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Group refuses to ID its donors

The new corporation that gave $170,000 to Utahns for a Better Tomorrow's efforts to pass Amendment 3 is refusing to disclose its funding sources, saying it will follow federal and state election laws.

"We do not currently intend to release our donor list to the media or otherwise make the list public," said Neal Blair, a trustee of Marriage Education Initiatives. His comments were in an e-mail sent Friday.

Amy Naccarato, director of the Utah Elections Office, said it appears that Marriage Education Initiatives may have found a legal loophole, since corporations don't have to report their funding sources, as do political entities such as political action committees or political issue committees.

"It's something new that I don't think our law is ready to address," Naccarato said of corporations such as Marriage Education Initiatives. "It's something we may have to ask the Legislature to help us address in the future."

Blair's corporation made two donations — $120,000 in cash, and $50,000 in kind — to UBT, which supports Amendment 3. The issue will be on Tuesday's ballot, and would alter the state Constitution to ban same-sex marriage and any other domestic union that is the same or substantially similar to marriage.

The contributions to UBT are the only two listed on a campaign finance report Marriage Education Initiatives filed Friday with the Utah Elections Office. The donations are both listed on Oct. 18, the same day the educational nonprofit corporation incorporated.

Efforts to pass the state ban on same-sex marriage had raised a combined $16,480 as of Sept. 15. By Tuesday's reporting deadline, that had risen to $447,500. The Don't Amend Alliance has garnered $704,400 in its efforts to fight Amendment 3.

Blair is a contact on the donation link of UBT's Web site, www.utahamendment3.com, but the campaign's spokeswoman, Nancy Pomeroy, continues to claim no knowledge of the corporation, calling questions about it "much ado about nothing.

"All the information that needs to be disclosed has been disclosed," Pomeroy said.

The corporation, which had earlier reported an incorrect address, was listed Friday at Blair's downtown apartment.

Scott McCoy, head of Don't Amend, sees the situation as ironic, since supporters have accused his campaign of being funded largely by out-of-state special interests. Tuesday's finance reports revealed Orem philanthropist Bruce Bastian remains the largest contributor to Don't Amend, and most of that campaign's funding has come from in-state sources.

"I'm dumbfounded that you have no idea where that money came from," McCoy said Friday in a debate with amendment supporters. "Aren't you curious?"

UBT co-chairman Monte Stewart said, "We've complied with all the reporting disclosure requirements."

If there is any sort of a campaign finance scandal, it would have "fairly significant," impact to change voters' minds on an issue such as Amendment 3, said Kelly Patterson, director of the Center for Study of Election and Politics at Brigham Young University.

"It would really take a bombshell," Patterson said. "Voters stake out their positions on moral issues; they don't abandon those easily."

Blair did not return phone calls for comment. His e-mail stated that he was "on a work assignment in the Eastern states and don't expect to return to Utah until after Election Day.

"We anticipate continuing our activity for many years, inasmuch as it is unlikely that the current Amendment 3 issue and other issues affecting Utah families and families across America will go away any time soon," Blair's e-mail said.

The message did not include any information on his background.

A man named Neal Blair was fired in 1997 after working for U.S. Rep. Chris Cannon, R-Utah, as a fund raiser. Cannon's spokeswoman Megan Riding couldn't confirm Friday whether the Blair who sent the e-mail was the same individual who once worked for Cannon.

The Blair who worked for Cannon was at one time president of a PAC that the Federal Election Commission fined $44,000 in the 1980s. That individual was accused of funneling money from one organization through RuffPAC, which he left in 1989, to various campaigns, of illegally taking corporate donations and of illegally mixing PAC funds with its state campaign arm and failing to keep accurate records of expenses.

That Blair was sentenced to 60 days in jail after failing to file his 1984 income taxes.


E-mail: dbulkeley@desnews.com