Karen Ocamb

Fred Karger Deposed by 'Discombobulated' NOM

Filed By Karen Ocamb | March 23, 2014 3:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics
Tags: campaign contributions, Fred Karger, HRC, John Eastman, lawsuit, Mitt Romney, National Organization for Marriage, NOM, Prop 8

karger-brown-nom-fight-frontiers.jpgFor weeks after being subpoenaed by the U.S. Justice Department and the National Organization for Marriage in the lawsuit NOM filed against the IRS last October, gay Republican political activist Fred Karger fretted nervously about what would be asked of him. He studiously prepared documentation, hired a good (and expensive) attorney, and walked into the U.S. Attorney's office in downtown Los Angeles on March 12 as prepared as he could be.

"During the past month I have had to produce four pounds of documents, emails, texts, press coverage, notes and other records and send them to the Justice Department--all because NOM is out to destroy me," Karger said after his deposition.

The NOM lawsuit against the IRS -- National Organization for Marriage v. United States of America, et al., singled out Karger because of the ethics complaint he filed against the anti-gay organization with California's Fair Political Practices Commission. NOM claims it has "irrefutable proof" someone from the IRS illegally leaked its confidential 2008 tax returns to the Human Rights Campaign with the list of donors' names unredacted.

HRC discovered that Mitt Romney had contributed $10,000 to the 'Yes on Prop. 8' campaign in 2008 through one of the groups listed on NOM's IRS return. HRC apparently made the information available to the Huffington Post's Sam Stein, who published a story in the context of Romney's presidential run. Stein linked to the leaked IRS report, a scan of which is still posted on Huffington Post.

Acting IRS Commissioner Steven T. Miller told Congress last May that an internal investigation by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration was conducted and "found that those disclosures were inadvertent, and there's been discipline in one of those cases for somebody not following procedures."

scales_justice.jpgNonetheless, the NOM lawsuit is proceeding, with all discovery to be filed with the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia by March 14, in advance of a final pretrial conference to be held March 20.

For roughly four and a half hours in a tiny white-walled room with no pictures or air conditioning, crammed with six people hunched over a conference table, Karger answered question after question. Surprisingly to him, however, half of the questions asked by NOM's lawyer, John Eastman, were objected to as being beyond the scope of the lawsuit. "He was discombobulated," Karger said of Eastman. "And it made me relax."

Indeed, the entire session seemed like a grueling waste of time, which Karger believes was NOM's point all along.

The DOJ attorney started off the deposition asking "basic stuff."

"I think he was trying to determine how I found out about the documents -- NOM's 90 Schedule B returns. Where did I get them? Was I working with HRC? He didn't ask that, but those where his concerns," Karger said.

john_eastman.jpg"I told them I got it off the internet. I was not involved with procuring documents or releasing them, which is why I'm convinced they're just harassing me."

When it was Eastman's turn to depose Karger, the man whom NOM presents as its esteemed legal spokesperson (right) was strikingly unprepared. "I could see John Eastman sweat. I kept my jacket on at all times," Karger said later.

"He bumbled through nothing but inane questions. He was trying to establish that I was a political expert at campaign finance and reporting. I said I worked in politics for well over 30 years but didn't really do the finance reports. You paid law firms to do that. So I wasn't quite the expert."

Eastman, Karger said, "was on a fishing expedition. He was all over the map. He must have pulled out 50 new exhibits--a lot of it he hadn't even shown to the Department of Justice attorney."

"It was a very embarrassing session, as far as I'm concerned, for this distinguished law school professor and former [law school] dean. He was confused, he was out of order. I had to have him repeat questions.

"I kept waiting for the smoking gun. He asked question after question and he'd pull out all these papers -- many of which were stories I'd written or [Frontiers had] written about the terrible things I had said about NOM. And he'd make me read a lot of these," Karger said.

Fred-Karger-in-WeHo-KO.jpg"And he asked me about my animus toward NOM and I said, 'Absolutely. They've done tremendous damage to members of my community. Yes, I speak out against them.' I was respectful, but now and then I'd make what I thought were important points against NOM."

We'll see what -- if any -- of the information pertaining to the lawsuit is made public, though if this deposition is an example, that may only serve to politically embarrass NOM further.

Karger is paying attorney fees out-of-pocket, so he and friends have set up a defense fund at Rights Equal Rights to help defray costs. Go to rightsequalrights.com/donate for more info.

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