SAN FRANCISCO — The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has agreed to pay a $5,538 fine to settle a complaint over its campaign contributions supporting California’s ban on same-sex marriages, the executive director of the state agency that regulates campaign finances said Tuesday.
Roman Porter, who directs the California Fair Political Practices Commission, said an investigation revealed the Mormon Church was tardy in revealing about $37,000 worth of work its staff performed on behalf of Proposition 8 in the final weeks before the November 2008 election.
The commission’s five appointed members are scheduled to consider the proposed settlement on Thursday. The investigation did not uncover evidence that the church failed to disclose any contributions but concluded that it failed to meet required deadlines for disclosing the value of 13 days of staff time devoted to the campaign.
“The proposed fine under consideration by the commission addresses all the issues within the complaint,” Porter said.
Its role in putting Proposition 8 on the ballot made the Mormon Church a target for much of the anger that gay rights supporters felt after California voters approved the ballot measure, which outlawed same-sex marriage five months after the state Supreme Court legalized it.
At the urging of church leaders, individual Mormons from around the country volunteered for and gave millions of dollars to the Yes on 8 campaign.
Porter’s finding came in response to a complaint filed by a gay rights activist after voters approved the gay marriage ban 19 months ago. At the time, the church said it had spent just $2,078 itself to support Proposition 8.
Fred Karger, the founder of Californians Against Hate, alleged the church ran out-of-state phone banks, produced commercials and provided other services without disclosing them as contributions to ProtectMarriage.com, the coalition of religious and conservative groups that sponsored the gay marriage ban.
In January 2009, nearly three months after the election, Mormon church officials filed an updated campaign spending report that added another $190,000 to what it previously declared. That total includes the $37,000 in donations Porter said were not reported in a timely way.
Karger said he was pleased Porter substantiated his broad claim that the church had misstated the value of its campaign support.
“My fervent hope is they will get out of this business and go help earthquake victims in Chile or something, but get out of peoples’ lives and denying their happiness,” he said.
Mormon Church spokeswoman Kim Farah directed The Associated Press to a statement on the church’s website that said the campaign violations were unintentional and stemmed from a misunderstanding about how often contributions needed to be reported.
“All institutional contributions made by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to the ProtectMarriage Coalition were reported to the appropriate authorities in California,” the statement said. “Claims that the Church misrepresented its contributions to the ProtectMarriage coalition are false.”