Candidates complain about guv-supporting PAC
Eleanor Chavez, David Coss, Larry Martinez and Jack Sullivan allege that Reform New Mexico Now violated disclosure law; they also seek to publicly tie the PAC to the Republican governor after it got involved in their Democratic primary races.
Several legislative candidates have filed complaints against a Super PAC that is supportive of Gov. Susana Martinez’s agenda and has sent out mailers and aired radio ads in recent days attacking them or supporting their Democratic primary opponents.
The complaints from self-identified progressives Eleanor Chavez, David Coss, Larry Martinez and Jack Sullivan allege that Reform New Mexico Now violated state campaign disclosure law by not registering with the state within 10 days of receiving financial contributions and not filing a campaign finance report on May 14.
The PAC responded by saying its initial finance report – filed earlier this week – erroneously reported that it received contributions in late April. It filed an amended report that states the contributions came on May 21 and 24.
“Reform New Mexico Now is in complete compliance with the law and, unlike other groups involved in these elections, we disclose all of our contributions and expenditures,” the group’s spokesman, Dominic Aragon, wrote in an e-mail.
He added that the Secretary of State’s Office “has informed us that we are in total compliance with the law” after filing the amended report, and said “any attempt to suggest otherwise is nothing more than election-eve desperation.”
The PAC hasn’t publicly released checks from the donors proving the dates of the contributions.
Highlighting PAC’s ties to guv
Based on the quotes the candidates provided in news releases, their complaints appear to be more about publicly tying the PAC before Tuesday’s election to the Republican governor – and energy companies that donated to the group and to Martinez – than they are about the timing of donations.
“It is outrageous that Susana Martinez would get involved in a Democratic primary, especially in northern Santa Fe County, and then try to hide her involvement from the voters,” Coss, who is running in the Democratic primary against Carl Trujillo for the open House District 46 seat, said. Reform N.M. Now sent a mailer this weekend urging voters to support Trujillo.
“The governor’s secret PAC, Reform New Mexico Now, has attacked my record twice in political mail that was sent to voters in Senate District 14,” Chavez said. “Democratic voters have a right to know who is behind these smear tactics, especially when they are sponsored by a Republican governor and other corporate interest groups.”
Chavez is running for the open state Senate District 14 seat against two other Democrats, Michael Padilla and James Taylor. The PAC didn’t back either of her opponents, but hit Chavez hard in this mailer and another NMPolitics.net has not obtained.
Larry Martinez, who is challenging incumbent Sen. John Arthur Smith, D-Deming, called a radio ad from the PAC “attacks from our Republican governor and her corporate interests” and “an attempt to fool voters and hold onto their influence in the Senate.”
“If Governor Martinez wants to support my opponent in this race, she should be transparent about it,” Larry Martinez said.
“Big Oil and Governor Martinez have a staked an interest in my defeat over incumbent Phil Griego, and that’s because I am not beholden to the corporations, oil and gas interests or the governor’s right-wing agenda,” Sullivan said.
A noteworthy billing address
Whether contributions to the Super PAC came in April or May is important because the group – which isn’t subject to campaign contribution limits because it doesn’t coordinate with candidates – registered with the Secretary of State’s Office on May 29, according to documents provided by that office.
If the dates of the contributions listed in the amended report are accurate, the PAC registered within the 10 days required by law.
But more interesting to many is the billing address listed on the receipt for payment of Reform N.M. Now’s $50 registration fee. The PAC’s registration documents and finance reports list a P.O. box in Albuquerque as its address, and the group has refused to answer NMPolitics.net’s question about whether it has ties to Martinez.
It’s not clear why that address is listed, since the receipt is a document created by the secretary of state, not the PAC. None of the documents filed by the PAC include that address. McCleskey and Aragon had no comment on the billing address, but Aragon said the group “will list all consultants and vendors on our finance reports as they are compensated.”
Helping Dems who support guv’s agenda
Regardless, NMPolitics.net has already reported that Reform N.M. Now’s biggest donors are Martinez supporters and its issues are Martinez’s issues. The PAC is clearly aiming to help Democrats who support Martinez’s agenda, or hurt those who don’t.
That’s perhaps also evidenced by the fact that Reform N.M. Now hasn’t gotten involved in two hot Senate primaries in which progressives are trying to unseat more conservative Democrats – the race between incumbent John Sapien and challenger Ben Rodefer, and the race between incumbent David Ulibarri and three primary opponents, including the progressive-backed Maxine Velasquez.
The winner of the Sapien-Rodefer race will face the GOP’s David Doyle, and Republicans think they have a good shot at electing Doyle. They also think they have a good shot at electing Republican Vicki Perea over whoever wins the Democratic primary for the seat Ulibarri currently holds.
In other words, Reform N.M. Now appears to be helping Democrats it views as more supportive of Martinez’s agenda in their primary races only in contests in which a Republican isn’t as likely to win.
Meanwhile, Trujillo, Coss’ opponent, sent a statement saying his campaign has sometimes received support from organizations that “may have agendas that are likely to be at odds with our interests” – referring, in part, to Reform N.M. Now.
“And sometimes they may do things on their own, without our knowledge or our consent – whether it’s putting up a sign, sending out e-mails, making a financial contribution or something bigger,” he said.
“Unfortunately, the opposition has been using slimy tactics to insinuate that we are somehow connected to these organizations and that’s proof that we have some kind of secret, evil agenda,” he said. “Our agenda is not secret; it is clear. There is only one interest that I seek to serve, and that is the very special interests of the people in the community that I grew up in, that my family has lived in and raised our children in for 400 years – the people of District 46.”
This article has been updated to include a link to Chavez’s complaint.
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