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Foes of gay marriage raise big money from small donors

October 10, 2008 |  8:42 am

California’s fight over marriage is attracting large sums of small donations, particularly on the side that seeks to ban same-sex marriage.

In terms of campaign spending, Proposition 8, the initiative that would create a state constitutional amendment defining marriage as being between a man and a woman, has become the most costly ballot measure on a social issue, and is drawing big money from national sources. By the time votes are cast on Nov. 4, both sides will have spent upward of $50 million.

Backers of Prop. 8 raised $24.3 million as of the end of September. Foes raised $15.4 million.

California law permits donors to give unlimited sums to support or oppose ballot measures. Both sides have received large donations.

The "yes" side has received big money from conservative Christian and Catholic groups including $450,000 from Focus on the Family, based in Colorado, and $1 million from the Knights of....

...Columbus in Connecticut. The "no" side gets big-dollar donations from from wealthy individuals from California and across the country who support same-sex marriage.

But the yes-on-8 campaign also is particularly successful at mining small donors. It raised $4.5 million in increments of less than $1,000, and $8.6 million in donations of less than $10,000. That works out to about 46% of its money.

The "yes" campaign has spent $1.6 million on mass mailings, many of which are intended to raise small donations. It has spent another $510,000 on phone banks, also aimed in part at raising money. The campaign also is relying on Internet fund-raising to bring in small bucks.

The bulk of the "yes" side’s money — at least $20.46 million, or 84% — has come donors living within California, the latest campaign finance disclosure filed with the California secretary of state shows.

The no-on-8 campaign has raised 75% of its money -- $11.5 million -- from within California.

On the "no" side, far more money has come in large checks -- $10.1 million in donations of $100,000 or more, and another $2.65 million in donations of between $10,000 and $99,999. That works out to almost 83% coming in donations of $10,000 or more.

Proposition 8 would reverse a California Supreme Court decision that struck down a previous initiative banning same-sex marriage, a statute that was by voters in 2000.

--Dan Morain