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Wednesday, June 20, 2012

McCleskey and Martinez Should Come Clean to the Voters: Guest Blog by Eli Lee

Following is a guest blog by Eli Yong Lee, Consultant, Albuquerque, NM.

New Mexico’s primary election is over, and what a bruising season it was.

From my days as a political consultant and as the former Executive Director of the Center for Civic Policy, I am no stranger to giving and receiving attacks. I believe strongly in the right of any nonprofit to highlight the wrongdoings and achievements of elected officials. Similarly, I believe in the right of candidates and political committees to point out differences and make one’s best case for why a candidate should be elected or defeated.

However, I believe it is essential that everyone play by the rules. That is where Governor Susana Martinez and her campaign operative, Jay McCleskey, may have done a tremendous disservice to the voters.

The Center for Civic Policy and I were involved in a series of court cases against New Mexico’s Attorney General about the right of nonprofit organizations to hold elected officials accountable for their voting records. The Center meticulously followed the state and federal rules of civic engagement for nonprofits. A New Mexico district court judge, New Mexico’s Court of Appeals, and the federal courts agreed that our actions were in full compliance with state and federal law. Many disagreed with our approach, but the indisputable fact is that we followed the rules.

Last month, McCleskey and Martinez created a new political action committee with an innocuous-sounding name: the Reform New Mexico Now PAC. This PAC is run by McCleskey and shares an office with Susana PAC office.

Reform New Mexico Now quickly raised $205,000, primarily from two of Governor Martinez’s largest campaign donors – the Chase Oil Corporation with a $130,000 contribution and the Mack Energy Corporation with a $50,000 contribution.

McCleskey originally reported these contributions as received on April 24th. If true, then McCleskey failed to report these contributions to the State on May 14th, when all other candidates and political committees were required to do so. Further, McCleskey did not report the existence of his PAC until May 29th, when state law requires filing as a political committee within ten days of raising or spending $500. If those contributions did arrive on April 24th, then McCleskey and Martinez’s PAC would have violated state law.

After several media reports, Reform New Mexico Now filed an amended report on June 2, changing the dates of these contributions – and three other contributions – to late May. McCleskey’s PAC stated, “There was a typo in the initial report filed with the Secretary of State by listing all contributions as 4/24/12….We were instructed on how to file an amended report and did so. The Secretary of State’s office has informed us that we are in total compliance with the law.”

McCleskey and Martinez’s PAC spent over $100,000 in last minute attack efforts via mailers and radio ads during the final weekend of the Democratic Primary election.

Governor Martinez and Jay McCleskey have the right to criticize candidates with whom they disagree, and even to set up a front group so that the attack seems to be coming from someone other than Governor Martinez. Both activities are well within the rules. But Governor Martinez and McCleskey do not have the right to hide PAC information from the voters, as required by law. Their actions are a slap in the face to all voters. We all have to play by the rules, no matter one’s political persuasion.

Several candidates have filed ethics complaints and the Secretary of State has opened an official investigation into the McCleskey/Martinez PAC. McCleskey and Martinez have until June 21 to answer the charges. The Attorney General should act even more quickly and demand notarized copies of all bank statements from Wells Fargo, Reform New Mexico Now’s bank, to find out what the truth is, rather than simply taking McCleskey’s word for it.

The voters deserve to know that everyone – even Governor Martinez and Jay McCleskey– have to play by the rules.

June 20, 2012 at 07:46 AM in Ethics & Campaign Reform, Guest Blogger, Susana Martinez | Permalink

Comments

Yes, I sure would like to see those bank statements!

Posted by: Ellen Wedum | Jun 20, 2012 8:01:33 AM