Ethics Board Keeps Its Chair As NOM Continues to Lose in Iowa

Brian BrownTowleroad previously reported on the Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board's decision to investigate the National Organization for Marriage for the alleged violation of state campaign financial disclosure law. NOM's president, Brian Brown, subsequently posted an inflammatory response, accusing the board's chair, Megan Tooker, of "bias" and "unprofessionalism", and calling for her removal from the case. The board voted unanimously Wednesday not to remove Tooker from the case, and opted to proceed with the investigation. 

Tooker told the Associated Press that she is careful not to make any sort of biased statements during meetings or to the press, and said that accusations such as this are common from PACs and candidates from throughout the political spectrum. "I never take that into account nor should I. The staff never takes that into account, it's irrelevant. The only thing we care about is whether or not groups, candidates, and PACS comply with Iowa laws," she said. The board's vice-chairman, John Walsh, also offered his support for Tooker, and told press that he finds NOM's accusations to be unfounded since they cannot produce evidence of any wrongdoing. "It's all irrelevant because facts will determine this case. I don't know why we're having this extended argument about our counsel who in my opinion has done nothing wrong."

With NOM backed into a corner, it chose to set its sights on another target: the openly-gay Republican politician who filed the first complaint to the IECDB, Fred Karger. The group posted an article on their official site attacking Karger and calling him a "serial, frivolous case filer". NOM regional director Chris Plante said in the post that “it's an effort to silence people who would stand for marriage in the public square, who would criticize and critique our politicians and judges who redefine marriage against the will of the people." The group also falsely claims that it does not have to disclose its donor list under Iowa law, and that Karger is only filing the complaint to "silence" their "voice". 

Fred-KargerLuckily, the Des Moines Register's Editorial Board disagreed with NOM, calling the board's decision to keep Tooker "wise":

"The case against Tooker consisted of a couple of quotes lifted from an earlier board meeting in which she used strong words to disagree with NOM’s interpretation of the law in response to board members’ questions. Whether her language was too strong is a matter of interpretation, but it’s her job to give the board legal advice.

"NOM also said Tooker may be biased against the group because she worked as a law clerk for one of the three justices removed by voters in 2010. This, too, is a stretch: Her clerkship ended before the court considered the marriage case, and the fact that she worked for a member of the court who was later removed by voters is not, by itself, evidence that she can’t objectively interpret Iowa law….

"Whatever the ethics board decides, it is safe to say NOM will continue to wage a battle to protect the identities of its donors. If it prevails, the Legislature will have to rewrite the law to make clear that the source of money used to support or defeat candidates or ballot issues must be publicly reported."

As for the group's accusations against Karger? At present, they have yet to back it up with any sort of legal proceeding. Thus, it appears that it is simply a way for NOM to scare supporters into giving even more donations.