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Proposition 5 backers raise more money than opponents

Michelle Theriault Boots

Campaign reports filed this week show supporters of Proposition 5, a ballot measure to extend anti-discrimination protections to gay, lesbian and transgender people in Anchorage, are raising far more campaign money than their opponents. The proposition is on the municipal election ballot to be voted on Tuesday, April 3.

Through March 30, One Anchorage, the group backing the proposition, has raised $341,000. That compares to a total of about $70,000 by Protect your Rights -- Vote No on Prop 5, the group opposing the measure.

So far One Anchorage has spent about $268,000. As of Friday, it reported having roughly $74,000 remaining. Protect Your Rights has spent about $60,000, with about $12,000 left in its account.

Much of the money has been spent on radio, television and Internet advertising as well as organizational expenses.

The biggest financial contributors to One Anchorage have been Planned Parenthood of the Greater Northwest, with $25,000; Tim Gill, a software millionaire and national gay rights activist from Colorado, $25,000; the American Civil Liberties Union of Alaska, $10,000; the Pride Foundation, a Seattle-based gay rights organization that gives scholarships and grants to students and nonprofits, $10,000; and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, $10,000. The group had many more contributors who gave $20 to $5,000.

Top contributors to Protect Your Rights have been the Anchorage Baptist Temple, through a ballot group called Protect Your Freedoms Vote No On Prop 5, which gave $45,000; Josh Pepperd, president of Davis Constructors and Engineers Inc. in Anchorage, $15,000; and Chapel by the Sea, a South Anchorage church, which gave $3,025. A number of individuals contributed smaller amounts.

Kim Hummer-Minnery, an organizer of Protect Your Rights, said she was preparing to file another contribution report Friday.

Since the previous report, current up to March 24, the group had received dozens of new donations, some less than $100 and some over $1,000. She declined to say exactly how much the campaign had raised in total but said it was "a heck of a lot less than Yes on 5."

On Thursday, the Prop 5 opponents emailed supporters asking for money.

"The bad news is that we are literally out of funds right now," they said. "We've spent pretty much everything that has come in and we're now living hour to hour."

As of Friday, Protect Your Rights had about $12,000 in cash on hand, leader Jim Minnery said, all of which it plans to spend before the election.

Protect Your Freedoms, the biggest funder of Minnery's organization, lists its address as the Anchorage Baptist Temple and Glenn W. Clary, a pastor at the church, as its chairman. According to a report filed March 26, Protect Your Freedoms had received one contribution, for $80,000, from the Anchorage Baptist Temple. Protect Your Freedoms contributed $45,000 of that money to Minnery's Protect Your Rights group.

As of Friday, Protect Your Freedoms still had $35,000 of the Baptist Temple's money left.

Repeated calls to Clary and Jerry Prevo, the leader of the Baptist Temple, to ask about the church's donation and what Protect Your Freedoms planned to do with the remaining money went unanswered.

"It's no surprise to anybody that lived in Anchorage that Jerry Prevo and ABT is involved in this battle," Minnery said. "And it's no surprise that they wanted to start a ballot group to make sure at least a good fight was made."

Minnery said he was thankful for the group's large donation but had no idea whether Protect Your Freedoms would give the remaining funds to the anti-prop effort.

Paul Dauphinais, the executive director of the Alaska Public Offices Commission, said $80,000 would not be a record single donation for a municipal election but it is an unusually large one.

Limits on contributions to individual candidates are strict under state law, but they are much looser for campaigns seeking to influence the outcome of a ballot propositions.

Churches, as tax-exempt nonprofits, are governed by IRS rules that prohibit endorsing or opposing individual candidates for public office.

But the rules governing church contributions to influence referenda elections are much less clear cut.

"The IRS rules say churches endanger their tax exemption if a 'substantial part' of their work involves politics, including involvement in referenda," said Rob Boston, a senior policy analyst with the Washington, D.C.- based Americans United, a non-profit that advocates for church-state separation. "It's unclear what counts as a 'substantial part' of churches' work."

Reach Michelle Theriault Boots at mtheriault@adn.com or 257-4344.


By MICHELLE THERIAULT BOOTS
Anchorage Daily News