejected a move to further delay its release.

The report showed the biggest single contributor was Sean Fieler, a New Jersey man who's president of hedge fund Equinox Partners and the Kuroto Fund. He did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Monday.

The other largest donors at $300,000 apiece were Caster, who didn't immediately return a message left at his business, and retired Pennsylvania physician Jack Templeton, who died of brain cancer in May. The Knights of Columbus, a Catholic fraternal organization, donated $140,000. The largest Maine contributor to NOM was Richard Kurtz, a retiree from Cape Elizabeth. He declined to comment.

Caster has donated more than $470,000 to Sharp HealthCare according to the company's website. The Casters' donations have gone to supporting scholarships for nursing education.

The couple has also been honored by the Rotary Club of La Mesa after their $1.1 million donation to help eradicate polio.

They also donate their time and money to support the organization "Serving Hands International" which focuses on helping the poorest of the poor in San Diego and Tijuana, Mexico.

Terry Caster and his wife, Barbara, own A-1 Self Storage.

"It's important when out-of-state groups come to Maine to fund an initiative or referendum that they know they have to register with the commission and disclose the sources of their political funding. That's what this whole matter was about," said Jonathan Wayne, executive director of the Maine Ethics Commission.

The National Organization for Marriage never registered with the state or filed a campaign report, arguing that the money it raised wasn't specifically earmarked for the Maine referendum. It also contended that revealing the identities of donors would stymie free speech and make donors less likely to contribute in the future.

NOM was the biggest contributor to the 2009 referendum that overturned a gay marriage law signed by then-Gov. John Baldacci.

Maine voters returned to the ballot box to legalize same-sex marriage in 2012.

The Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices ruled last year that NOM broke the law by not registering as a ballot question committee and not filing campaign finance reports despite playing a central role in the 2009 referendum. NOM already paid the $50,250 fine, the biggest penalty on record in Maine.

NOM originally fought the ethics commission's subpoenas in state court, then brought a federal lawsuit fighting the state requirements on constitutional grounds. It brought another action after the commission's ruling last year.

"These decisions are valuable precedent and will assist future efforts by state and local government to require financial disclosure in elections," Wayne said.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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