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Sunday, August 03, 2008

More Details Revealed on Lawsuit by Defeated Dem Incumbents Robinson, Taylor & Silva

Even though it's Sunday, I thought I'd follow up on yesterday's post about a suit filed in state district court by Shannon Robinson, Dan Silva and James G. Taylor that alleges campaign finance fraud in connection with the victories of three Dem challengers to long-time incumbents in the June 3, 2008 Dem primary. Today's Albuquerque Journal includes an article by Sean Olson that reveals more details about the suit, which was filed late Friday afternoon.

According to the article,

The lawsuit names the Center for Civic Policy and its director Eli Lee; Conservation Voters New Mexico, its director Javier Benavidez and its president Ned Farquhar; the SouthWest Organizing Project and its director Albert Ozawa Bineshi; and New Energy Economy Inc., its president John Fogarty and director Keegan King as the nonprofits allegedly working with the winning Democrats in the campaign.

The three incumbent losers and their backers must be miffed indeed by their defeats to go after some of the most respected nonprofits and issue advocates in New Mexico.

"Our organizations have a long and proud history of working for ethics reform, good government, health care and a clean environment," Lee said in an e-mail Saturday. "As nonpartisan, not-for-profit organizations, it is our responsibility to educate the public about the votes and contributions of our elected officials."

Then again, it's not usual for the forces that defend business-as-usual practices in Santa Fe to harbor resentments against those seeking reform and progressive solutions to our problems. They like things just the way they are. The last of the good ol' boy machine clings to its power base.

Olson describes the suit as "alleging a conspiracy among [the defeated lawmakers'] opponents and local nonprofits to defraud voters and skirt campaign finance laws." More:

Sens. Shannon Robinson and James Taylor and Rep. Dan Silva all seek to have the primary election annulled in the state District Court lawsuit. The lawmakers, all Democrats, allege in the lawsuit a "secret campaign" among opponents Eric Griego, Tim Keller and Eleanor Chavez to distribute literature, make phone calls to voters and funnel at least $180,000 of undisclosed campaign funds using local nonprofits.

The three incumbents would not have lost the election without the alleged fraudulent activity, the lawsuit states. "You can't create a scheme to violate campaign finance laws. ... It's fraud," Robinson said Saturday.

The Challengers Won by Large Margins
Is it just me, or do you find it hilarious (if sad) that the three primary losers are asserting that they would have won if certain nonprofits had not revealed their voting records and positions on the important issues like health care, a raise in the minimum wage and ethics and campaign finance reform? After all, the incumbents were beaten by large margins in their primaries.

In SD 14, Eric Griego beat James G. Taylor, a Senator since 2004 and before that a State Rep, by 62%-38%. In SD 17, Tim Keller defeated Shannon Robinson, who's been in the Senate since 1989, by 66%-34%. Eleanor Chavez beat Dan Silva, who served in the House since 1987, by 54%-46%. Not exactly squeakers.

Response
The Journal article also relates some statements by those named in the suit that were first revealed last May in the paper when similar complaints were made about the actions of the nonprofits:

Officials for the Center for Civic Policy said in May they had sent out literature for the Legislative Accountability Project in conjunction with several other nonprofits, including the SouthWest Organizing Project. They said they sent the materials out as mailers starting after the end of the last legislative session as educational materials for voters based on the legislators' voting records, not as campaign materials intended to unseat lawmakers.

The mailers, which criticized the losing officials for their voting records and campaign contributors, were stopped more than a month before the primary to avoid the appearance of any partisanship, they said.

AG King's Involvement
Again according to the Journal the suit implicates the since disbanded New Mexico League of Young Voters and points the finger at New Mexico Youth Organized as its alleged successor group:

The lawsuit claims the $180,000 was distributed to the listed nonprofits to put out negative campaign materials without notifying the Secretary of State of any contributions or spending in the campaign. The $180,000 was originally distributed by the New Mexico League of Young Voters to the other organizations, it states.

The League of Young Voters group, however, disbanded last year and re-formed under a different capacity as New Mexico Youth Organized, a division of the Center for Civic Policy. It is directed by King.

Back in May, the office of the New Mexico Attorney General sent a letter to the Secretary of State advising that it was their opinion that New Mexico Youth Organized should be reclassified as a PAC. New Mexico Youth Organized claims the AG's office never contacted them to ascertain the facts:

The Attorney General's Office sent a letter to the secretary of state in May advising that New Mexico Youth Organized be recategorized as a political action committee, not a nonprofit, based on a complaint from Robinson. The secretary of state has not yet responded to the letter.

An attorney for New Mexico Youth Organized said at the time that the AG's letter was based on inaccurate information provided by Robinson, and the group was never contacted by the AG's Office for any fact-checking before the letter was issued.

Help Me Re King Quote
I swear I recall reading in the Journal that when Attorney General Gary King was later questioned about the letter from his office to the Secretary of State, he claimed not to know much about it as he was out of the country when it was sent by one of his deputies. Unfortunately, I can't find anything on the Journal site about this. Unfortunately, that's often the case when I use their incredibly poor search tool. Anyone else remember the quote by AG King?

What Evidence Did the AG's Office Rely On?
There has been no response yet from the Secretary of State's office or the Attorney General's office about this lawsuit by the incumbents. Isn't it time for AG King to come clean about the findings his office made that prompted someone in his office to send the letter to Mary Herrera about changing New Mexico Youth Organized's status? For starters, what were the criteria and evidence used in the AG's decision?

Gov. Richardson Contributed to the Incumbents
As an FYI, another Journal article from May of this year reports on primary candidate contributions made by Gov. Bill Richardson via his state campaign fund:

Receiving contributions from Richardson were: ... Rep. Dan Silva, D-Albuquerque, $2,000; ... Sen. James Taylor, D-Albuquerque, $5,000; ... Sen. Shannon Robinson, D-Albuquerque, $5,000.

For more background, see this Journal op-ed by Eli Il Yong Lee and Keegan King about the free speech activities by New Mexico Youth Organize. Also check out yesterday's AP article on the suit.

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August 3, 2008 at 02:04 PM in 2008 NM State Legislature Races, Ethics & Campaign Reform, Local Politics, Progressivism | Permalink

Comments

This lawsuit and the headlines are disturbing. Attny. Gen. King needs to come clean about that letter to the Sec. State. Where is he hiding?

Posted by: mojo | Aug 3, 2008 10:46:46 PM

What pathetic sore losers those 3 coprocrats are! Talk about a frivolous lawsuit! Their "remedy" is just as ridiculous. If the non-profits engaged in misconduct (which I doubt), then they could be fined. But to overturn an election because an external entity engaged in some (alleged) technical misconduct? Ludicrous! Some lawyer is cleaning up on those nutjobs. Who filed this piece of nonsense? Pat Rodgers?

Posted by: Proud Democrat | Aug 3, 2008 11:06:54 PM

As for AG King, he's probably trying to figure out which staffer took bribes from Robinson, et. al.

Posted by: Proud Democrat | Aug 4, 2008 1:52:06 PM