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New York Times is reporting:

SAN FRANCISCO — California officials will investigate accusations that the Mormon Church neglected to report a battery of nonmonetary contributions — including phone banks, a Web site and commercials — on behalf of a ballot measure to ban same-sex marriage.

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.

At issue, the Mormon Church's reporting filings of $5,000 vastly under-represent the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' investment in the Yes on 8 campaign.

Spear-heading this complaint is Fred Karger, founder of the group Californians Against Hate. Karger has been probably the most strident voice in the Prop 8 backlash movement. And perhaps also it's most controversial, he has publicized the names of Prop 8 supporters and encouraged the boycotts, prompting Time magazine (shamefully titled) article: "What Happens If You're on Gay Rights' 'Enemies List."

More from the NY Times:

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.

Considering that the New York Times previously reported (in its unambiguously titled) "Mormons Tipped Scale in Ban on Gay Marriage" that the LDS Church donated $40 million and provided up to 80-90% of the ground canvassing on Yes on 8, I'm chalking an investigation up as a win for the good guys.

The Church could face fines of $5,000 per violation should the commission find against them. The article suggests fines could be stiffer in civil court, but doesn't elaborate exactly who the plaintiff in such a lawsuit might be? All gay people? Sign me up!

At least they'll squirm, even if nothing comes of it.

Updated to clarify: This has nothing to do with the Church's IRS tax-exempt status. They are being investigated for violations of California state law. From the Times:

Broadly speaking, California state law requires disclosure of any money spent or services provided to influence the outcome of an election.

It's likely to have no direct bearing on separate efforts to question whether they violated IRS laws. (Although, certainly financial disclosures or a nasty turn of public sentiment toward the Church's tactics might have affect on political will to address those complaints.)

Originally posted to Scott Wooledge on Wed Nov 26, 2008 at 10:11 AM PST.

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