Roman Porter, the executive director of the Fair Political Practices Commission, which oversees California campaign finance laws, signed off on the investigation after reviewing a sworn complaint filed on Nov. 13.
The complaint, filed by Fred Karger, founder of the group Californians Against Hate, asserted that the church’s reported contributions — about $5,000, according to state election filings — vastly underestimated its actual efforts in passing Proposition 8, which amended the state’s Constitution to recognize only male-female marriage.
Broadly speaking, California state law requires disclosure of any money spent or services provided to influence the outcome of an election.
Mr. Porter said the announcement of the investigation was not “a determination on the validity of the claims or the culpability of the individuals,” but that the claims had been reviewed by a lawyer for the commission and its chief of enforcement and deemed worth pursuing.
Kim Farah, a spokeswoman for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, issued a statement Tuesday saying it had received the complaint and would cooperate with the investigation. Frank Schubert, campaign manager for the leading group behind Proposition 8, said the accusations were baseless and made by a “rogue group.”
Responding to a plea from Mormon Church leaders to “become involved in this important cause,” members contributed millions of dollars and volunteered for countless hours on behalf of Proposition 8. The ballot measure passed with 52 percent of the vote, leading to protests and boycotts of supporters of the proposition, including some Mormon temples and businesses.
Mr. Karger’s complaint paints a sweeping picture of the involvement by the church leadership, and raises questions about who paid for out-of-state phone banks and grass-roots rallies in California before the Nov. 4 vote.
“Who paid for the buses, travel costs, meals and other expenses of all the Mormon participants?” the complaint reads. “No contributions were reported.”
The complaint also touches on a five-state simulcast from church leaders to Mormon congregations, as well as a Web site, preservingmarriage.org, that featured a series of videos advocating passage of the ballot measure and is labeled “an official Web site” of the Mormon Church.
Ms. Farah said the church had no comment on the particular accusations in the complaint.
If found in violation of election laws, the church could face fines of up to $5,000 per violation, Mr. Porter said. Bigger fines could also be levied by a civil court.
Mr. Karger said he respected the right of Mormons to vote in line with their religious beliefs, but added “if they’re going to play politics, then they need to play by the rules.”The California Supreme Court agreed last week to review the constitutionality of the measure, with a ruling expected next year. By NY Times