Huerta-supporting PAC won’t have Huerta’s support
Las Cruces mayoral candidate Michael Ray Huerta initially said he was honored to have the support of a Rhode Island political action committee formed by a corporation, but he now says he “strongly” disagrees with such PACs getting involved in any election.
Huerta is also criticizing two other candidates in the Nov. 8 mayoral election – incumbent Ken Miyagishima and District 2 Councilor Dolores Connor – for failing to do anything as city policymakers to stop corporations from being able to give unlimited amounts to political campaigns.
As NMPolitics.net reported last week, the Total Newport Campaign PAC plans to aid Huerta by taking advantage of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United ruling allowing unlimited corporate spending to affect elections as long as there’s no coordination between the corporation or its PAC and the candidate it’s supporting.
Huerta said he “strongly” disagreed with the Citizens United ruling in an Aug. 25 commentary for NMPolitics.net, before the PAC announced its involvement in the Las Cruces race. When questioned Wednesday about the PAC, Huerta said he was honored by the support of all his backers, including the PAC, and said the campaign should be about Las Cruces’ future, not the PAC or Citizens United.
At the time, Miyagishima pointed to Huerta’s commentary and said the PAC’s involvement in the race would test whether Huerta would stand by his convictions.
Friday, Huerta sent NMPolitics.net an additional statement – and posted it online – denouncing any corporate-funded PAC that gets involved in an election.
“As I stated before, I strongly disagree with the Citizens United decision, I strongly disagree with the ability for corporations to contribute without limit, and I strongly disagree with these type of PACs getting involved in any race anywhere,” he said.
Huerta once again challenges opponents
Huerta also pointed to the fact that Las Cruces doesn’t limit campaign contribution sizes or outlaw direct contributions from corporations to candidates.
“In short, we’ve always operated under our own version of Citizens United,” Huerta said. “And my opponents have done nothing in their entire political careers to have that changed.”
Local governments can pass laws outlawing direct contributions from corporations. The Citizens United ruling rejected laws that banned corporate-funded independent expenditures that don’t coordinate with candidates, but didn’t reject laws that ban direct contributions.
Huerta also pointed out on Friday that, in his recent commentary, he challenged his opponents to limit contributions to $2,300 apiece and reject corporate money.
“To this day, they have stayed silent, choosing to defend the status quo rather than take clear action toward making this the most fair and clean election in our city’s history,” Huerta said. “And now, when my campaign is faced with the opportunity to benefit from tens of thousands of corporate dollars, I stand by my values.”
Still silent on disclosure issue
The PAC’s founder, Bobby Oliveira, says he doesn’t intend to file finance reports disclosing funding sources and spending in Rhode Island or New Mexico. He said he expects that to lead to legal battles in both states but believes the secrecy will withstand legal scrutiny because of Citizens United and weak finance laws in New Mexico.
Las Cruces’ clerk says the city elections ordinance requires the PAC to file finance reports, and Common Cause New Mexico’s director says nothing in Citizens United would exempt the PAC from that law.
Despite his challenge to make this a “clean” election, Huerta has, to date, refused to comment on the PAC’s intention to keep its financing and spending secret, saying he’s not commenting because it’s against the law for PACs and candidates to coordinate.
Huerta’s full statement
Here’s the full statement Huerta released Friday:
“Yesterday I learned that a group of Las Crucens came together, contacted a Political Action Committee out of Rhode Island, and urged them to get involved in this mayoral race on my behalf. That PAC, the ‘Total Newport Campaign PAC,’ agreed to get involved and announced that they will be sending staff, money and resources into this race.
“It is against federal law for campaigns to coordinate with a PAC in any capacity, nor do campaigns have any legal say or influence in the decision of a PAC to enter or leave a race. In short, because of federal law, my campaign has no say in the implementation, planning or strategy of this, or any other PAC. What makes this situation unique, however, is that this PAC is operating under new rules established in Citizens United. Under Citizens United, the U.S. Supreme Court determined that corporations have the right to donate unlimited funds to outside groups to campaign for or against candidates. In this case, the ‘Total Newport Campaign PAC’ will be receiving limitless corporate money to achieve their goals in this race.
“As I stated before, I strongly disagree with the Citizens United decision, I strongly disagree with the ability for corporations to contribute without limit, and I strongly disagree with these type of PACs getting involved in any race anywhere.
“But what’s more concerning is that even if Citizens United never became law, and even if the Supreme Court reversed its decision today, Las Cruces election law has and still does allow for corporations anywhere to donate an unlimited amount of money to any city candidate. In short, we’ve always operated under our own version of Citizens United. And my opponents have done nothing in their entire political careers to have that changed.
“That is why weeks ago, I asked my opponents to join me in rejecting any corporate money in this race. To this day, they have stayed silent, choosing to defend the status quo rather than take clear action toward making this the most fair and clean election in our city’s history.
“And now, when my campaign is faced with the opportunity to benefit from tens of thousands of corporate dollars, I stand by my values.
“Ken and Dolores, it’s real now. I’m putting my money where my mouth is. Will you join me, or will you again stay silent?”
Update, Sept. 12, 9:20 a.m.
The Total Newport Campaign PAC posted a comment below in response to Huerta. I wanted to highlight part of it here.
“We believe Mr. Huerta’s campaign strategy is flawed, while he will make the best mayor, he cannot get there from here,” the PAC said. “We believe that he cannot win without us. Therefore, we will drag him kicking and screaming to victory.”
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