The only two contested referendum questions on November's ballot — physician-prescribed suicide and medical marijuana — are totally sex-free. But some of the donors trying to stop both are notorious homophobes.
Sparks began flying within days of the first campaign-finance reports being submitted, earlier this month, by the committees formed to promote or oppose this year's two contested ballot measures: Question 2 on physician-prescribed suicide, and Question 3 on medical marijuana.
It turned out that the Committee Against Physician Assisted Suicide, funded mostly by the Boston Archdiocese and Catholic institutions across the country, had received a whopping $250,000 contribution from the American Family Association (AFA), a Mississippi-based conservative fundamentalist group labeled a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center for its demonizing of homosexuals.
After filing the campaign report, the committee quickly announced that it was returning the AFA's contribution, as reported by the Associated Press. That quarter-million was a big chunk of the $900,000 raised in total by the committee, and giving it back left the committee essentially tapped out after its expenses so far.
The committee made the call after conducting its own internal review, according to Joe Baerlein of Rasky Baerlein Strategic Communications, which is representing the committee.
"When we examined some of the public statements of AFA, we saw that was nothing that the committee thought should have anything to do with this campaign," Baerlein says.
But the committee has not returned a similar amount from an equally gay-hating organization, American Principals Project (APP), and its chairman Sean Fieler.
APP, founded by former National Organization for Marriage chairman Robert P. George, led a boycott of the Conservative Political Action Conference over the inclusion of gay-rights group GOProud. It has an entire arm dedicated to opposing comprehensive sex education and anti-bullying programs. APP leaders have repeatedly claimed that the ultimate goal of "the Left" is "the destruction of religion and the family."
There is not much difference between that group and AFA — but APP is Catholic-based, and AFA is Protestant.
Baerlein would not comment specifically about APP, but said that he expects contributions to come from groups and individuals representing many religions.
STARTING AT YES
Opponents of both measures need to raise money quickly. Prescribed suicide is polling surprisingly well — roughly 60 percent are in favor, according to polls from Suffolk University and Public Policy Polling. Medical marijuana also leads, by nearly as large margins.
But that doesn't mean either one is a slam-dunk, cautions Suffolk's David Paleologos. "A lot of ballot questions start out this way, and then close up," Paleologos says. That's often after people who like the idea in principle learn specifics about the measure that they don't like.
That is, if they hear enough about it at all. Paleologos points out that the level of advertising and media interest in the state's big US Senate race, between Scott Brown and Elizabeth Warren, will make it very difficult for ballot-measure opponents to get heard.
The only group organized when the secretary of state prepared the sample ballots was Vote No on Question 3 – funded with just $600, including a contribution from another gay-basher, Kris Mineau of the Massachusetts Family Institute.
That group got to write the official opposition argument voters receive in the mail and read online – which ended up including an incorrect Web site actually run as a pro-marijuana spoof site.
Backing the medical-marijuana law is Progressive Insurance chairman Peter Lewis, who provided the lion's share of the half-million dollars spent by the Committee for Compassionate Medicine to get the issue on the ballot.
Read David Bernstein's coverage of the Scott Brown and Elizabeth Warren Senate race at thePhoenix.com/talkingpolitics.