Prop 8 donors subjected to threats, intimidation
After giving $10,000 to California’s Proposition 8 campaign last year, Charles LiMandri began receiving some unexpected correspondence.
“I got about two dozen e-mails and hate phone calls,” said Mr. LiMandri, who lives in San Diego. “They were calling me Nazi, homophobe, bigot. I tried to engage people once or twice — I said that Proposition 8 had nothing to do with being bigoted, it was about preserving marriage — but people don’t want to engage on the issue.”
As an attorney, however, Mr. LiMandri knew what to do with the e-mails.
“I collected them and turned them in to the lawsuit,” he said.
Those e-mails are now among hundreds of exhibits in a landmark case challenging California’s campaign-finance reporting rules, which require the release of the names, addresses and employers of those who contribute $100 or more to ballotmeasure committees.
The lawsuit argues that those who contribute to traditionalmarriage initiatives should be exempt from having their names disclosed, citing the widespread harassment and intimidation of donors to the Proposition 8 campaign.
Proposition 8, which stated that California would only recognize marriage between a man and a woman, was approved 52 percent to 48 percent in November. The initiative overturned a May 2008 California Supreme Court decision declaring that the state’s existing marriage definition of a man and a woman unconstitutionally discriminated against gays.
Examples of intimidation tactics range from letters and emails to death threats, say proponents. At least one Proposition 8 supporter, a Sacramento theater director, was fired after his campaign contributions were publicized by foes of the initiative.
“Anybody who’s in California knows that it’s very widespread,” said Brian Brown, executive director of the National Organization for Marriage, one of the biggest contributors to Proposi-
“I talked to a $100 donor the other day who had a note in his mailbox that said, ‘I know where you live and you’re going to pay.’ ”
tion 8 and a joint plaintiff in the lawsuit. “Every donor has a story. I talked to a $100 donor the other day who had a note in his mailbox that said, ‘I know where you live and you’re going to pay.’
“These are just hardworking people who believe marriage is a union of a man and a woman and who never expected to be threatened in their homes,” Mr. Brown said.
Leading the effort is Californians Against Hate — whose Web site, www.californiansagain- sthate.com, lists the names of 1,100 people and organizations contributing at least $5,000 to the Proposition 8 campaign. The list, compiled from information supplied by the California Secretary of State’s office, also gives addresses, phone numbers and Web site addresses.
The group has also organized a series of boycotts targeting large donors, including the owner of three hotels who contributed $125,000 to Yes on Proposition 8, and a storage com- pany whose $700,000.
While Californians Against Hate has focused on major donors, other groups have shown less restraint. A number of Web sites use Google maps to pinpoint the home or office locations of all known Proposition 8 donors.
Fred Karger, who launched Californians Against Hate in July, acknowledged that intimidation is part of the political strategy.
“One of my goals was to make it socially unacceptable to make these mega-donations that take away people’s rights,” Mr. Karger said. “I want them to think twice before writing that check.”
Those crying foul have either short or selective memories, he said. In 1978, donors to the campaign against California’s Proposition 6, which would have banned gays from working in the state’s public schools, also risked being harassed, fired or blacklisted. Proposition 6, better known as the Briggs Initiative, failed by a margin of 58 to 42 percent.
“When I gave $100 to fight Proposition 6, you risked it all,” said Mr. Karger, adding that the donation nearly cost him his job. “It was a very scary time. Gay people have been going through this for decades. Now our opponents are getting a taste of what it’s like.”
Seething rainbow: Protesters march into the early morning in Los Angeles on Nov. 8, 2008, expressing their anger against the passage of Proposition 8.