NYC's Bloomberg: $500K to gay marriage campaigns

NEW YORK -- New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is poised to spend $500,000 of his personal fortune on gay marriage campaigns in Maine, Minnesota and Washington state, he said Monday, following up on a major political spending push the billionaire businessman-turned-politician announced last week.

Bloomberg already had established himself as an outspoken, and generous, supporter of same-sex marriage. He unveiled a $250,000 contribution to a Maryland gay marriage effort earlier this month and has backed four New York Republican senators who crossed party lines to vote for legalizing gay marriage in the state last year. Monday's move deepened Bloomberg's involvement in the issue outside New York, and it reflected his vow to give at least $10 million by Election Day to moderate candidates and to ballot initiatives supporting gay marriage and other issues around the country.

"Marriage equality is the next big step in America's long march of freedom," Bloomberg said in a statement Monday.

His new contributions, intended as challenge grants to spur matching donations, include $125,000 to a group backing a ballot initiative that would legalize gay marriage in Maine and $250,000 to an organization seeking to uphold it in Washington. A Washington law legalizing same-sex marriage was passed and signed this year, but it's on hold until next month's referendum.

Bloomberg is giving another $125,000 to a group working against a Minnesota constitutional amendment that would strengthen an existing law against same-sex marriage. A dozen Minnesota businesspeople already have raised $125,000 to match Bloomberg's gift, said the organization, Minnesotans United for All Families.

"Business leaders across the state _ and those around the nation, like Mayor Bloomberg _ have made it clear that this amendment is bad for business," Minnesotans United campaign manager Richard Carlbom said. The group says the proposed constitutional amendment would hurt Minnesota's prospects of attracting talented workers, among other arguments against it.

A spokesman for a group leading the charge to pass the proposal, Minnesota for Marriage, saw Bloomberg's gift as interloping.

"We believe it is the people of Minnesota who should decide the question of marriage, not out-of-state donors like Bloomberg," said the spokesman, Chuck Darrell. The organization, which includes religious and socially conservative groups, says the state needs the constitutional language to keep judges or lawmakers from altering the traditional definition of marriage as a union between a man and a woman.

Same-sex marriage is currently legal in New York, Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont and Washington, D.C.

Besides gay marriage ballot questions, Bloomberg's self-financed super PAC, Independence USA PAC, is focusing on local, state and congressional candidates who agree with him on issues including gun control, education reform and the importance of working across party lines. Beneficiaries range from former Maine Gov. Angus King, now running for U.S. Senate there as an independent, to Gloria Negrete McLeod, a Democratic California senator running for U.S. House.

Bloomberg, a Democrat-turned-Republican-turned-independent, has declined thus far to make a presidential endorsement, and his super PAC doesn't plan to pay for any presidential ads.


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