RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) - Opponents of a proposed constitutional amendment limiting marriage in North Carolina outraised supporters of the amendment by a nearly 2-to-1 margin heading into the final days of the referendum campaign, according to campaign finance reports filed this week.
The anti-amendment Coalition to Protect North Carolina Families reported raising nearly $2.3 million through April 23, with a little more than $2 million coming in since Jan. 1. Vote FOR Marriage NC reported raising almost $1.2 million since it was formed, with all but about $13,000 arriving since the first of the year.
The Coalition to Protect North Carolina Families said it's spent nearly $2 million and had $293,500 on hand entering the final two weeks of the campaign, according to its report. Vote FOR Marriage reported spending nearly $1.1 million and had $121,300 on hand. The money has been enough to hire staff and organize and run the all-important but expensive television ads. Both sides have been on the air for the past week.
The Protect North Carolina Families coalition has received donations from 9,500 donors, most of them from North Carolina, according to coalition campaign manager Jeremy Kennedy. Vote FOR Marriage reports say fewer than 800 separate donations have been received.
It's that kind of differentiation that has the anti-amendment forced invigorated heading into the final week of the campaign. Early vote for the May 8 primary concludes Saturday.
"It just goes to show you that this is a really grass-roots campaign," Kennedy said in an interview. "There is a lot more momentum and energy on our side to see this amendment defeated."
But both sides are benefiting from nonprofit groups and wealthy individual donors for and against gay marriage. The amendment, if approved, would make marriage between one man and one woman the only domestic legal union recognized in North Carolina.
Tami Fitzgerald, chairwoman of the Vote FOR Marriage NC campaign, downplayed the fundraising gap.
"The proponents of same-sex marriage always outraise the people who are proposing to keep marriage between a man and a woman," Fitzgerald said. She pointed out, however, that proponents of traditional marriage have won in all 30 states where an amendment limiting marriage has been on the ballot.
Nevertheless, her group and others allied with the effort have been making pleas to give more money in the final days. They want to expand advertising to counter commercials by anti-amendment forces that argue the amendment would weaken domestic violence laws and eliminate health insurance for some children.
"When most people receive their information from television, and the opposition has put up the kind of deceptive and false ads that they have on television, of course we want to raise more money to get more of our ads on television," Fitzgerald said.
Kennedy said the fundraising windfall "has allowed us to have a statewide presence on broadcast TV, we were able to do that with some very effective ads."
John Dinan, a Wake Forest University political science professor, said the money-raising advantage by amendment opponents is in keeping with what happened in other states where referenda occurred, such as Virginia and Colorado. He said the influx of out-of-state dollars into North Carolina suggests that national organizations see the vote's outcome as somewhat competitive.
The Coalition to Protect North Carolina Families said its largest donor as of April 23 was the gay rights group Human Rights Campaign, which has provided $246,499. More than half of that went to help pay for field staff time and travel. Human Rights Campaign had been paying for some coalition employee salaries.
Other top donors to the coalition include Replacements Ltd., a Greensboro-based tableware seller, with $234,730 and Jon Stryker, an heir to a Michigan media supplies company and contributor to political and gay-rights efforts, with $200,000, the reports said.
The Christian Action League of North Carolina was the top donor to Vote FOR Marriage NC with $311,533, followed by the Washington-based National Organization for Marriage with $302,950, the group's report said. The group's top individual contributor is Phil Drake of Franklin, listed as an executive at Drake Software, who gave $250,000.
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