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Anti-amendment campaign appears to be outspending supporters

Posted April 25, 2012 11:30 a.m. EDT
Updated April 25, 2012 12:41 p.m. EDT

— Opponents of the state constitutional amendment that would define marriage appear to be outspending backers two-to-one based on television spending data from the Charlotte and Triangle television markets. 

The referendum committees associated with either side of the amendment battle do not have to report their fundraising and spending numbers from Jan. 1 through April 23 until Monday. 

However, information gathered by WRAL News, in cooperation with WCNC-TV in Charlotte, from broadcast stations' public files in two markets show amendment foes are outspending backers by a wide margin.

Early voting is already under way for the May 8 primary. 

"I think our message is resonating with voters," said Jeremy Kennedy, campaign manager for the Coalition to Protect NC Families, which opposes the amendment. 

Kennedy's group has spent $462,390 on broadcast ads in Raleigh and Charlotte, according to data television stations are required to disclose. The coalition spent another $91,000 on statewide cable buys, according to information from Time Warner Cable. 

Kennedy said that, so far, the coalition has spent more than $648,000 on television ads, and is preparing to buy more time.

Vote for Marriage NC, which backs the amendment, has spent $216,915 on ads in the Charlotte and Raleigh markets that began running this week and will run through May 8. The groups spent another $56,500 on statewide cable buys, according to Time Warner Cable.

Rachel Lee, a spokeswoman for Vote for Marriage, would not say how much money the group spent on its statewide advertising buy. 

Although television spending is not the only expense faced by a campaign, it is typically the most expensive line item for political campaigns. 

"It's very possible that the other side is going to out-spend us," said Tami Fitzgerald, chairwoman of Vote for Marriage. She said the other side has to spend more in order to make up ground. "They're in an up-hill battle to convince people that homosexuals should have the right to marry."

The amendment in question would add the definition of marriage as being between one man and one woman to the state constitution. There is already a prohibition against gay marriage in state law, but backers of the amendment worry that it could be challenged. 

Amendment opponents say the amendment language is overly broad and could have consequences beyond whether same-sex couples are allowed to marry. If the amendment fails, the state marriage law will remain in place.

Fitzgerald said amendment opponents are raising and spending out-of-state money. That's not so, Kennedy said.

"About 80 to 85 percent of our money has continued to come from in the state of North Carolina," Kennedy said. 

Fundraising reports from 2011 show that the coalition's biggest backer through December was Replacement's Ltd, a Greensboro-area china and silver retailer, which put $104,714.15 into the campaign. More than $50,000 came from the Human Rights Campaign, a national group opposed to the amendment. 

Kennedy estimated that the coalition would report having raised at least $1.7 million when the group files its April 30 report to the State Board of Elections. 

Lee would not offer an estimate as to what Voter for Marriage's total fundraising numbers would be.

"We're going to raise and spend as much as it takes to win," Lee said.

However, the National Organization for Marriage, which backs the amendment, sent out a fundraising email raising concerns about money issues for pro-amendment forces.

"My friend, for the first time, I'm truly concerned that we could lose this battle," NOM's Brian Brown said in his message. "Tami Fitzgerald, head of Vote for Marriage NC, tells me that they have had to cut their advertising budget by two-thirds simply because they don't have the money."