AG thumbs his nose at contribution limits
Attorney General Gary King’s latest outrageous action is accepting a campaign contribution of $15,000 less than a year after a law limiting donations to $5,000 – a law he supported – took effect.
Yes, you can slap your forehead now. The AG supported contribution limits with his words, but with his newest action, he’s attempting to circumvent the new law.
The cap of $5,000 per election (one each for a primary and general election) took effect Nov. 3, 2010. But King’s newest finance report, filed Tuesday, reveals that he accepted a $15,000 contribution from the New York law firm Bernstein Litowitz Berger and Grossmann on Sept. 22 of this year.
Here’s how King spokesman Phil Sisneros justified the donation:
“The contribution was for retirement of debt from the attorney general’s 2010 re-election campaign and subject to 2010 reporting requirements. As such, we are confident the contribution does not fall within the limits of the new law. And just so you know, the NY firm does not have any contracts with the AGO.”
No contracts with the AG. I feel so much better.
Watchdog says King broke the law
You see, the contribution limit law doesn’t state that it took effect upon completion of the 2010 election cycle, and it doesn’t state that it doesn’t apply to retiring campaign debt incurred before it took effect.
It states that it took effect on Nov. 3, 2010. Period. No ifs, ands or buts about it.
I’m not a lawyer, and maybe there’s some provision or court case elsewhere that King will use to justify accepting the contribution. But Steven Robert Allen, executive director of Common Cause New Mexico, came to the same conclusion I did. The Santa Fe New Mexican quoted him as saying there was no doubt the contribution violated the law.
“A contributor can’t give more than $5,000 to a statewide officeholder since this law went into effect. That means a statewide candidate since Nov. 3 of the last year can’t accept contributions in excess of $5,000, regardless of whether that’s to pay off a campaign debt,” Allen said.
The Secretary of State’s Office says it’s investigating. Fantastic. Dianna Duran will investigate whether her own lawyer broke the law.
This is almost as offensive as the time the guy who is charged with enforcing the state’s sunshine laws violated the Inspection of Public Records Act by refusing to release public records to someone who requested them.
Oh wait… That was also Gary King.
NM was supposed to be done with this era
New Mexico was supposed to be done with an era in which voters had to consider whether large contributions were affecting the decisions of their elected officials. King’s office even stated, in the fiscal impact report for the bill that eventually became the new contribution limit law, that “placing limits on political contributions is the most effective vehicle for addressing the current ‘pay to play’ scandals.”
Legalities aside, of all the statewide elected officials to not think about the appearance this donation would create, our top crime fighter, the man charged with rooting out corruption, the official who should be the most conscientious about leading by example on ethical issues, is doing the opposite.
After applying the $15,000 donation, King still has $248,000 in unpaid campaign debt, and it’s all money he loaned his own campaign. Following King’s logic, someone could write a check for almost a quarter of a million dollars, and it would be OK because it’s past debt from a different era when the size of donations wasn’t limited. And the money would pass through King’s campaign before going directly to him.
Would such a donor expect something in return, such as the AG’s office backing off a civil lawsuit or not indicting a corrupt public official?
Is it just me, or does anyone else find it offensive that our attorney general says the Inspection of Public Records Act doesn’t apply when it comes to a specific situation involving his office, and that the contribution-limit law doesn’t apply when it comes to a specific situation involving his campaign?
And because he’s the AG – the guy who interprets the law for other state agencies – we’re supposed to trust him on that, even when it defies logic?
I don’t think so. This is appalling.
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